Saturday, July 2, 2011

Four Percent

Here’s what recovery comes down to: 96% anger, fear, tears, loneliness, and hopelessness, and 4% light, peace, progress, healing, and growth. The ratio isn’t stacked in your favor, but the experts will keep telling you to cling to the 4%: “The 4% is totally worth it. You’ll be so happy when you get there. Don’t give up. Keep going.” Sometimes the 4% seems bogus and I wonder if I’d be better off sticking with the majority.

Sometimes I get sad.

Sometimes I get anxious.

Sometimes I get lonely.

Sometimes I get worried that recovery isn’t for me. It’s like a fable you read about in “happily ever after” stories, but us-common folk will never see it in real life. It’s like personal trainers and chefs to the rich and the famous. Something we may wish for and may actually exist, but will never come knocking on our door.

Much research revolves around the question: “Do people fully recover from eating disorders?” The experts are split. I think they are split because it’s so damn hard to tell the difference between a recovering person and your “normal” American woman. I’ve said it before and I will say it again: Either I don’t have an eating disorder or most other American women do.

I say this because it’s frustrating to look around at the “normal” world of women, hear the exact same comments and self-hatred I’ve heard in ED group circles, and then be told that I need help. If this version of “normal” is what I’m supposed to be aiming for, then what’s the point? I’m no longer binging and purging on a daily basis, in fact it’s been 18 months since I threw up and I haven’t deliberately starved myself for three years. I guess I’m looking around for a healthy role model that is “recovered” or doesn’t harbor the typical spew of self-hatred and I’m having a hard time finding one. I’m losing sight of the goal here because there aren’t a lot of examples of healthy, self-aware, and grace-filled women to emulate.

Lately I’ve been considering what I have to gain by fully recovering from this eating disorder. It’s not like I’m engaging in life-threatening behaviors anymore, I just have a hard time not tearing my body and food choices to shreds. How am I any different than most other women I know?

This eating disorder isn’t so bad. It has been by my side for five years. It’s never left me or forsaken me. It’s accompanied me through graduation and college and world travels. It’s reliable. It always flares up in stress. No surprises. It’s predictable. It will always tear me to shreds. It’s comfortable, a security blanket, a pair of slippers. This I understand. I may not like suffering through it, but good consistency is just so hard to find these days.

Today I felt fragile and weak. I lost sight of my goals and my progress. I sat down and watched my own life. I started comparing. I was nit picky. I dissected my decisions, my habits, my body, my smile, my skills, my abilities, and my very worth. It all happened so fast. I didn’t fully grasp it until I stood in the walk-in refrigerator with a glutinous biscuit in hand (i.e. I have a nasty case of gluten-intolerance) and the realization that the biscuit would not help me feel any more worthy. But I ate it anyway. And then some.

I don’t want to live the rest of my life with an eating disorder. Nor do I want to mimic the behaviors or women who spend their entire lives asking others, “Am I thin enough? Pretty enough? Good enough?” I don’t want extreme diets and harmful behaviors, but I don’t want to merely tolerate my existence and waste time telling everyone how much I hate my thighs either. There must be balance. There must be hope out there some where.

Hope, I believe, comes in creating my own woman. I need not be what I’ve been (nor those who have come before me).

Instead, I can choose another path.

Instead, I can put down the magazine.

Instead, I can choose a different movie, a different TV show, a different web site.

Instead, I can avoid looking at the size on my clothes and purchase them based solely on how they make me feel.

Instead, I can keep track of my enjoyment of the food versus the calories and fat grams.

Instead, I can acknowledge the good in others and the good in myself (not a cruel game of comparisons).

Instead, I can give myself a break.

Instead, I can take deep breaths.

Instead, I can focus on the 4%.

Instead, I can eat breakfast in the morning (even if I don’t want to) because my body deserves food and nourishment and grace.


Emily said...

Instead, you can be an inspiration to other women who struggle, with food and other things. Today I told a friend about my dear friend Heather who has taught me not to describe other people by their weight or lack of it, and to not let it define me. Never again will the first thing I greet a lady friend with be "Have you lost weight?". That's thanks to you. (and Rosie.:) )

kessia reyne said...

The other day I wore uncomfortably short shorts because, as I told my husband, I wanted to show a little cellulite because it doesn't matter. I'm 28 years old and I'm finally happy with my body. I figured out that Jesus doesn't care about the way my legs seem to hold on to fat and the way my ribs seem pathologically afraid of it. And if He doesn't care... why do I? It gave me some much needed perspective. Thighs and waistlines? "Isn't life much more than food, and the body more than clothing?"

Keep on, Heather! Keep on working and re-realizing and deciding and remembering and trying and instead-ing! You ARE healing, and you are adding a beautiful voice of self-acceptance into a world starved of that message.