Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I spent a couple of hours wandering around the Birmingham Museum of Art today.
Okay…As much as I wish that were the whole truth, I was required to go with my art appreciation class, but I enjoyed myself more than I can say, and will most definitely be returning soon. I found inspiration for new things to sew and for lots of other facets of life as well.
This was one of my favorites…

It’s called, “The Monumental Life/Death Head”. It was carved out of stone around 1400 by someone from the Toltec-Aztec culture. As you can probably tell from both the photo and the name, it's a head that's half alive, and half skeleton. and looking at it, i couldn't help but feel like we're all this Toltec-Aztec statue inside. no matter what our struggles, we're all faced with daily dilemmas pertaining to those struggles in which we're forced to choose between being alive (whatever that means for each of us) or skipping out.
In my opinion, eating disorders (as with most addictions) are in very broad terms, an effort to escape from life. it's a constant turn to the skeletal half of the head, not necessarily for the appeal of death, but for the avoidance of the things that hurt, or are uncomfortable about living alive.
Back in January, when I was first released from magnolia creek, I had a therapist tell me that he’d never seen anyone leave treatment, jump back into school, and recover successfully.
“but hey- best of luck to you…” I remember him saying.
And however worried he and many other people in my life were about me “jumping back into life” so quickly, I promise that my worry surpassed theirs by leaps and bounds.
I wasn’t so sure that I would make it either, but although part of me going back for spring semester was perfectionism-driven, another part of me went back because I knew that if I stayed in treatment, or discharged, but chose to sit out of school and just “focus on recovery”, I would get more stuck in the “patient” role than I already was, and I would never be able to return to life as the self-sufficient, secure woman I now like to think I’m striving to be. i was afraid of life without the eating disorder, and although recovery is not the eating disorder itself, it's the closest thing to it, which is why it becomes a frighteningly easy escape and obsession.
like i said before, i've never been one for the death side of the head, but i was afraid of choosing life, and choosing against life, whether you like or not, is choosing death.
i used to love my meal plan, for example. i loved the structure and the fact that i had rules to follow and something to constantly think about. I loved the fact that when i was at restaurants there were things i couldn't order because they didn't fit my meal plan. are you seeing the escapism?
Although this was technically "recovery behavior" i can't help but look at the Monumental Life/Death Head, and realize that i was choosing the death half. i also can't help but realize that the eating disorder was pleased with my efforts to continue to deny the life going on outside my own head.
I still make an effort to stick with what i'm supposed to as far as food goes, but to be honest, i realized that i would rather be a part of what's going on at the table around me than the thoughts about how many grams of protein i still need circling inside my head.
I knew that as frightened as I was of being a “real person”, (that’s sometimes how I refer to life outside of escapism or life post-graduation…depending upon the context: hopefully you inferred that this is the context of life outside escapism) I was just as frightened of missing out on any more real-person-dome than I already had.
What the above ramblings really all come down to is this:
If an eating disorder is an effort to escape the discomforts of life, then it doesn't make sense for recovery to become an obsession, and it’s own form of escapism as well.
Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s crucial to take a little time to get back on your feet, particularly before physical health is restored-
(if you are less familiar with the world of eating disorders, I’m about to let you in on something that I wish more people understood: recovery doesn’t truly begin until the individual’s weight is restored to a normal, healthy range. It is NEVER the other way around)
-after all, I spent a month doing just that in treatment. But I think what I’m saying is that based on my own opinion and experiences, this whole, “just focusing on recovery thing”, is getting it all wrong.
The number one (and really all the other numbers too) reason that I’ve stayed in recovery really has nothing to do with the fact that I just like eating three meals and two snacks a day, getting used to being at a healthy weight, and having to constantly talk myself through triggering situations at all.
The number one reason I’m still in recovery is that day-by-day, sometimes moment-by-moment I’m watching my life come back before my eyes.
Now, when I pass people on campus or anywhere really, I have the energy to look them in the eye and have a REAL conversation, when I’m in a big group, I don’t sink into the background because I can’t muster the concentration to contribute to whatever is going on, I’m not the unspoken thorn in the side of family dinners, I think things are funny again, in class, my brain is alive and on top of things (my GPA went up by 1.66 points post-treatment), and most importantly, I can tell my Lord Jesus “goodnight” and “good morning” with a heart in honest and earnest effort to lay down my idols that sit above Him.
It hasn’t been through obsessing over recovery oriented behaviors that my life has burst forth the way it has. It’s been living life in the absence of the eating disorder that has truly made all the difference.
I'm not by any means saying that i've done this all perfectly. as you read in my example about my meal plan above, i've completely caught myself (my closest supports will agree with this) living recovery rather than life.
but somewhere along the road of recovery, i chose to think with living side of the head enough times that i learned that the beauty and joy that result are worth learning to deal with the scary and uncomfortable parts without escaping.
fellow strugglers (and everyone else really): i hope you choose the living side too.

1 comment: