9 March 2016
One Blip at a Time...
Have you ever seen the inflatable challenge where the contestant is attached to an elastic bungee, and the aim is to run to the end in order to grab the prize? After the week that I have had, I now visualize my recovery journey as being very similar to this trial.
For the past few months, I have been coping with my illness by constantly running forward, in fear of being confronted with the realisation that there is still so much going wrong, and consequently being pinged back. I have not given myself the opportunity to reflect on the difficulties I am still facing. Instead, I have used the ineffective method that I am so accustomed to, of just pressing on. I often believe that if I just keep going then miraculously all of the challenges will just drift away, because ultimately I am choosing to fight it all, and surely that is the most positive method? Wrong. Until this past week, I have come to understand that although I may consider this approach to be the best way, it makes the less frequent difficult days all the more extreme.
I cannot quite pin point how and what started the depletion in mood, but after speaking to my GP, I believe it may have had a lot to do with, yet again, the increasing amount of pressure I am putting on myself. A culmination of that, with a dietician appointment, the incident with the news agency, that ‘time of the month’, and a constant need to prove to everybody and myself that I can live my life without my eating disorder affecting it. It all just got too much, and I did not know how to handle it. I could see it coming throughout the days before, with noticeable old habits creeping back in, but I didn’t take much notice. I tried to convince myself that the habits were normal, but after evaluation, I realised that once again they were having a very prominent impact on my life.
It scared me; it happened so quickly.
I had spent a lovely day with my cousin and I felt as though I had once again had another great day, consequently taking more positive strides in my recovery journey. A few hours later I was sat at home with my parents, and it was as if a light went out. I found myself sat staring at my computer screen with no emotion, just thoughts. All-consuming thoughts. I started to doubt everything that I had done- food choices, meals out, planning holidays, applying for university. I could not focus on anything other than how I could have been so stupid as to think so positively about my recovery, and myself.
I began to cry uncontrollably, without being able to say why. My parents were completely baffled, and I cannot blame them for that; I didn’t see it coming either. “What’s wrong?” They asked. I was trying so desperately hard to formulate an answer, but the wails were absent of any explanation. I was becoming incredibly confused as to what was happening to me and once I had calmed down to the point of being able to string together a sentence, I just listed all possible reasons for the outburst. This didn’t help in any way, as it still could not rationalise what was going through my head. The frustration escalated in conjunction with the confusion, leaving me absolutely exhausted. It was 6:30pm and I was in bed, worried about waking up the next day and experiencing the same emotions that had just overwhelmed me.
The fear became a reality, as I woke up as the same shell of a human being that I had fallen asleep as. I continuously tried to pick myself up, but there was no positive energy in my body. I felt no hope; no optimism, no happiness, and the tears began again. Alongside feelings of guilt from ruining Mothers Day, I was once again in a state of uncontrollable despair. I felt as though this was it; I am never going to be able to live my life; I am always going to be striving for something that I can never achieve; that I am always going to be controlled by my mental illness.
Then I reflected. Had I restricted my food intake? No. Had I made more forced trips up and down the stairs? No. Had I cancelled all of my upcoming social events? No. Does this prove that I have in fact made severe improvements in my coping strategies, and not let my eating disorder take a firm grasp of the situation? Yes.
I only seem to look at the negatives; in my eyes I had failed, I had lost control and I had caused nothing but disappointment to myself and everybody else. After speaking to my parents and my GP, they seemed somewhat pleased with the situation. Not that I had been through a few days of utter distress, but that I had experienced a natural process of recovery. My GP expressed that he was almost waiting for this blip to occur, and that he did find it slightly strange that I had not yet been fazed whilst tackling the illness independently. At first I found this difficult to understand, but I think that is, once again, my naivety around the evidence of eating disorder recovery. However, now that I can comprehend what he was saying, I feel comforted in knowing that this incredibly emotional couple of days is only natural.
I have learnt so much from the past few days. One, that it is OK to slow down and accept the natural pace that my recovery is developing at. Two, that it is important to notice and make others aware of the difficulties that I am experiencing. And three, that having a bad day does not mean that I am relapsing, I am merely taking that natural one step back that has occurred from my two steps forward.
I suppose there are worse treatment suggestions that I could leave the doctors with than ‘don’t put so much pressure on yourself!’