In the time I’ve spent away from this blog, I self-published a poetry book about my struggle with bulimia. I thought once I did that, I’d start to speak openly about it, write about, post about it etc. Yet, I never did. It was like a flash in the pan and it never felt right. What kept me going throughout my recovery was the thought of eventually helping others – I saw this as my purpose. That I had gone through what I had gone through, spent over 20 years fighting this battle for a reason, and that I could take what I had learned along the way and apply it in a useful manner.
I never really did that.
However, during this pandemic, a friend of a friend reached out to me for help. She was 8 months into recovery and my friend suggested she speak with me.
Not as therapy but simply someone to talk to, that had gone through it themselves. We’ve kept in touch consistently and I feel myself getting more stable and sure in my recovery each time we speak. When she first reached out she was deep in the cycle and was incredibly down. I tried to explain that slip-ups and relapses are apart of the process. Recovery doesn’t just stop when you “mess up”, only if you give up, does it stop. If you keep trying to look at it with compassion and curiosity – this is the work. To keep asking, what purpose does this serve in my life?… what is it helping me numb, distract, ignore, suppress, soothe, compensate for? I believe that any “addiction” or self-harming habit is not the problem….it is a solution to a much bigger problem.
Eating disorders are not just about food, they are much deeper and complex and yes they are a mental illness but they are also an illness of the soul. And so I told her that recovery is a spiral (or more specifically a labyrinth)….that there are moments that you’ll feel like you’re heading downwards, that you seem to be going in the opposite direction, but that you are always moving outwards, you are always expanding and learning and growing. This is how I often viewed my eating disorder and the poem below is how recovery felt for me. But in looking up the definition of a labyrinth, I thought there was no better definition for what it means to go through this process.
A Labyrinth: an ancient symbol that relates to wholeness. It combines the imagery of the circle and the spiral into a meandering but purposeful path. The labyrinth represents a journey to our own center and back again out into the world.
We have to travel in, before we can go back out. Amen.
Recovery is a labyrinth
Round and round,
up and down
lost and found
Dizzy, frustrated, angry, exhausted
Downward spirals and beautiful risings
The sense of knowing,
where you are and why
Thinking you’ve got it
but then, you lose it.
only to realize another block
Where am I?
How did I get here?
Remember why you started
Remember how far you’ve come
Because, the only way out