There are days, many days, most days, when I crave safety.
Mostly, though, control.
When I feel my world spinning a little too fast for my body to keep up. Or, my mind spinning too fast for my nervous system to keep up.
Things are constantly changing. We are constantly changing. From thoughts, feelings, motivations, actions, orientations in space, to relating to others.
Nothing, truly nothing is ever the same moment to moment.
So, why did I get the message that there was certain safety in staying the same?
Eating disorders are complex, symptomatic, bio-psycho-social entities, beings, adaptations to life spinning a little too fast, a little too chaotic, a little too traumatic.
Having dealt with all the various shades of an eating disorder (anorexia, bulimia, binging, orthorexia, exercise addiction), I have established a knowing-ness factor with the underlying disruption.
I feel it. I feel my world spinning out from underneath my feet, as my body grows in size, or rather changes, as bodies are supposed to, no longer this perceived image of perfection, as if I ever reached that state anyway. I see my body in the mirror and still find it a challenge to embrace her fully. Her softness, her curves, her not-so-contained parts.
She isn’t a teenager’s body anymore, or rather what my anorexia brain told me was supposed to be. She is a growing woman, a shifting, changing sky that ebbs and flows a little bit more with the seasons, with the passing phases and moods of life.
She isn’t a rigid containing vessel of so many rules, regulations, and moral codes bent on food. She is an adapting being, having lived through malnourishment, self-induced starvation cycles, exercise punishment, and bulimia wreaking havoc on her.
She is a living testament to all she has endured and survived. Some days, I can feel her deep sadness over how much I still bully her and force her into submission of certain ways to move, breathe, and eat.
I am recovered, and still yet recovering. I’m not sure if it ever truly ends.
Especially on days like today, when my changing body feels a little scary to exist in. When it no longer feels like this on and off switch to shrink myself. She isn’t as willing to submit to my mind’s demands. But, perhaps, my mind has been softening too, and been more willing to relate to her rather than dominate over her.
Some days, when life feels a little too fast, a little too chaotic, a little too stormy, I do crave safety in my previous body, my eating disordered frame. I do crave that feeling of being able to control something, anything. It gave me a certain sense of gratification, even if in the short term.
My smaller body, though a prison to live in, felt safe from outside harm. Safe from the external conditions that are always predisposed to change.
Living in a recovered body, I have had to sit with the feeling of unsafety without a behavior or way to contort my body. It isn’t a pretty or easy process to re-learn.
Eating disorders develop over many years of underlying patterns. Perfectionism. High-achieving. Anxiety-ridden. Coupled with a deep, deep sensitivity to life.
Sensitivity has always been my nature, but not one I am always willing to embrace. It comes with a lot of gray area, a lot of unknowns, a lot of delicate areas where life can push me.
There are worlds between us. The world of the active participant of the eating disorder—the rule follower, the submissive, the controller, the dominator, the taskmaster. And, the other world of active recovery: the endless wanderer in the ever-changing landscape, searching for herself and her own internal map again, fumbling her way through some days.
These are the worlds I have been learning to bridge. But, yet, in building the bridge, perhaps, I still seek that connection back to the unhealthy realm. Burning the bridge down was never my way to heal. I needed to heal slowly, bit by bit. First, healing the bulimia. Then, addressing the binging. Now, examining the rule keeper, the one who’s truly terrified of letting go and feeling her way through life and food and movement.
I do crave safety some days, in my prior world. In my prior skin. The less seen version of me. The more “perfected” version of me. She was rigid, and deeply pained. But she always promised me safety. Even when safety was in the short term.
Healing our relationship to the body from any bout of disordered eating takes loads and loads of time, patience, and deep willingness to re-learn how to relate with kindness. Eating disorders don’t develop in one day. Nor do they heal in one day.
They are as complex as those who seek them out, knowingly or not. Sensitive, feeling, empathetically wired, deeply caring individuals.
Those who walk this road will know what I mean. It is hard to translate to those who haven’t. It is a long, winding road, with healing, recovering, craving, fearing, yearning to go back. And, yet, a deep burning desire to be fully free.
Some days, I do crave that smaller body of mine. And, also, crave freedom, and fullness, and expansiveness. Both can exist, I am learning. It doesn’t make me less recovered. It doesn’t make me inauthentic to this path of recovery for craving that feeling.
Existing in a bigger body does have more risks. Existing in a fuller life does too. You live more fully. You feel more fully. You hurt more fully. You are more likely to be seen as who you are, not what you look like. And, in that, there is certain fear. Am I good enough? Am I enough as a person to be worthy of love without a pre-determined body shape and size to decide that for me?
Recovery is messy. It is never linear. It is not a straight line back to comfort and ease of mind in your body.
It is a lot of gray area. It is a lot of unknown, a lot of uncertainty, a lot of traversing through and with the fear to get to the other side, and, perhaps, still, being with that fear more long-term. It is complicated. It is not a simple answer day-to-day. It is in the moments, in the small choices to choose oneself, one’s wholeness, again and again.
Recovery is many choices, over a long period of time.
Standing on the precipice of two years in recovery, I look down, and back, and forward. Back on the smaller version of me living a small life. Down on the present version of me, living a larger life and choosing to exist in a healthy-sized body, with fluctuations and all. Forward, at the woman I am always becoming.
Changing. Adapting. Learning to be with the thoughts and cravings, and not make myself or my body wrong. Being with the thoughts and feelings and choosing my recovered body even when it scares me.
On the days when I crave safety in my eating disordered body, I remind myself of how much life I have in this body. How safe my body is keeping me, all these years. That safety is a feeling, and not a number, or size.
Safety is a feeling I, and only I, can provide. Not in things predisposed to change. But in the true grit underneath the fluctuations of body, thoughts, feelings, emotions. That there is a deeper resource in my being, in my spirit holding me steady.
This I know is true. Even when my thoughts circle back to wanting to manipulate and control the form of me, my recovered body, my healthy mind, my balanced being reminds me, “Just keep moving.”
“Just keep moving forward.”
So, I keep moving forward, into the unknown, into the discomfort, into the subterranean parts of life, knowing that this is the journey I am choosing now, and in that choice, there is so much healing and power awaiting me, and honoring all the tiny steps in between.
I hope you see it too. The you looking back and the you looking forward are always cheering you on, and reminding you of this truth.
To keep going. To just keep going.