I have – both literally and figuratively – been swamped. And as it so happens, when I’m swamped I unravel. Again.
My house flooded. It’s a bit of a bummer really. And caused a lot of angst and stress. We’re fortunate in many (most) ways – floors are ruined but no structural damage, and we have good insurance to cover most of the repairs. But getting flooded is a pain in the arse. Aside from extra expenses insurance doesn’t cover, it’s a week of packing up the house to store in the shed, and several weeks of living without floor coverings while listening to the gentle roar of three industrial fans. It’s also forced us into unplanned, premature, costly renovations. I know in six months time this will all be history and I’ll have lovely new floors and plaster work, but right now, the stress has got to me and my recovery journey is not solid enough to avert relapse. So relapse I have.
I won’t bore anyone with the additional personal stresses that dragged me down, but let’s just say, when it rains it pours. Again – quite literally in the case of the flood.
When I first left the eating disorder clinic 78 days ago, I ate (reluctantly) on a tight schedule. A little alarm on my watch taps me on the wrist at 7am, 10:30am, 1pm, 4pm and 7pm. And it’s my responsibility to eat the appropriate meal at the appropriate time. But I’m the first to admit, after 50+ years of disordered eating, being responsible does not come naturally. In fact it goes against every instinct I have, and I have to fight really hard to comply. And I mean really hard.
When life is tough and stress overwhelms, fighting eating disorder thoughts takes more than I have. Consequently over the past month, I’ve whittled away at routines and started to add or subtract meals, and to succumb to the desire for a lot less nutrition. It took just one unexpected comment about my weight to make me stop eating altogether. The desire to never eat again is tantalising and calls to me like a seductive siren from the sea. It’s only with the support of my psychologist, and by finding the courage and strength to talk things through with my husband, I can stop relapse in its’ tracks.
When you’re a middle-aged woman, it’s kind of expected you can feed yourself. But you know what? I can’t. If left to my own devices, I go astray. I need to be told what to eat and when. I need to be told when not to eat. I need to be treated like a child. Because I didn’t learn healthy behaviours as a child, I have to learn them now. And I can’t learn them in 78 days. Intellectually I know the theory, but life is not an intellectual exercise. It’s emotional and habitual and real. And when reality becomes highly emotive, the oldest habits are the first to rise.
But the good news? I have ingrained one new habit – talk about it and reach out. To my psychologist, my husband and my friends. And to you – whoever you may be. Sharing stops me in my tracks and redirects me to the path I’m meant to be on.
I know those who’ve never suffered the shame of an eating disorder, are unlikely to ever fully understand the depths of depravity and despair we hide. I also know, coming out of hiding makes me accountable and steers me back on track. I want recovery so incredibly badly. And I want to run and hide from emotional distress even more. Old habits die hard, but kill them I will. With the support of those who love me, I’ll whip those habits’ butts, and usher in a new era. It won’t happen in 78 days. It probably won’t happen in a year. But it will happen. I will make it so.