“Some days, feeling centered appears next to impossible. But what about today? How might you reconnect with a bigger picture, one that includes an understanding of the nature of our lives here?” – Denise Byron (www.deniseelizabethbyron.com)
Indeed, the nature of our lives here.
I am learning that I must practice self-reflection and mindfulness daily in recovery. This is crucially important for me because being conscious is the opposite of ED. ED serves to disconnect me from awareness about my own self. It is an extremely creative and effective way to cope. No one with an eating disorder is weak — they are remarkably inventive.
My recovery is learning about the nature of my life here. Recovering is not about how to eat, it is about how to live—how to engage with other people, be in relationships, absorb the world, how to be assertive, how to discern what works and what doesn’t, what feelings are, and what their purpose is; “who I am,” and how I know that.
I came to a point in recovery a few months ago when I realized that I had no idea what I liked. I spend so much time trying to not like food that when I was able to think about the possibility of liking food, I had no idea how to proceed in finding out. I asked my dietician, “How do you know if you like something?” I really didn’t know. Everything I thought I liked, I realized that my reason was tied into disordered eating. I liked going to the beach… to be tan, so I looked better. I like yogurt…because it has x grams of protein and blah, blah, blah. I had to stop and continually drop into myself and be conscious, asking myself, “Do I like this? How do I know?” Even now, I am confused about this process.
I am finding that when I work to understand the true nature of my life here, and live in accordance with that, I am okay. It is when I act in discord that I suffer (so, basically all of my life until about 2 years ago). Before, I thought that the nature of my life was to be perfect: to strive for perfection, to please everyone (yes, everyone!), to feel only comfortable emotions, to be in control of myself at all times, to have no weaknesses, and to make no mistakes. HAH!
When I believed that this was the nature of my life (and when I still believe this, sometimes), living feels like swimming upstream: exhausting, miserable, and impossible. Needing an explanation for the state of my distress, I of course turn to my insides to find fault. If I make something my fault, I create the illusion that I can change it. Then my narrative becomes, “It’s because I’m weak; I’m inadequate; I don’t have what it takes; something’s wrong with me…” and on and on.
These uncomfortable “realizations” about my inner self are too painful to leave alone. I think, something is wrong with me, and I need to make it right. To control my perceived weaknesses/imperfections, I need to be able to measure my progress. So I project it onto the material world. Abstract fears and anxieties become embodied by objects. My weight represents the feeling of vulnerability: I think that if I make the number go down, my feeling of vulnerability will go down as well. My stomach embodies embarrassment: if I change the way it looks, I can change the way I feel. Carbs become desires that I want to make sure I can resist: I feel strong and in control if I abstain from them.
And when these uncomfortable emotions that I’m trying to avoid surface anyway, I have developed a way to numb them. Instead of feeling anger, I feel physically full, and throw up what I think is causing the sensation. Instead of feeling sadness, I feel hungry, and try to fill the hollowness.
I am realizing the true nature of my life here is not at all what I expected, and nothing like I’ve seen in movies and magazines. It is much dirtier, much scarier, and much, much better. The nature of my life is movement, change, process, groundlessness, and groundedness; compassion, anger, forgiveness, grief; joy, happiness, surrender, and intuition. It’s always something new, even when it seems familiar, and it’s never what I expect, especially when I think I know it all.
Only when I resist the true nature of my life here do I truly suffer. It feels like dying, because it is, in a way. When I resist life, I resist myself, and no wonder it feels wrong. Surrender is perhaps the sweetest, most heart-breaking act of living—to give up what I think should be mine. But only when I do this can I see that most of the time, what I thought I wanted is nothing compared to what I have been given.