I was having coffee with an old friend from treatment last week. She is doing incredibly well, turning her plight into a passion for helping others overcome their disorders. While we were talking we both agreed that it is not a choice to have an eating disorder but that it is a choice to keep it; not a choice to be ill but is a choice to stay there.
This is something that if told to someone early in their recovery journey they will likely not only write you off but think you are calloused and don’t really understand what they are going through. If you had told me that continuing my illness was my choice I would have never spoken to you again. Nothing about having an eating disorder feels like a choice. Nothing about having a demon screaming in your ear or whispering in the darkest recesses of your mind feels like a choice. The very fact that the demon exists isn’t a choice at all, the fact that it moved into your mind and ruined your relationships, life and health is not a choice. Allowing it to continue telling you what is important and how to live is a choice.
The eating disorder may have spent months, years or even decades driving your life deeper and deeper into the never ending chasm that is your disorder. You may be so lost in the maze that you are grateful to have someone telling which direction to turn and which decisions to make. It may have been deciding everything you do from what you eat, wear, say and think to how you drive, sleep, move and even breathe. You may not even realize that you can inch the disorder aside and retake control of you life. Even if you DID take control of your life, then what!? What would you do? Which direction would you go? Forget escaping the maze of your disorder, would you even remember how to live?
The good news is that you can take back control of your life; but you have to choose to. It is the hardest thing I have ever done, the most painful and arduous choice I had to make. And it wasn’t a choice I made once or twice but thousands of times. In the beginning I had to choose recovery hundreds of times a day. Each time I had to choose recovery I would sear with hatred and anger as I chose to continue the torture of putting food in my mouth, chewing, and swallowing it. 4 years later I am fully recovered, symptom free for almost 4 years and yet I still have to make the choice towards recovery once every couple of weeks. The difference is that it doesn’t even feel like I’m making a choice anymore. When a thought about weighing myself, not eating something “bad” or the calories all over the take out menu pass through my mind, it hurts for a second like an old scar, reminding me of a wound healed long ago. After maybe 10 seconds of remembering this old wound I can send those thoughts away as easily as letting a helium balloon float up towards the sky.
Realize that you have a choice. Make that choice no matter how painful it is. Continue making that choice as many times as you have to. Know that it gets easier. Know that recovery is possible, but you have to choose it.