That’s how I feel.
I can’t believe it’s already almost a year since I started recovery (330 days to be exact, but who’s counting?).
All year I’ve dreamed about getting close to the one year mark. I imagined it as a celebration – eating ice cream, living free, being so joyful. And I think it will be like that. Reaching the one year mark is really exciting and I’m so glad that I’ve made it this far.
But I’m also getting really anxious.
I’m an anxious person, so it’s nothing new to me that I’ve been experiencing anxiety, but I was surprised when I started having full blown panic attacks when I realized how close we were to all the important events that happened in my life last spring.
This time last year was when my treatment team decided that I had to either go to residential right then or go inpatient after my graduation. It was when everything went downhill as I was put on medical leave from my senior year and awaited my admittance date to Carolina House. It was when I was living in the worst days of my eating disorder.
It took me a while to name where my anxiety was coming from. At first I thought it was just because I was getting “close” to the hell of last year, and while I think that is still true, I don’t think that is the complete story.
My therapist explained to me that my anxiety and panic is coming from grief. Not only am I grieving all the life that I lost during my eating disorder, but I am grieving the loss of my eating disorder itself.
Don’t get me wrong, I love recovery. I would never go back to my eating disorder. But sometimes it’s hard to accept this as my new normal.
Grief is weird. It kinda hits you like a train and leaves you a little dazed. Grief makes you feel like you’re reliving the events that you’re grieving, but it also feels like you’re watching them happen from the outside. Grief. Is. Confusing. Especially when you’re grieving something that you shouldn’t (like your eating disorder).
In my wise mind, I don’t miss my eating disorder. I know the hell that it put me through and how it almost took my life. I know that it wasn’t glamorous or pretty or fun. I know that I know that I know that. But my eating disorder was my life for five years. It was my most used coping skill. It was how I lived. It became who I was. So recovering from my eating disorder was like losing myself.
But recovery is finding myself, my new self, my best self. And sometimes it hurts a lot.
There are days I miss my eating disorder so much. When I’m having a hard day, sometimes I miss being able to cope by keeping my stomach as empty and hollow as possible. When people post bikini pictures with their flat stomachs and thigh gaps, I miss the body that my eating disorder gave me. But I know that that was not my best life and that I don’t need (or want) to live like that anymore.
So getting close to my one year feels like getting close to freedom, but it also feels like getting close to my eating disorder. And I don’t want to be close to it. I want to run as fast as I can in the opposite direction.
Sometimes it doesn’t feel like it’s real. Like, that was my life? I starved myself until I was nothing? I spent my summer in a treatment center? Someone had to check the toilet every time I used the bathroom? It’s weird. Sometimes I feel like I watched that happen; that it didn’t happen to me. But it did. So getting close to my one year mark makes it seem so real and so in my face.
I don’t want to relive my past. I sure as heck don’t want to relive my eating disorder, but I also don’t want to relive treatment. I am so so thankful for Carolina House and everything that happened there because I know I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for treatment, but I also never want to go back to that time of my life.
So I’m stuck in this weird place. I’m grieving as my one year of recovery approaches. But I’m also celebrating like crazy.
Like, I made it this far. I’m living a life without an eating disorder. So crazy and surreal.
But I’m also having to face and reflect on what life was like this time last year.
And that’s okay.
It’s okay and natural to grieve during recovery. The one year anniversary of entering treatment is like the one year anniversary of a loved one passing away. It’s hard and there’s a lot of emotions. But I’m not letting the emotions overtake me.
I can feel sad and angry. I can be mad for the five years of life that I lost to my eating disorder. I can feel upset that I had to enter treatment and that I missed my graduation. I can hurt because being forced to live in a new body that although it’s great and healthy, it’s foreign and confusing and not what I asked for.
I can feel these emotions and still celebrate one year of new life.
I can exist in both places at once.
So I’m going to grieve. But I’m also going to celebrate. I’m going to eat ice cream and thank Jesus and live my best life because recovery brings me so much joy that I never thought was possible.
I’m grieving and I’m celebrating as my one year of recovery approaches. The different emotions will eb and flow. And that’s okay.
I’m celebrating where I am because even though it may still be confusing and hard at times, I am so much further than I was a year ago.
And that (no matter the grief) is worth celebrating.