Monthly Archives: October 2016

On the subject of bravery

Wow. If I put off writing this like two days, I’d have spaced my blog posts apart exactly one year. Oops.

I could make a bunch of apologies or excuses or whatever, but what it really boils down to is the fact that this hasn’t been a huge priority for me; the whys and wherefores aren’t all that evident even to me and, in the end, aren’t particularly important. I don’t have it within me to make promises of more frequent posts, but the world is full of exciting surprises, so who knows.

The subject of bravery keeps appearing in my life and it’s something I have a complicated relationship with. I’ve made several choices over the years that others have called “brave” while I just knew the choices had to be made. I’d have called those same choices “brave” in others, which does lead me to wonder if anyone truly feels brave when they’re in the midst of an act of bravery.

At some indeterminate time either early this year or late last year, I started slipping after experiencing some pretty solid months concerning all things related to eating and weight. I could retrace exactly what went down, but it’s truthfully a rather dull series of events that eventually culminated in a plan that I never named but should probably have been called My Very Own Plan To Relapse But Only For Ten Weeks And Then I’ll Stop Because It’s Not Like This Is A Slippery Slope Of Deceit And Doom Or Anything. 

So, long story short, I went down the rabbit hole as it were and ended up in a place that, if I’m honest with myself, is the worst I’ve ever been eating-disorder-wise. I’ve fooled myself into thinking I’m not as bad as I was in 2009 because I haven’t lost the same amount of weight (yet), haven’t fainted in a library (yet), haven’t had many major physical side effects (yet)…but at my Previous Worst Place, I was at least completely unaware of what I was doing to myself. This time around, I’m painfully self-aware. I have made some really unwise decisions for months based on fear (so. much. fear) and the lies that come free (!!!!!) with your purchase of the Eating Disorder Starter Pack and have spent the past couple of months telling myself that I’ve been in a holding pattern when it has been confirmed by reliable sources that I am, in fact, getting worse.

It’s been exhausting. The initial excitement of dropping weight and hiding something has worn off – partially because I’m not dropping weight and I’m not hiding things like I was earlier this year, but also because it’s draining in general. I’ve had to drop two of the three classes I was enrolled in this semester; I’ve had to reenter ALL THE THERAPIES; and I feel as if my life has become some sort of shrine to Not Eventually Killing Myself By Way Of An Eating Disorder.

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So, after weeks of just sort of flopping around like a lost Magikarp (that’s right: I play Pokémon Go. I’m a cool mom. Minus the mom part.), my dietitian (who’s super rad and has her own blog that she updates slightly more often than I update mine) said the Dreaded T Word (“treatment”) – literally hours after I’d had the following thought:

No one will ever tell me to go into treatment because I’m not like dying or anything.

Or something to that effect.

Anyway, the past few weeks have involved several discussions about Treatment or “a higher level of care” (a phrase which I’m like 99.9% sure is stamped all over every textbook pertaining to the clinical treatment of mental illnesses because it keeps popping up everywhere I turn right now). After an assessment and some discussions with my counselor, my dietitian, my friends, my pastor, my job, my insurance company, the jack o’ lantern I carved last week, and probably the entire cast of Grey’s Anatomy or something, I’ve decided to go into a three-evening-per-week IOP (intensive outpatient program).

At this point, it’s just something that needs to happen. I don’t like it. Parts of it are terrifying, and frankly, every aspect of starting any sort recovery sucks. The number of times I’ve used the phrase “lose-lose situation” over the past couple of months is…a lot. But, it just needs to happen. As one of my very favorite poems says, “If you aren’t recovering, you are dying.”

While I’d love to say this decision was a no-brainer, it honestly wasn’t. These disorders are gross and giant and have creepy talons and a lot of empty promises. They’re coping mechanisms, so they serve a purpose (or at least did at one time), and when it comes time to give them up…it’s legitimately hard. It’s not even about the weight; it’s about having something there that’s mine, that I can manipulate and control and focus on when everything else seems super crazy. Or at least feel like I can. Until I can’t actually control it any more…then it’s time for more help. (I believe the phrase that tipped my dietitian into You Might Need Treatment territory was “I’m not driving the car any more”…and then some smart-ass comment about Thelma and Louise because if I don’t maintain a two-to-one ratio of sincere transparency and deflecting jokes at all times, I will implode or something. I’m working on that.)

Which brings me to the subject of bravery. Through this entire process (getting help, slipping, relapsing, getting help again, and now getting a [*sigh*] Higher Level of Care), I’ve heard the word brave applied to my actions. I don’t consider myself particularly brave in light of all of this; I just know things can’t keep going the way they’re going and I only have two choices; one of those involves me being a terrible role model for my friends’ babies, abusing my body horribly, and…I don’t know, having a heart attack or collapsing from electrolyte imbalance or something equally as horrifying and not particularly fun. The other choice involves increasing the intensity of my recovery efforts.

If I were to see someone else struggle through this stuff, live a life truly eaten up (ha) with a debilitating and excruciating disorder, and then choose to get what will no doubt be very difficult help, I’d probably call them brave. They’re repeatedly shoving themselves into uncomfortable and (irrational as it may seem) frightening situations in hope that someday things will be a little better. When you think of someone working every day to fight against actual fear in order to do what’s best…that’s bravery, is it not?

But I don’t feel particularly brave; I just feel as if I’m doing what needs to be done. I’ve found myself thinking about this quote from The Village (which is underrated and you should go watch it immediately) a lot lately:

Ivy Walker: How is it that you are so brave while the rest of us shake in our boots?
Lucius Hunt: I don’t think of what might happen, only what must be done.

I started thinking about this more last night as I have a recovering friend who is considering her own (*siiiiiigh*) Higher Level of Care. She thinks I’m brave; I think she is; we both think pretty poorly of ourselves for “getting to the point of needing this”. And I’m now wondering if anyone ever actually feels brave.

Because, really, what is bravery in the first place? My favorite definition (courtesy of whatever source Google uses) is “ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage”. That doesn’t mean the pain or danger isn’t real or scary, just that brave ones are ready to face it. Bravery involves some sense of fear, some weight, some risk…and in the midst of all of that, it may just be doing what needs to be done despite the hurdles all around. It may not be making a giant show of confidence by breaking the neck of the scary thing and standing on it for all to see. It may just be pushing through and doing what’s uncomfortable and even painful because it’s the right thing to do.

I still don’t know that I’m particularly brave. And I don’t know how much that matters in light of the Lord’s plans. I do know that He’s gifted me with certain attributes and that He’s growing me through all of this. I don’t totally know how everything will turn out. It’s scary and stretching and exhausting…but, I think I know what needs to be done, and I think I’m finally doing that thing…and that’s something.