I found a post on Therese Borchard's blog Beyond Blue that really resonated with me. In her post, Therese discussed how Shania Twain pulled herself out of a "deep, dark slump" after her marriage collapsed. Therese, who has suffered from depression for years, had this to say I remember feeling that way as I came out of my most severe depression in early 2006, and I'm experiencing shades of it today as I wrestle with my brain to move toward recovery, away from the Black Hole of sadness.
Like Shania, I have had to do what's counterintuitive: say yes to every invitation I get, literally forcing myself back into the world. She's right in that, as you're climbing to the surface of the Black Hole, you want nothing more than to isolate and disappear. But there is great healing in connecting with friends and neighbors, fellow moms and family.
The other thing I do when I'm crawling back to life is to repeat this mantra to myself as many times as I need to: "I will get better." My great aunt, Gigi, who also experienced a nervous breakdown at the age of 35, told me to keep on repeating that until I began to believe it.
It is some great advice for those of us who are struggling with an eating disorder, too. It would seem pretty obvious, wouldn't it: you've been starving yourself so start eating again. Not that this isn't an important aspect of recovery, it's just that it's not very intuitive when you have an eating disorder. My natural impulse was to keep restricting and exercising, keep hiding away from the world, keep avoiding, keep an iron grip on exactly what I would do and say.
It is, of course, worth remembering that my natural impulses were what got me into this mess, anyway. So it's really not all that surprising that I would have to (temporarily) ignore my natural impulses in recovery.
At my new job in the bakery, I actually eat lunch on my lunch break. I can't fully explain how odd this feels to me. Lunch was an opportunity to exercise, or work, or at least refill my coffee mug and take a dumb online quiz or two. Now, I pull my lunchbox out of the fridge, sit down, and eat. It still feels odd and wrong.
Or being honest with TNT about my struggles. I have to force myself to go over the gory details about what went on each week. Usually, I have glossed over the difficulties because I didn't want my team to know I was struggling. This wasn't just a protect-the-ED habit; it was a deep, abiding fear of appearing imperfect and out-of-control. Now, I'm trying to bring up the difficulties and not just as I'm walking out the door.
When I see an ice cream place and it's time for my snack (and I feel like ice cream, which is, like, always), I make myself say "Ooooh- let's stop." I force myself to have days where I don't eat every last one of my five fruits and veggies and instead have some Pop-Tarts. I force myself to say yes . I force myself to voice my opinion, to risk looking like a dumbass, to hold my breath and leap.
These things still feel unnatural. Many of them weren't natural even before the eating disorder (asking for help, voicing my opinion, leaping), and I've been sick for so long that the ED feels natural. It's my gut instinct, not just in terms of food and weight, but also in terms of living my life. The idea is to develop a new and improved (!) gut instinct, one that works in my favor rather than driving me into the depths of despair.
For now, this instinct will remain raw though not unused. It's just not instinct yet. And in the meantime, I am trying to take Borchard's advise and tell myself "I WILL get better. I WILL get better. I will. I will."