The truth is this, some days I lay on my bed and stare at the ceiling for hours and don’t even realize that time is still passing because my mind takes me to a space absent of time, a space of dazed and confused and numb and contemplative. It is strange to think that I am capable of this caliber of incapacitation when I am simultaneously able to build an entire city in one day. The days when I stare off, counting each particle of dust are equivalent to burn out. The moment when I hit the wall, the “fake it till you make it” mantra becomes a lot less cute and a lot more about lying to myself in order to find the strength in my legs to crawl out of bed.
Everything comes in waves. Emotions. Busyness. Irritation. Exhaustion. Motivation. Defeat. Our entire existences are built around the metaphor laid out in the oceans. The surge of the wave comes for me when least expected. My waters are uncharted and unable to be predicted on a weather map. I don’t know when a storm of self loathing or grief or shame will hit, or on the flip side of joy or excitement or motivation, but when it does I best be prepared to get out my life vest, lay back, and let the waves take over because in fighting them I am sure to loose. I have done that too much to know that too keep fighting would be insanity, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Feeling shame, I should stop eating.
Feeling anger, should binge.
Feeling anything, should run.
The cycle was a never-ending race to outrun a tsunami. Because in running and running in order to swim away from each wave that came at me, I suddenly found no more waves came my way. At first, I thought this was what I wanted. I didn’t want to feel that is why I devised this beautiful disordered friend to help suck the life out of me, so nothing at first was rather seductive. But as time passed the truth became this, nothing but dry dirt filled the space around me and here I was standing in a life vest suddenly feeling a pull towards the waves again. I missed the water. I missed the waves. I missed the cold sensation of the water on my skin and the tang of the salt on my lips.
The farther I am from my eating disorder the more I vestiges of it I find laying around. In my back pockets, tangled in my hair, the annoying rock in my shoe. The eating disorder is still there, smaller and more annoying, but still there. It is like a mosquito bite I keep itching even though I know to itch it only makes it worse, but I keep reaching for it out of habit. That is the tricky part about eating disorders because they so commonly go unnoticed for many years. So by the time we do seek help or admit we have a problem we already have years of nooks and crannies that the disorder has taken up residency in. At first we can take away the obvious life threatening behaviors like severe restriction, binging, purging, etc. But as recovery unfolds the person fighting must take out a microscope and analyze every part of themselves so as to not overlook a tick that the disorder has left behind.
The ceiling in my apartment only becomes more interesting as the minutes pass by. Someone would walk by, see me what I was doing, and think I was painfully bored, but, in truth, I was studying the ceiling with such intensity that my analytical lens would happily stay like this for weeks. I know that to get up means to read for class. I know that to move means to catch a glimpse of the clock and be hit a wave of guilt over how much time I have wasted. So I study the ceiling and pretend this task is important and then find that it actually is because each little dot on the ceiling is like each little piece of my eating disorder. And looking up at those white dots and seeing just how many of them there are, I am struck by the realization of why this recovery process takes so long. It does so, because I am excavating from my mind a million little white ceiling dots that have been lodged inside my authentic self and stolen years of health and freedom. And that, will and should take a long time if done properly.
When I did finally move around midnight and made the effort to turn off the lights, I didn’t feel bad because the hour of staring gave way to a deeper understanding of why I am still struggling. I still have little parts of the disorder chipping away at me. Throwing away the last two bites of something because I felt too ashamed by the idea of finishing my plate even though the meal was so good and I wanted those pieces. Or only being able to stop my run at exactly the time that I said I was going to go for, not a second sooner, not a second later, because God forbid the mayhem my life might fall into if I were to challenge that number as well. These are smaller things, but still significant and as I trudge forward I find myself more and more weighed down by these vestiges of the disorder. Not because they will land me back in treatment, but because they are holding me back from complete and total freedom. And so the ceiling and the white dots parallel the complexity of this process. Because I laid there for an hour and there is no way I was able to analyze even half of the white dots on my ceiling.
Patience. Persistence. Endurance. All are of necessity if I am to continue the excavation of my mind.