I should have stopped at 2. Surgeries, that is. 2 hip surgeries per saga. 3 is just too many.
I’m not going to blame my relapse on my hip injury. Actually, I might. I think I’m entitled to that.
I first injured my hip exactly 10 years ago. I had 3 surgeries over the course of a year. The third one broke me. I had no idea what was happening to me. My world spun out of control. I eventually withdrew from school and dove into a rather extensive eating disorder treatment process.
By the grace of God and a place called Mercy Ministries, I’ve walked in recovery for 2 years.
But the last year-and-a-half has involved another 3 hip surgeries. When I found out about the last one, I knew that I had to be vigilant. My body and mind were growing weak. I was tired. I knew that I would have to be emotionally strong to remain in recovery. I thought this awareness would save me.
The surgeries aren’t to blame. I know that. But they do have a tendency to create an environment ripe for relapse.
I can’t tell you when it began. The eating disorder is a chameleon. It blends in with its surroundings. You grow comfortable with it sitting in the room because you hardly even recognize its presence. Then it starts to move. It shows itself. But you’re not afraid because it’s familiar. With an eating disorder you are never alone.
When your life starts crumbling beneath you, the eating disorder is a comfort. It offers control. Satisfaction. Security. Success. It’s reliable.
My body was failing me. Again. For 10 years my body has failed me. Repeatedly. I have the scars to prove it. I’ve done everything they’ve told me to and still…still I spend most days in pain. Only my eating disorder allows me to have some sort of say over how my body performs. It’s twisted, I know. But it’s true.
I recognized the chameleon in September. He’d grown far too large and active to ignore. I thought that I had “caught it early.” I started an intensive outpatient program in October with the intention of finishing treatment in 6 weeks. It’s now January. You do the math.
I’m going to go ahead and pat myself on the back because I was able to recognize that there was a problem and I asked for help. I never would have done that 3 years ago. I’m all about progress. But I think I did myself a disservice in the process. I tried to convince myself that all I needed was a quick tune-up. I recoiled when people used the word “relapse.” I refused to identify with the term. I had forgotten how rapidly the eating disorder deceives and destroys. There’s nothing quick or easy about recovery.
Even though I’d asked for help and agreed to treatment, I was still in denial. I had relapsed and I could not begin the process of recovery until I recognized and acknowledged it.
On Wednesday, December 3rd, I watched a girl fall apart in IOP and I was suddenly faced with the paralyzing truth of where I had allowed the eating disorder to take me. When I got home that night, I wrote this short but meaningful passage in my journal:
Seeing the pain in someone else makes you realize the pain inside of you. Your perfect world comes crashing down around you. You realize that you’re not just sitting in the audience anymore. You’re a player in some great tragedy. The story you’ve been watching is yours. We tell ourselves we saw it coming. Or that it took us by surprise. Either way we’re wrong. The plot’s alive and it keeps us guessing, but it’s always in line with the story. Think about all of the great novels out there. They’re full of anger, pain, and sadness. Pain is unique to the human experience. As much as we love joy, it’s pain that lets us know we’re alive. So when I feel a deep, heart-wrenching pain, I remember that every decent character does. I’m just fulfilling my role in one of tomorrow’s great stories.
December was rough. Once I acknowledged my relapse, there was a lot to work through. There still is. But the depression is lifting. The meal plan is a little bit easier to follow. I laugh. I experience motivation. I’m feeling hopeful again.
I’m sorry that I wasted 2 months trying to deny my obvious relapse. I’ve lost a lot. Some things I won’t be able to get back. It makes me sad, yet I know that there is much to be gained. The power of experience is undeniable. It gives me words. Wisdom. Compassion. It puts me in touch with the deepest, most intimate layers of humanity.
Experience may be painful, but it’s priceless. This one is mine.