I wrote this post almost a year ago but did not publish it. It is about a state in recovery that has been present at various points in the recovery process… It is one that can trigger all kinds of feelings and judgements (including guilt, wrong-doing, shame, frustration) if we allow it to. This is a more personal post to help you know that if you are experiencing similar, that it is not unusual and you are not alone:
I am exhausted.
When I was still very much caught up in the eating disorder, life was exhausting – to be constantly living life to a set of rules, to be endlessly driven and stuck in compulsions and rituals and to be forever hungry.
That life was exhausting and miserable but when living like that, the body is in such a state of survival and constant ‘fight or flight’ mode, that the level of exhaustion experienced is often not felt.
Now, I have come further in recovery than ever before, facing the process without professional support and to reach this point has been emotional and at times, even traumatic.
Every day in eating disorder recovery it can feel like another day spent at war with your mind and those battles, several times a day become boring, yes, but also really, really tiring.
In the early stages of recovery, we and people around us expect us to be going through difficulties and to be emotional and tired.
Later in recovery, however, it is less easy for us to be forgiving of ourselves, let alone others forgiving of us when physically we look better, we are seemingly coping with more than our previous narrow existence and yet life is still an intense battle… and dare I say it more exhausting than it has ever felt.
Getting to a state of quasi recovery is a state too many reach and struggle to progress from… A stage where we appear better, have broken many behaviours and are eating more but still experience regular thoughts, urges, compulsions and restrictions. Although it also has to be said that achieving this point is definitely not to be knocked. Just getting thus far is bloody incredible and takes superhuman effort.
However, no one wants to stay in quasi recovery and should not be left to believe that this is ‘recovered’ or as ‘recovered as they ever will be’ when they reach this point. Full recovery should remain the focus – not a quasi, half life existence and yet to keep going when it has been a mammoth, exhausting and emotional effort to get this far, is such a daunting prospect.
Moving on and continuing to make progress in recovery when life expectations are raised (by ourselves and / or others around us) makes it feel like the marathon of recovery might never end.
Wanting to work and be ‘normal’, wanting to be free but at the same time hit by a train of mental and physical exhaustion makes just getting through each day with a smile on our face hard enough. To do all this and to keep pushing ourselves to continue to face the still very difficult processes that are left to address in recovery just feels plain unreasonable!
So yes, the recovery journey of having yet more hurdles to jump to fully restore the body and fully rewire the brain is ongoing and feels never ending but getting to the absolute finish line now also feels more vital than it ever has yet at times still impossibly far away.
And that is where I have landed – so much better but still not across that line and that line must be reached.
But I am exhausted and sometimes just plainly overwhelmed by it all.
At times I feel so worn down that my body hurts and I feel flu-like. Mentally too, trying to do it all, makes recovery 100 times harder and the danger is then that it becomes all too easy to stay in a damaging fight / flight mode of falsely high energy and low hunger, keeping busy and distracted… until reality hits again.
Yet the thought of not being superhuman and managing it all causes feelings of shame, weakness and a sense of having failed yet again.
Perhaps though it is time to admit that I am just months into recovery from a lengthy and strong illness and having been ill for 13 years, this point is still very early.
Full recovery will naturally take much longer – for the body to completely repair everything and for the brain to entirely rewire and heal. No matter how much of a sprint I try to make the recovery process, some things will just naturally take longer and I have to accept that and be patient.
The other exhausting and draining part of recovery at this point is the emotional catch-up.
During the illness, emotions were a rarity – good or bad. But now, my emotions are stronger and it takes time to re-learn and become expert in non-disordered ways to manage the intense emotions as they arise (which they do with recovery, more and more).
At times now, waves of memories and pain from things that have happened over the past decade or more come crashing in and emotionally there is more to tolerate and manage than ever.
So, what I am trying to say, is that the exhaustion and the emotions, even at a later stage in recovery are REAL and can be intense.
In other illnesses, we would recognise this and practice care and compassion in the expectations we put on ourselves and others place on us until we were 100% well.
By ignoring the very real exhaustion that hits, we risk going back to ignoring all our body signals again (including hunger) and when we ignore these crucial messages from our body, we enter very risky territory.
Sometimes, hard though it is, we have to face reality.
Recovery is not yet done.
When I am exhausted and drained and emotional, it is time to breathe, respect what my body is telling me, allow myself to feel the emotional pain that is arising and not judge this exhaustion, not allow shame to keep me stuck but let my body guide and keep pushing forwards with what matters most of all… more time for food, rest and healing.
I know that if we let our bodies and brains repair fully and make space for this healing time, that as we cross the recovery finish line, the life options available to be present, to give back and to make a difference in the world will be infinite and the strength and self awareness we will have will make us so powerful.
But now – the exhaustion both of recovery and in recovery is real… and I must respect it.
*** As I said at the start of this post – I wrote this at the end of last year but just did not publish it. The sentiments I express were real then but with more time and more healing, life continues to offer much more in return. If you are feeling exhausted in recovery, don’t stop. Honour your exhaustion and please keep going. ***