Rejection

27 Jul

Choices-fork-in-the-road

Good evening, dear readers. It’s been a very thought-filled week for me. Not to say they were particularly inspired or novel thoughts… mostly just a lot of filling in my allotted blank space on 750words.com. You know, a lot of find a space for my thoughts to live. Or, to put it less elegantly, smushing my brain all over a keyboard. Yup. That’s probably the best description for it.

But in the endless circling of worries and wonderings and whatnots that have found their way out of my brain and into my consciousness, there have been a few topics that have settled into the back of my brain, asking to be written about. A lot of them are very personal topics for me – ED stuff, recovery, rants about body image commercialization – but they all mix fairly nicely into an amalgamated post. So here it is.

And the first topic, interestingly enough, is rejection.

I’ve heard a lot about rejection over my years of therapy of treatment. Usually, it’s about how I’m not supposed to do it. I’m not supposed to “feel my feelings” instead of rejecting them. I’m supposed to learn to come to terms with my body as it is and can be instead of rejecting it as unacceptable. I’m supposed to embrace life with all its laughter and all its shittiness, instead of rejecting an integration of the things that happen to me.

But, all that being said, I think sometimes rejection is okay. In fact, I think that sometimes, rejection can even be a sign of a solidifying recovery.

You see, my facebook feed is pretty much a never-ending wall of cute animals, inspiring quotes, whatever the heck my friends happened to have posted, and science. But sometimes, those “inspiring quotes” and “science” posts have gotten me into trouble.

Or rather, I have gotten myself into trouble and merely used those posts as fodder. At the height of my ED, the various times those maxima have happened, I would grapple for whatever eating disorder-related material I could find. Scientific reports on anorexia symptoms, “fitspiration” images, even recovery blogs. Even if something wasn’t explicitly triggering, even if it was ANTI-eating disorder, I’d still latch onto it. Because at those points, my brain was basically all eating disorder, all the time. I would eat, breathe, sleep, and – yes, read eating disorder. It was how I attempted to cope with the world, after all. It only made sense that I would try to make that world less scary by plastering it with eating disorder too.

But not today. For a while now, while scrolling through my facebook feed, I’ve come across some interesting-looking articles, whether science or pop journalism, that have been eating disorder-related. Today’s scroll-stopping article was about “the science of the anorexic brain.” In the past, I would have dove right in. I would have scoured that article for validation, for excuses for my eating disorder, for patterns I could emulate further. But not today. No, today I only stopped scrolling long enough to glance at the title, wrinkle my nose, and decide that I didn’t really want to read the article. I had other things to do with my night. Other things to do with my consciousness. I didn’t want to spend those five minutes of my life thinking about my eating disorder, plugging myself back into that mentality. No, no thank you. I’ll just keep scrolling. After all, gotta find that next cat picture.

There was a sense of relief from that, scrolling past an ED-related article. ED didn’t have to be my entire life anymore. I didn’t WANT it to be my life anymore. And having one more instance logged away of rejecting ED made me feel just a bit better. Just a bit more secure.

I mean, it’s not as if I’m taking this instance as proof that all my struggles are over now. Hell no. Some days are better than others, but it is still so often a daily battle. An hourly battle. All the little quips my brain makes, seeing which hook will get me to bite… the accidentally insensitive comments my friends make about my meal choice… a particularly unflattering window reflection… the dangers are endless, and I am not invulnerable. Make no mistake, I am watching myself. But this time, it’s myself that I am watching, not my eating disorder. I am trying to keep myself safe, rather than my anorexia. And that is a major step for me.

Which brings me to my next topic. Done with rejection, on to choices. Because when it comes to recovery, choices are so deadly vital. And yes, I do mean the oxymoron. I have come to realize that in the end, recovery – or relapse – comes down to choices. I am not going to get better because I feel better. I am not going to get better because I had some big epiphany. I am not going to get better because somebody else is forcing me to. I am going to get better because of the choices that I make, day in and day out. And if I want to recover, I have to take full responsibility for my choices. I cannot entrust them to my emotions, or my energy level, or my certainty about my future, or my friends’ availability. I have to entrust them to what I know, in the end, is what I need to do.

I will get better because I chose not to purge, rather than because I felt beautiful. I will get better because I chose to go buy groceries (and by “groceries” I mean REAL food, not a stock of gatorade and caffeine), rather than because I suddenly have absolutely no issues or fears when it comes to food. I will get better because I chose to eat breakfast, and lunch, and dinner, and some amount of snacks in between, not because I felt deserving or pretty or accomplished.

Yes, I hope that with time, I will feel all those things too. I feel them every now and then. And my life is no longer ruled by an overwhelming despondency stemming from the utter certainty that at any given moment, I am never good enough. Now, when I am sad, it’s not so much because I have believed the inner critic in my head that used to tell me I am nothing more than a splotch, it’s because – well, life was just shitty. It gets that way sometimes. And then people get sad. And then usually, life gets at least slightly less shitty and people get slightly less sad. I will not pretend that everything always ends up okay. I have come up against too much of reality to assert that. But that’s a topic for another day.

But as for my own life, as for things getting less shitty and me getting less sad, I have hope. Something about SNRI’s and neural plasticity. Also one particularly wonderful boy who somehow manages to make me feel better just by looking at me. Yup. I’m incredibly lucky, and I know it.

Anyhoo. My point is that I realized that in the end, recovery is up to what I do. The choices I make. It is in making the choice to go on with my day instead of forcing my finger down my throat, it is in choosing to make sure that I have consumed an relatively adequate number of calories each day (by listening to hunger cues, by the way, not by obsessing over grams and percentages and calories. that’s just… ew. ain’t nobody got time for that.), it is in choosing to go hang out with my friends or give myself that extra time instead of going to the gym for a second or third hour that day that I am going to get better. It is in the nitty-gritty, unexciting, excruciatingly mundane choices that I make that I am going to get better. And in some ways, that’s annoying. But in in many more others, it’s a relief. Imagine, if recovery were dependent upon having some glamorous revelation. Imagine, if recovery were dependent upon how the sound of your alarm clock and the humidity of the atmosphere and the arbitrary wash of chemicals and hormones your body produced in response to your inbox that day determined how you feel. That would be terrifying.

But recovery doesn’t work that way. It just works entirely on the fact that no matter what some anxious voice in your head may be telling you, at any moment, you have the ability to make a choice. To start, or to stop. To eat, or to not eat. To do what in the end you know you really should do, or to decide that you are going to listen to your eating disorder, even if for just “one last time.” At any moment, you have the ability to choose the way your life is  going to go. ED patterns, or not. Simple as that.

Of course, simple in no way means “easy.” Sure, it may feel like you’re going to turn into the second Mt. Helen because of not walking into the bathroom. Sure, it may feel like nobody’s going to love you again, least of all yourself, if you eat that peanut butter sandwich. It may feel like if you make the decision not listen to your ED, you are worthless, wrong, weak, or whatever other adjectives ED has chained you with.

But the beautiful thing? Feelings aren’t facts. And how you feel doesn’t decide what choices you make.

You do.

Well, I haven’t gotten to turning my wrath towards body image commercialization yet, but I think that’s a rant for a different day. For now, I’m choosing to crawl into bed with a book I’m reading and get some sleep before traipsing around mountains with some wild canines tomorrow.

Right now, my choice is to do some self-care. What will you choose?

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