We’ve all fallen— we’ve all experienced the skinned knees, bruised elbows and hearts to prove it. But rarely do we allow others to see these wounds as they are in the process of healing. This is an intimate process of overcoming hurt and we rarely let others in to see this as a play by play. I’ve noticed, especially through reading countless memoirs about hardship and overcoming, that we count on the triumphant stories of falling down and rising up to be inspired. In a thirty-minute speech, there is typically thirty seconds dedicated to the “And I fought my way back up” part. The entire middle part of the story where the person went from face-down on the floor to rising above the hurt is practically deleted. Yet, this is the most important part. Stories of recovery and pain seem to move quickly through the dark so we can see the redemption and hope at the end of the struggle. Now don’t get me wrong, I am immediately drawn to books and movies about individuals who have felt failure with every part of themselves and dug themselves out only to manifest a life brimming with new possibilities. But there is a pattern with this that never fails: I am drawn to these books and movies and documentaries, read them cover to cover, watch every second, and then leave them with an underlying feeling of envy or resentment to an extent.
Think about it, the people that are drawn to these books are most likely in a space of searching for inspiration— they just experienced heart break, they are enduring an illness, struggle with anxiety or depression, just lost their job— and are looking for inspiration. So they buy the book or movie that promises a story of resiliency, but the entire middle part of the story, where they should learn how the person decides to stand back up and heal, is deleted. I leave those types of stories feeling defeated because I see my own recovery (my story of falling down and standing back up) as unpredictable and still in progress compared to the story I just read: a flawless, linear comeback.
I have learned that there is no innovation, learning, change, or overcoming without failure. My goal through this blog is to make this reality transparent. I hope to make the middle— the body of books and movies and documentaries, the bulk of the overcoming and fighting back tooth and nail to be okay again— loud and clear. To write it in bold print, so everyone will understand that my story of girl with severe eating disorder to girl in remission is not distorted in a way that I appear to be on a one-way mission to success. Now that there is a substantial amount of distance between me and my past disordered eating thoughts, this does not mean that I am immune to difficult days or self-doubt. Quite the opposite in fact.
My recovery reality check came to me about a month ago when I had my wisdom teeth taken out— yes, a major turning point in my eating disorder recovery journey came down to four impacted teeth. Two seemingly unrelated events came together to create a climactic moment in my recovery. Just like any other teenager who has wisdom teeth surgery, I woke up groggy, obviously not thinking about the next meal I wanted— I was thinking about how my cheeks were numb and I had cotton stuffed in the corners of my mouth and how much I enjoyed the anesthesia (which I continued to repeat on the car ride home to my mom, who was not super thrilled with this new discovery).
I lived off of soft foods for the better part of two weeks until my teeth healed, and with this, did not adhere closely to my typical day of eating— five meals in total. I began to feel my energy dip as I returned to lifting weights and knew that my liquid diet was not supporting my goals in the weight room. But I was hesitant to change my eating habits drastically, my stomach was accustomed to these smaller portions and I did not want to endure the all-consuming feeling of being full and having stomach aches to return to how I was prior to surgery. Disordered thought patterns began to return in a stealthy, at first unnoticeable way-- this is enough for now, you do not need anymore than that, what if your stomach begins to hurt? Think of how miserable that would be.
My patterns of smaller portions continued for the next few weeks, despite the reality that my teeth were nearly healed. My energy levels continued to dip, the weights I was lifting in the gym were measly compared to my typical lifts, and the anxiety that used to torment me daily in the past, returned with a vengeance. My trainer at the gym began to take notice in my lack of power and inability to sustain workouts at my usual level of fitness.
A weigh-in confirmed that there was a reason for my loss of energy and fierce anxiety. This was my fall on my face, blow to the stomach moment. After nearly two years of recovery, I was still being handed tests to see if I could stand back up and lean into discomfort. I recognized this as a moment to write a new middle part to my story and find the strength to stand back up.
Now enter the thirty-second summary in a 1-hour long speech: “And then I met someone new” or “It was difficult, but I faced my fears and I stood back up.” End of story, all wrapped into a neat little package labeled "too perfect to be real." I cannot say any of this yet because I am still very much in the process of standing back up. I have been eating to fuel myself in the gym, to nourish my mind and body, and I am seeing clearly that slipping is not an option for me. My motivation is exponential. This is a positive turn around, and I am on track with my heaping bowls of oatmeal and protein-rich rice bowls and pasta, but my goals are open-ended. I want to gain more strength in the gym and lift heavier weights, which may require surpassing the state I was in prior to my surgery. And that will continue to test me as I consciously make the choice to endure stomach discomfort if it means being the strongest version of myself in the end.