I just love it when readers ask me to write about something. I got this request a couple of days ago:
“I wonder if you can, when time allows, write about the ways you have coped with any wobbles during recovery. Even afterwards, how have you managed to become so confident from all of this?”
I noticed that I have an interesting reaction to being called confident. I had never really thought of it before, but after giving it some ponderance, I have come to the realization that I am confident about my recovery.
I think the reason for this is simply because I have been at it so long. I’ve been through so much shit with this illness that I have every confidence that whatever it throws at me I can cope with. Confidence, however, or describing myself as that rings alarm bells for me, as I worry that confidence can lead to complacency.
Ironically I am so fractious about being complacent about remembering that I do have an eating disorder and it could come back that I think it is this that allows me to feel confident that I won’t let it. Or something like that.
I think I have just answered the question. Have I?
In case you missed it amongst the ramblings: I cope with the wobbles by not allowing myself to become complacent. I am confident because I do not allow myself to be complacent.
Because I am on the lookout for anything that might trigger my eating disorder, I can try and stay one step ahead of it. If I have as much as a whisper of an ED thought, I eat some cheese or something just to make sure. Even if I am not sure if I had an ED thought or just a random thought, I’d eat the cheese. Just to be sure.
It’s a bit like how my mum is with woodworm.
When I was about ten, I remember that Mum was really into antique furniture and doing “upholstery.” (I did’t really understand what that meant at ten, and I still don’t. Something to do with buying old furniture and then attacking it with needles and staple guns. It sounds rather unsavory, doesn’t it?)
Anyhow, something went desperately wrong because our entire house and all it’s furniture became infested with woodworm. (Isn’t “infested” a magnificent word?)
All I remember is Mum bemoaning the onerous task of de-woodworming everything. Ever since that incident, if Mum spies a hole in a piece of wood that looks vaguely woodworm-ish, it gets treated, or banished, or burnt, or at least sworn at profusely.
If there is one house in the whole of England that will not get woodworm now, it is my parents’. Mum is primed to smell out woodworm like a Russian spy is to sniff out … economic intelligence?
But wait. There’s more. I’m not complacent about my ED for the same reason Mum isn’t complancent about woodworm: I’m scared it will come back.
EDIT: See the comments below, but I think that this is worth putting in here:
A reader commented that this post seems to make it sound as if I am “living in fear.” I am not at all. I am just trying to point out that fear can be a healthy part of recovery. I certainly don’t think about these things a lot, and you can rest assured that I don’t get ED thoughts often. But I want to make it clear to people in recovery that it is not something one can ever be complacent about and that the fear of relapse is something powerful that can be used to one’s benefit.
To say that I am scared of something is not to say that I live in a constant state of fear, nor is it to say that it upsets me on a daily basis. For example I am scared of tarantulas, but I don’t think about them the whole time, and it is a healthy fear as a tarantula could kill me.
I’m just about telling the truth as the truth is empowering. The truth is that no matter how well recovered one is, there is always the chance of a relapse because Anorexia has a genetic base and one never therefore is able to completely banish it. A healthy fear of it returning is what stops it from doing so.
Fear is a big motivator for me. I always learn best from teachers that terrify me. I fear my eating disorder greatly.
I’m scared of Anorexia.
I’m scared because it almost killed me.
I’m scared of the depression and hopelessness that Anorexia brought.
I’m scared of how it effects my family and loved ones.
I’m scared of being that thin again because it physically hurt.
I’m scared of being that thin again because of what it did to my body and long-term organ/system health.
I’m scared of relapsing and letting people down—my parents, my husband, my friends, my readers, my advocacy group—the list does on.
I’m scared of walking down the street and being stared at and pointed at because I look like a skeleton.
I’m scared of the brain-crazy that comes with Anorexia coming back and not allowing me to sleep or have a moment’s rest from the frantic ED thoughts.
I’m scared of feeling so weak that I can’t get out of bed.
I’m scared of malnutrition and how it made my hair thin and my eyes go dull.
I’m scared of losing the life that I have—because Anorexia would happily take it all away from me if I let it.
I could go on. In short I am terrified of Anorexia coming back, and that is why I don’t get complacent about any of it. Sometimes fear can be a good thing. Like I said above, I believe that one can use fear in a healthy way, and the to say that I am scared of something is not the same as saying that I live in a constant state of fear.
How do I deal with the wobbles? I eat some cheese.