A friend posted a meme on Facebook that caught my eye. It stated, “You can never truly feel at home in a body you view as temporary.” She prefaced the post with the following question:
“What if the body you have today is the one you have to live with?”
I’ve heard the question before, from therapists when discussing recovery from my eating disorder. It never fails to horrify. Because, yes, of course I want recovery. But, in this body? The body I have today? The one that’s imperfect and therefore, still less than? Which means I’m less than? Because that’s what a lot of me believes.
There’s a part of me that wants to wait for recovery. I don’t want to start yet. I need the perfect body first. Once the body’s perfect enough – and that means thin enough – recovery can begin.
I mean, I’m abstinent and that’s a good thing but large chunks of my brain are still trying to decide if I mean it. Are we really doing this?
How can I possibly be expected to recover when I have flesh on my stomach? How can I be expected to think about recovery when my thighs aren’t pencil thin? How can I recover if I’m not yet perfect?
It’s funny how you think thoughts like these are your own. They aren’t, of course. It’s the eating disorder trying to stay present and relevant and in charge.
What if my body never changed from today? What if a wand was waved and this was it? This torso, these limbs, this flesh, what if it was all mine from this point on? What if my body stayed the way it is today, forever?
I’m not going to lie; my knee-jerk response is horror. I’m horrified. But when I pause and take a breath, I wonder, would it really be that bad? Wouldn’t there be a bit of relief if I could finally let go of the idea that my worth is inversely proportionate to my weight?
I’m coming up on three months purge-free. Before that I went eight months. I should not discount the achievement as much as I do. I shouldn’t treat it as no big deal. Because when I went into treatment, I was purging multiple times a day and that had gone on for decades. Since I was released, I’m averaging about four months between purges. That’s kind of epic.
Abstinence is a huge accomplishment but it definitely not the end of the journey. You know you’re not there yet when the idea that the body you have now is the body you’ll have forever makes you flinch.
I’m not purging but I’m also not free.
Free is learning to accept your body as it is. It’s believing the shape of your limbs and the amount of flesh you carry is not how you determine your worth.
Free is eating food without negotiating and altering the next meal to account for it. Free is not panicking when you eat five cheezies instead of four, not treating it like it’s the end of the world and punishing yourself because one cheezie is the thing that will make you fat and intolerable.
Free is not compulsively looking in reflective surfaces to make sure you’re not dripping with flesh. Free is being okay with it even if you are.
Free is learning to like who you are as a person; it’s accepting and believing that you have value simply because you are. You don’t have to earn your air. Physical perfection is not a requirement of humanity.
Free is wearing the clothes you want to wear – even if it’s pyjamas. Free is trying on clothes and if they’re too small, recognizing that they’re too small and it doesn’t mean you’re a horrible person.
Free is a lot of things. It is not, however, abstinence.
Ironically, however, abstinence has to come before you can work on the other stuff. Before you can work on the thoughts and feelings that drive the eating disorder.
I’m not free.
But, for the first time in a long time, I can see the road that leads there. I’m almost ready to start traversing it.
I don’t want to live the rest of my life in the body I have today. There’s a part of my brain, however, that thinks I can get there. That maybe one day someone could ask me and it would be okay. That maybe someday I will separate my sense of worth from my view of my body.
All that’s left is to keep doing the work and wait and see.