Wednesday, July 25, 2018

ED is a Radio I Can’t Turn Off

And I No Longer Like the Word “Recovery”

Disclaimer: It’s been a long time since I’ve formally written anything, so I’m admittedly (and probably evidently, as you continue reading—if you continue reading) a little rusty. My apologies.

I think this has been a long time coming. If I’m being honest, I’ve been struggling for a while now, feeling unsettled but not wanting to sit down and face my discomfort by putting words on paper (or text on screen, if we’re being literal here). The thoughts have been lurking, festering just beneath the surface, and I’ve been adamantly fighting to keep them there.

But you can’t just ignore that kind of pressure, or you’re bound to erupt.

My “eruption” happened early this morning—this beautiful, glorious morning, on which all three of my boys either slept in or got up and QUIETLY (a rare state in this house) occupied themselves. It was the type of morning that doesn’t come along often when you’re a mom, one that offered the rare opportunity to catch up on some much needed rest.

So of course, because life works in mysterious (i.e., annoying) ways, it was on this enigmatic gift of a morning that I found myself, ironically—cruelly—restless.

Oh sure, I spent the morning in bed, but not getting the sleep my haggard mind and body desperately need right now. Nope. Instead, I spent a good hour or so on my phone, furiously typing in the “notes” app. Why? Because in these rare moments of silence, I could no longer ignore the words that have been fighting their way to the surface for so long.

I could no longer ignore—or PRETEND to ignore—ED.

He really is an effing sunnofabitch.

When it comes to eating disorders, you hear the word “recovery” thrown around a lot:

“I’ve been in recovery for X years.”

“I’m working toward recovery.”

“The road to recovery is long and hard*.”

*That’s what she said. Sorry. Those of you who know me know I couldn’t help myself.

I’ve used phrases like this myself.

But lately I’ve found myself cringing at the word. It just doesn’t sit right with me anymore. Maybe for some people struggling with eating disorders, it’s a comfort. Maybe for some, it’s an inspiration. Maybe for some, it’s exactly what they need to hear to fight ED.

But I’ve finally realized I’m not one of those people.

When I couldn’t put my finger on why the word was bothering me so much, I did something pretty rudimentary: I Googled it. From bed, of course, because duh. (Ah, bless you, modern technology.) Here’s what I found:

Recovery: a return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength.

And there it was: the word “normal.” Google was waving a big old red flag in my tired, wrinkled face.

If there’s one thing I know about ED—or about anything really—it’s that there is no “normal.”

Once you live with ED, you can’t go back. Not completely, at least not in my experience. He flips your “normal” on its head and then gives it a couple of spins on a merry-go-round for good measure. (Excuse the park metaphor—it’s summer vacation and my kids are active.)

I’ve come to think of it like this: Living with ED is kind of like living with the radio on 24/7. Sometimes he’s just background noise, and even though he’s always playing, you barely even notice anymore. Sometimes he’s an annoying commercial, trying to sell you something you really don’t want (and definitely don’t need). Sometimes he plays jibberish, and his lyrics don’t even make sense. Sometimes he plays something that makes you emotional, that takes you back to a place of pain or heart ache.

Sometimes it seems like he’s on repeat, and you find yourself thinking, Didn’t I just hear this song? Can’t he play anything else? but you still find yourself singing—sometimes even dancing—along. It’s a subconscious act.

It’s hard to fight the familiar.

My point is this: ED is always there. Once ED is in your life, he’s in it for good, at least in my experience. Thoughts about food, my body, and how the two interact are with me every moment of the day. When I’m in the shower. When I’m making my kids breakfast. When we’re sitting at the table playing Candy Land. When we’re at the park. When I’m out with friends. When I’m rocking my toddler to sleep. When I’m having sex with my husband. When I’m working out. When I’m not working out. When I’m watching Netflix. When I’m asleep (yes, I have dreams about food and exercise).

When I’m trying to enjoy a rare morning of peace and quiet in the comfort of my own bed.

So many times since ED has entered my life, I’ve asked the question, When will it stop? When will I stop thinking about calories? When will I stop worrying about my body? When will I be able to spend a day without guilt or anxiety about the food I put in my mouth?

When will I be normal?
(There’s that word again.)

But what I think I’m finally starting to realize is this: It won’t. It won’t stop, because ED is like a radio with no off button and limited volume control.

So I have to be aware. I have to be vigilant. I have to get better at tuning him out. Because I’ve come to learn that the more I silence my own voice, the louder his becomes. The less I fill my life with the voices of others—friends, family, people who bring genuine joy and love into my life—the more pronounced his voice becomes.

I’ve learned that when it comes to fighting ED, you can’t become lazy. You can’t become complacent. Because when you do—the second you stop thinking for yourself—ED is there to fill the silence. 

So maybe for me, there is no “recovery.” Maybe there’s only management. Maybe there’s only letting go of any preconceived notions of “normal” and learning how to live within the soundtrack my life’s been set to.

ED plays some pretty damn catchy songs, and I’m still trying to teach myself how to separate the good songs from the bad ones.

But I’m getting there.


By the way! It's been over two years since my last post, and if you haven't noticed (via the pic on my blog page or the fact that I referenced having THREE boys in this post), I am no longer a Mama to just my crazy twins. I am now a Mama to crazy twins and a crazy toddler. Say hello to Harvey Lew. He's sweet, funny, smart, and a little bundle of constant energy that is constantly trying to keep up with his big brothers (he does a pretty good job).

Cuddle time on the couch

Styled himself. Note the shoes are on the wrong feet and also too big.
(They're actually his big brother's.)

He doesn't know all his colors yet, but he can accurately
identify Mario ("mah-yo") and Luigi ("wee-wee-jee!")

Cutie <3