In therapy today, we were discussing my relationship, and I was asked, So, have you two had your first fight, yet? I said no. Then, she asked, How do you react if _____ upsets/disappoints you? And to that, I said I didn’t know, because it hasn’t happened.
I’m not naive. I don’t think my boyfriend is perfect nor do I think we are in some la-dee-dah honeymoon phase. I’ve been in enough dysfunctional friendships and relationships to understand when needs aren’t being met or communication isn’t effective. We both know each other’s needs; we make it each a mission to give more than we receive; we both validate and appreciate and respect the other; we genuinely enjoy our relationship and time together. Most importantly, however, we aren’t afraid to talk about, well, anything. We aren’t afraid to delve into the deep issues, to explore our transparent and vulnerable selves, to express emotions with brutal and raw honesty.
After my session, I came up with an analogy to describe my relationship with my boyfriend, but also, to describe my own recovery.
Our relationship is like a car. Most people spend a long time shopping and comparing for the vehicle of their dreams, and then, when they find one they really like, they invest in it. For awhile, they appreciate the car and take as good care of it as possible. Nothing is wrong. They love driving it as often as they can. And then life happens. Eventually, you start leaving trash on the floor. The windows stay spotted. The paint loses its shine. You stop checking your tires or making sure the interior smells nice. You taper off checking up on the car until there is some kind of inevitable breakdown or accident. But we check the gas everyday. We check the surface for scratches or defects. We continuously measure the driving conditions, make sure the roads look safe, and navigate the obstacles as they come. We take care of it everyday, not just before a huge road trip or after a major collision. Speed bumps just reminds us when we need to slow down and take even extra caution.
Just like relationships, recovery is are about the day-to-day gestures. Are you positive? Are your thoughts and behaviors strengthening or weakening you? Are your feelings validating or condescending? The homeostasis is what matters. Not the one time you go 80 mph for a stretch on the freeway. Not the one day you’re stuck in two hours of traffic. The average commute matters. The one you take every single day.
We must stop dwelling on simply the outliers in the process of recovery. Those do not define the whole picture. They are outliers for a reason. Rather, what does the average look like? The typical day? What does a typical day in recovery look like? Again, some days it may just be eating a balanced meal. Other days, it may be smiling instead of crying when you look at your reflection. There will be setbacks. Traffic jams, horrible weather conditions, potholes in the road. There will be distracted drivers and running out of gas money. There will be times the entire car looks like an utter mess.
But is everyday crisis mode? For some of us, it absolutely is. Eating disorders are hellacious and degenerating diseases. If everyday is getting progressively worse, it’s imperative to have a safety plan for yourself. Treatment options are available. However, after deciding to work some kind of recovery, many of us can achieve some progress. That doesn’t mean it’s linear nor does it mean it comes naturally or quickly. But when we continuously push through recovery, we notice that one week it may become easier than the last week…or one month may be easier than the previous one…or one year may seem simpler.
I don’t glorify or sugarcoat the process of recovery, because it is incredibly difficult and nothing about changing the entire way you live your life comes easily. Everyday, I have to choose this way. Sometimes, it’s every moment. But, I know it’s the only alternative that keeps me on the path I want to be on. So, I focus on the day-to-day stuff. Just like with my relationship, I don’t think about if and when we will fight, the same reason I do my best to avoid that negative thinking about if and when I will binge. If it happens, it happens. I will handle it then. When I become too preoccupied with such a thought, my reality will create it. We call these self-fulfilling prophecies for a reason.
My overall homeostasis in recovery is mostly where I want it to be. Yes, I want to have less obsessed thoughts about food and experience less desires to restrict or binge. Yes, I want to get to a place where food really is just food.That type of mentality just comes with time. But, I am grateful that, more days than not, I am eating well and nourishing my body with good food without following rigid rules or experiencing regret or remorse afterwards. I feel confident in my body, and I appreciate it for all that it can do. My body has never given up on me, despite the many times I have abused it. My body WANTS me to survive, thrive, and rock, and that is just a wonderful feeling!