If I had known how truly difficult recovery was before I had pursued it, I never would have done it.
That being said, I’m grateful I didn’t know.
The physical changes of my body are tough; isolating myself from my former life in order to heal is lonely; occupying myself with mindless tasks in order to distract from the war being waged within is exhausting — but all of these conflicts fall to the wayside when I consider recovery’s most arduous aspect: the sheer unpredictability of it all.
Unlike the life I’ve known, recovery offers no rules. There is no predicted timeframe, no step-by-step manual, no system to measure for success or failure, and no telling how I will feel from day to day. For someone who has based their previous life on rules — control and reward — this unpredictability feels unnatural, unnerving, and unacceptable. And moreover, it feels like failure.
My therapist tells me that I am currently in the hardest phase of recovery, and I find this comforting.
“Do you see any kind of light at the end of the tunnel yet?”
“No…just uncertainty and anxiety.”
“That’s very normal at this point. But trust me, it does get better, and it is worth it.”
As evidence, my therapist gives me a couple of books written by women who have made it to the other side. She tells me to read them for support.
Some days, I wake up feeling invigorated. I am getting my life back.
Other days, I question my strength. You will never get through this.
Not only have I lost control over my food intake, my workout regimes, and my general lifestyle, but I have also lost control of my emotions. With each therapy session I dive deeper into my psyche, exposing elements of vulnerability I had worked so hard to hide away. As they swim to the surface, I am overwhelmed with emotion. However, I still lack the proper tools to manage them. So to prevent them from suffocating me, I ventilate with self-hate.
You were dumb to think you could do this. You never should have left New York and your life. This is pointless.
It is in these moments that I turn to the books my therapist gave me: “Life Beyond Your Eating Disorder” and “Life Without Ed.” Like medicine, the work of these brave authors eases my pain and I remember what I am fighting for: my freedom.
And when those books are not enough, I log onto my Facebook account where I have received numerous messages from wonderful young women all expressing their gratitude to me sharing my journal entries. These women confide in me about their issues. Some have eating disorders while others relate on a different level. But they all have one thing in common: they are truly smart and strong women who have all inspired me at one point in my life, without ever knowing.
These women give me the strength to keep going. Their stories become my stories, as mine has become theirs. And with their confidence in me, I know I will soon begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
October 23, 2015 10 p.m.
East Village, New York City
I stare at my reflection in the bathroom mirror as I let the tears fall down. I have to get it all out of my system before I go back outside. I wipe the smeared eyeliner from around the rims of my eyes and tell myself to gather my strength before I join the others. I flush the toilet and run the sink so as not to raise any suspicions, and turn the handle on the door to exit. A smile washes over my face as I cross the threshold. I am fully happy in this moment.
As I return to the living room I see three women standing on top of the sofa, looking down upon me with radiant smiles. These women are Marien, Allison, and Mahogany, and one after the other they give a speech about how proud they are of me, how much I have inspired them, and how they can’t wait for me to come home. I try very hard to hold back the tears, as their love echoes off the walls and reverberates in my veins. To my right, there is Marcus and Alain, looking up at the three women with laughter in their eyes, and in the kitchen is Bradley, who so kindly let his girlfriend Allison use his apartment to throw me this surprise soiree.
The party continues as we head out to our favorite karaoke bar, ready to spend the night the best way we know how: belting out to pop jams and other nostalgic tunes of our childhood. As the music plays and we sing, I look to each person in the room and feel so incredibly grateful. Not only for what they have done for me tonight, but for what they have given me by being in my life.
I want to hold on to this moment and night forever. I want to be able to pull strength from these passing seconds when I feel I am losing faith in myself throughout my journey.
I want to never, ever forget how wonderful it feels knowing that these people are the greatest people I’ve ever met in my life, and they are my best friends.