Healing Is Hard Work
Anniversaries of significant life moments are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you can see how far you have come since that moment. Then, on the other, you can see how far you have not come since that moment.
I dabbled with therapy in my 20s but focused most of my time and money on treatment for my son. After my weight loss surgery in August 2017, I began a consistent journey of therapy and discovery. I cannot recall a time when Depression has not been a part of it. It is a suit I am never without. Disordered eating too. I felt it was more than a lack of willpower and discipline when it came to food. And it was. My Eating Disorder (ED) came to me at the age of 9. ED weaved its way to rescue me from the hell my life had become, thanks to the adults around me.
Consistent therapy means opening internal boxes I had sealed for a long time. Sometimes I dealt with the feelings in healthy and productive ways. Other times, not so much. I have had many, many, many years to perfect being “functional.” The trouble with opening those boxes? Pandora is often inside, and I could not go back to old, unhealthy coping mechanisms. I tried. Oh, f*ck, I tried. I wrapped my “functional” blanket around me and inched by. Day after day. Month after month. Year after year.
2020 was the start of a downward spiral. I turned 40. My son left the nest to navigate his path. COVID hit. Work from home happened. I moved, living on my own for the FIRST time in my entire life. No parents. No kid. No partner. Just me. I took the reins of a major project at work. I have always been a hard worker, but I threw myself into the success of this project to the detriment of my physical and emotional health. I continued to be functional, but I was drowning inside my head and heart. It was slow, and I did an excellent job of hiding my pain from everybody… my boyfriend, friends, my job, and even my therapist.
Even the slowest of leaks finally deflates the tire. Mine popped in early July 2021, but I kept patching and repairing, patching and repairing until it finally blew, shredded, and sent me careening to the bottom. I could not come up for air. My Eating Disorder and Depression were going to bury me under the icy cold of isolation, restriction and binging, guilt, and shame. And I was ready to let it destroy me for relief.
In the form of my nutritionist, a hand grabbed my collar and helped pull me to the shore. With her support, and that of my therapist, I made plans to enter a residential treatment facility. It was both the hardest AND the best decision of my life. My boss and HR department supported me on the work front, including a team of colleagues who distributed my job responsibilities while I took a leave of absence. One of the most amazing and wonderful human beings I know, and her cousin helped by house sitting and looking after my cats. And my caring and loving boyfriend drove me 9+ hours to the treatment center, then back home, then up again to get me, and back to bring us home. I am beyond grateful to each person who handled those things so I could focus on getting better.
Starting the later part of August, I spent 34 days at a residential treatment facility in Lemont, IL. I’m struck by how time seems to move with increasing speed because it cannot possibly be over 7 months since I stepped inside those doors, but the calendar does not lie. About a month after I came home, I wrote the following in my journal:
“I am not cured. I never will be. I will always be a food addict. I still have a lot of work to do, but both feet are firmly in recovery. It feels good. Better than good. I can be more than functional and genuinely live a happy, loving, and recovery-focused life. It won’t be easy, but anything truly worth it never is.”
It rings with optimism I do not feel right now. I am also flooded with sadness and some despair. Why do I keep letting time pass me by? When am I going to take the reins and move with purpose? I feel like I am raging at the sky for it raining when all I must do is open the umbrella not to get wet, but I stand there cold, soaked, and pissed off at the rain. I am curious if this is a common feeling addicts share. If you can relate, I welcome the feedback.