Just a quick thought based on a recent conversation with a friend.
She is in recovery. She has been doing quite well in recovery for well over a year. (She has still had her slips, she is still human, but for the most part I knew her when she was quite sick so I’m thrilled to see her this healthy, happy and STRONG today.) But she was mentioning how it’s starting to really sink in for her at this point, the feeling of “…..Now what?” She confessed that she had honestly believed she was probably just going to be in and out of treatment for the rest of her life. It wasn’t a positive future but she accepted it as hers. And we were talking about the unexpected potential that’s suddenly appeared in her life since this does NOT seem like it will be the case. And also the grieving process of leaving the disorder behind.
I compared it in her case to an abusive parent. Because I knew and have learned from talking about this in therapy that generally people develop eating disorders because they HELP them in the moment. It will get out of hand and will likely destroy you if you just keep letting it get more and more out of hand, but in the moment it probably showed up because it was quite honestly the only way you could get through life at that particular time. And you can make the decision to rid your life of the disorder but I’ve had therapy sessions where we explored the importance of recognizing the GOOD that the disorder did for you and even thank it for such. So the abusive parent metaphor came into play because I was thinking, say you are a child being abused. It’s detrimental, it’s unhealthy, it hurts, it makes you miserable. (Just like an eating disorder.) You don’t feel in the beginning like it is even up to you to be able to escape.
So then say one day you ARE able to escape. You are no longer being abused or hurt on a regular basis. That has been removed from your life and you are that much better off for it. But here’s the thing: That person may have been hurting you, but they were still your MOM or your DAD. And when they weren’t causing you pain and suffering they were fulfilling that parental need and even if you knew what they were doing was wrong you probably love them on some level because they’re your parent. So if the disorder and behaviors have parented you in some way it’s probably a relief to leave the pain behind, but it’s also fair that you will miss it and feel sadness at its disappearance.
And now what?
Personally, I get to keep putting off answering that question for now. I also realized while my friend was talking (which I DIDN’T share with her) is that I’m not afraid I will be stuck in and out of treatment forever like she was. I’m afraid I’ll be more like I am now (and was for the biggest chunk of my disordered years….decades at this point) which is basically subclinical and miserable. Well enough to get through my days, hold a job, see friends sometimes (when I have them), sick enough to feel like there’s always some film over my life, engaging in just enough to feel decidedly ‘not normal’ but still able to hide it and haul myself through one more day.