When Life Becomes Possible Again In Eating Disorder Recovery

One thing I am finding as I progress through recovery, is that the fears that I needed to force life doors open, or they never would, that I had at the start of recovery or when I was still quite unwell were not grounded.

During the years of illness and particularly during the latter years, my life had disintegrated into one that was functional but incredibly narrow.  Each year of illness, my comfort zone of just normal things in life that other people take for granted, that I could cope with, had become smaller and smaller.

When I started recovery in June of this year, my life was a cold, hard and very narrow, miserable shell.  I had pushed family away and isolated myself from them, holding a meaningful relationship now only with my parents but that was on my terms of when I could see them, for how long and I had not eaten with them for years.

I had spent each Christmas for the past few years alone or I had been the one at work to volunteer for the Christmas Day shifts so as to have an excuse to not be present with family.

Friendships had also disintegrated as I isolated myself and when I did move in with my parents at the end of May to ‘do recovery’ I had had no meaningful human contact with anyone for a couple of months.

My life was simply routine driven and rigid, following eating disorder rules, compulsions and restrictions.  There was no warmth or light or colour to my life, although to the outside world I could paint a picture of being ‘ok’.

And so when I began this journey of recovery, as I sat in my parent’s house and ate and tried to get through all the emotions and fears and anxieties that came with that, I would wonder, how on earth would I rebuild a life, how would I bring meaning and colour and purpose back to my life if I was not out in the world seeking that life in the first place?

At that point in time I was anxious and terrified of doing anything outside of my rigid and routine way of living and of breaking my movement compulsions… to the point that just meeting a friend for coffee, visiting my Grandparents for a couple of hours or any other tiny change to my day would throw me into greater anxiety and turmoil.

I had no flexibility in my thinking, I was starved, I was cold and I was terrified.

Of course an anxious brain loves to find as much as possible to get anxious about, so another key anxiety I had was whether any of this recovery distress be worth it?  Would I ever rebuild a life of purpose anyway?  And if so how?

How would I overcome the fears of meeting friends or having commitments that would throw out my routine if I was not out there doing these things?

How would life become possible again while I was still keeping isolated, albeit now with some family company, to ‘do recovery’?

But you know what?

Turns out I need not have worried.

Deal with recovery and let the rest of it sort itself out.

As I have put myself through the torment and distress of dealing with eating a lot more food, resting a lot more, facing as many eating disorder generated fears as I could and as I have gained weight and my brain has gained much needed nourishment, I am finding that my thinking is more flexible, I am less rigid and routine and life doors are opening naturally to me.

Life is becoming possible… Meeting friends, going out, eating with family….

Work, rest and play – all the life things that make a life a life – they are all becoming possible once more, as I recover and I have not had to force that.

As I have gained weight, eaten a lot more, learnt to sit and be, I am naturally more flexible with the how’s and when’s and where’s and who with…  These changes do still create anxiety but I can face that now with a lot more ease and I realise that this is what renourishing and rewiring really does achieve, if we let it.

My life is starting to move forward now in ways that I am excited about.

And now I know I don’t have to force myself out there…. I want to be out there and the opportunities to be in the world are naturally presenting themselves, without my having to do a huge amount to find them.  Perhaps those opportunities were always there, but when I could not manage them, I could not see them.

I would not have believed it would get easier to be alive, to expand my comfort zone of living to the extent it now is and all without my forcing it more than I have….

I would not have believed that all those weeks of painful monotonous Groundhog Days of recovery, with such high distress and intense anxiety would get me to where I am now, but I believe it now because I am living it.

And I know I am not there yet… my comfort zone to life is much wider than it was but it still has walls that I would rather were not there…  I cannot yet face every aspect of life without anxiety.  But I also know it is still early days in recovery and now I also know I don’t have to force anything.

There are days now that are coming more and more regularly where I feel happy to be alive and excited to be in the world and those days are making the hard days much more worthwhile.

So, if you are living a narrow existence now in an eating disorder or in recovery, keep going… and please believe that life waits for you.  It is so hard when the days and nights of recovery are relentless and painful and when you cannot believe that anything could ever be better than it is now.

But life can be better and it will be and life slowly creaks its doors open to you if you stay with recovery, keep eating, renourishing, rewiring…

And if you don’t believe me – I say just try it and see because in all honesty, do you have anything left to lose?

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