I had a particularly physically active day today and, as is fairly typical for me when I’m physically active, my hunger signals were muffled. They don’t go away exactly, but they become majorly delayed and aren’t as strong as they should be (until I actually start eating, at which point they becoming insanely strong). I ran by the store after my volunteer gig and the thought hit me that I could totally just skimp on or skip dinner altogether, go to bed early, and call it a done deal. The thought, It’d just be so easy actually flitted through my brain because apparently physical activity also gives me amnesia.
As of today, it’s been exactly fifty-one weeks since I entered an intensive outpatient (IOP) eating disorder treatment program. I graduated about ten weeks later and haven’t looked back. Well. I have. Obviously. But I’ve managed, through work, therapy, and keeping myself honest, to not dip back into old behaviors. I haven’t purposefully skipped or delayed meals, I haven’t counted calories, I haven’t been running at all.
However. The thoughts are still there. Not all the time, and they sometimes take slightly different forms (I will sometimes fall into a rabbit hole of second guessing myself. “Did I hike for that long because I wanted to or because of calories or something?”), but they still crop up, which is why I’m writing this in the first place.
I remember the first time I really thought about the difference between getting better and getting well. I read about it in a book: the main character spoke about being in the hospital for some chronic condition and how people shifted from saying, “Get well soon!” to “Feel better!” There’s quite a bit of nuance there, and I think it’s important to recognize.
I’ve thought a lot over the past year about the recovery vs. remission camps in the eating disorder community. There are those who say sufferers can completely recover and never deal with an ED again — they can get well. Others say that sufferers can be without symptoms for massive lengths of time (or potentially forever), but that, much like many substance abusers, the tendency to turn to ED behaviors is still there — so, they get better, but still have to remain somewhat vigilant. I’ve sat in both camps over the past year, and now, I have no idea where I fall.
I do know one thing, though: I’m personally doing pretty well. But I still have thoughts. There’s not a part of me that thinks back to this time last year with longing or nostalgia. But, there’s apparently a part of me that momentarily remembered restricting food as being “easy”, at least this evening. There’s a part of me that still has issues with the shape and size of my body or with balancing exercise. It’s all there; I’ve just learned a lot of tools to deal with those issues.
I think this is really important to recognize. Over the years, I’ve often seen recovery painted as a pretty stark Before and After. There’s so much more to it than that, though. It’s rare that recovery is presented in such a way that leaves room for those thoughts, those wonderings, those feelings. (In fact, a couple of years ago, when I first felt urges to restrict after eating intuitively for awhile, I completely freaked out because I assumed such urges meant that I was relapsing.)
I’m not sure where I stand on the whole recovery/remission debate any more, but I do know this: I’m doing really well, but I still don’t love my body. I’m doing really well, but I still have urges to go run when I need to deal with something hard. I’m doing really well, but I apparently still have thoughts about skipping dinner. I don’t really know what conclusions can be drawn about that — it’s not even been a year for me after all. But I do think it’s important to recognize that the recovery process can certainly involve thoughts and urges. It’s not just an After photo.
I ate dinner, in case you were wondering. It ended up being more of a fiasco than anticipated due to some spoiled food (oh, how quickly I would have used that excuse to just skip altogether last year), but I definitely ate dinner. So, even though the old thought was there, clearly something’s different. I think just knowing that is okay for now.