When I was sick with anorexia I didn’t cry very much. I was angry a lot, yes, but I didn’t often cry from sadness. I wasn’t the complete emotional void that a person with anorexia stereotypically might be, but I didn’t cry a lot. Which is ironic really, as considering how lonely, stressed, trapped, and irritable I was then, I had plenty to cry about.
Imagine my confusion when I cried whilst force feeding myself in recovery.
The trouble with force feeding oneself, is that there is nobody else there to take it out on. Previously, on the odd occasion anyone else pressured me to eat when I didn’t want to I had raged and yelled. I had directed my frustration at somebody else, and concluded that they were the problem.
Alone, faced with a pizza and a shit load of determination, I had nobody else to tantrum at. That didn’t stop me. I still had a bit of a tantrum, but it doesn’t have the same effect when nobody else is there. I remember feeling very suddenly even more alone than usual. Sat there facing a pizza and feeling all these feelings with nobody to witness them. I felt angry, but it was pretty short lived compared to the sadness. I was sad I had nobody to share this moment with. Feeling sorry for myself.
I was crying whilst I ate that pizza and I didn’t know why. I felt desperately sad. Logically I knew I had nothing to be sad about, and superficially I could tell myself that this was victory and I was actually doing it. That wasn’t meaningless to me. I was thrilled I was doing it too. There is duality that can exist in everything, and one can be scared and sad and excited and thrilled all in the same moment. The wonderful and difficult thing about emotions is that we can be experiencing conflicting feelings all at the same time.
The confusing part wasn’t the diverse nature of my feelings. That I was pretty used to by then. The confusing part was I didn’t know where the sadness was coming from. I understood the exhilaration, and the feeling victorious. I was used to the guilt and shame as that was frequently present when eating something out of the range of my usual safe routine. The sadness? Why?
I imagine I was mourning my eating disorder. Mourning doesn’t sound like the right word. Can you mourn something that you hate? Maybe. It’s more likely that I was mourning 10 plus years of a life not lived fully. You see, in sitting myself down and force feeding myself pizza, I was doing it. I was doing what I hadn’t been able to do for 10 years. And the reality of eating that pizza made recovery feel like a done deal. I knew, the moment I did that, I would recover. Fully.
And the fact that sitting down and eating pizza — a lot of it — was actually so fucking easy, was one of the reasons it was so sad. I could have done this 5, 8, 10 years ago. I could have. I could have made that choice. That was a shitty, shitty realisation. That realisation made me cry a lot. And often, during recovery. As I saw and felt things change, as I daily, hourly, did the opposite of what my eating disorder wanted me to do — and felt how easy it actually was to do that. As I walked though the walls that my head had constructed around me and discovered that they were never really walls in the first place. They were doors I could have pushed open at any time. When I realised that I had only been trapped in my eating disorder because I had been too afraid to even try and not be trapped…
That was a shitty, shitty, realisation.
Ten+ years of wasted life. I could have walked though the door at any time. Ten+ years I would never get back. People I would never get back. Experiences I would never get back. Ten+ years of … (sigh).
It was also a fucking empowering and motivating realization.
I can break down these walls in my head. I have the power to do that. I really do. I’m doing it!
So I cried in recovery, a lot. I rejoiced too. I learnt that recovery — eating all the food I needed and rewiring — was going to be as hard or as easy as I allowed it to be.
Every time I ate I had a choice. I could participate in the negative emotions — guilt, shame, disgust, fear — that were waiting there for me to jump into them. Or I could choose not to. I could actually choose not to. Not only could I choose not to participate in the emotions of guilt, shame, disgust, and fear, I could choose to enjoy recovery. I could choose to enjoy eating. Enjoy resting. Enjoy working with rather than against my body. I could choose.
So I chose.
It really was that easy. Because I understood in that moment that everything has a choice attached to it. Even the things that don’t feel like they do. Even emotions. I could choose not to participate in the emotions that my brain was suggesting. I could choose enjoyment.
It really was that easy. And that, that was the painful part for me.