“One step forward, two steps back,” they say. For most of us, the idiom perfectly describes our recovery journey. We’re trekking towards eating “normally” (go ahead, say “normal” doesn’t exist, but hyperventilating and breaking down as meal times draw close is not normal by the standards of anyone I know aside from those of us with disordered eating); we’re racking up a few good days in a row, feeling ourselves, and then BAM! ED smacks us square in the face like a concrete-encased Five Dollar Foot Long and we’re up at 2 a.m. fixing ourselves the third amply portioned dish we’ve had in the past hour after a day of eating nothing but half a bottle of orange juice and a banana.
It’s easy to beat ourselves up and see this as an instant loss of progress. I know I’ve done it. Just the other day I was in my room, door shut, sobbing on my bed because I felt that I will never get out of the vicious cycle of flitting from one form of disorder to another (in this case, restriction to bingeing). This disease has weaved in and out of my life for the past eight years and it was in the making for far longer than that, and quite frankly, I’m over it. I want to be better. I can’t help but tire from this business of getting ill then well then ill again and increasingly more ill. I want food to be food, not divine nor damning. I long for a day when I can have two slices of pizza and not feel guilty; I wish I could down those two slices of pizza and call it quits because I am satisfied and don’t hate myself/want to punish myself by funneling down more and more carbs until I’m physically feeling miserable.
It’s almost inevitable that we take one step forward and two steps back when we’re teaching the old, habitual mutt that is our mind new tricks. Because most of us are perfectionists by nature, we will beat ourselves up for the smallest slide back into chaos. But in the thick of illness, things are hardly ever what our mind claims them to be. We aren’t regressing—we are retracing our steps, stumbling upon an opportunity to gain insight and grow from there. Maybe you restricted all day today or binged when you got home from work or slipped laxatives down your throat for the first time in two weeks. Rather than dubbing you a hopeless case, let me ask, what did you learn as you retraced the steps? What did you find? Recovery is defined not by our snags along the way, but how they make us realize where we are, where want to be and how we can get there.
That binge made me realize that those days when I binged and got a high from it, or when I somehow felt gratified because I made myself feel like an utter mess are passed. It just felt…pointless. And days later, I’ve found that slipping up that one day doesn’t mean that I can’t get back on the horse and giddy it up to a healthier place. For the past few days I’ve been eating enough. It seems like a lot because my brain is still in the anorexic mode of believing that I need to consume as little as possible. But the fog is lifting and my rational side is kicking back in, and, whilst eating enough—not too much more or too much less—I feel something like pride. Dipping my toe back into treacherous waters instilled in me a stronger will to fight back against triggers and safeguard for the tough times.
So you had a rough day today, and you started to slide back into behaviors of a darker time. But remember: tomorrow is a fresh start. You are entitled to bad days and bumps in the road. What matters is you take from them what you can, dust off your feet, and keep chugging on. So get some rest, dears, and keep fighting the good fight. God bless!