No appetite. A lack of taste and smell. A cough that burns and leaves you laid up on the couch. Covid is awful. So I wait. I hope for the best but prepare for the worst. And I am prepared. I am prepared for old stressors to rear their heads. And I am ready to strike back with all my recovery tools like a twisted game of wack-a-mole.
Waiting and anticipating is the worst. Hyper-vigilance is a trauma response. It is exhausting!
To get sick is an open-invitation for all your coping mechanisms to start lining up at the door. You need to have a clear guest-list with bouncers who mean business. Boundaries are of the upmost importance.
These stressors create an environment so conducive to relapse that it slips in like a virus. It waits, it lurks and then it strikes. For those in early recovery this is a disaster waiting to happen.
No-one seems to talk about what it's like to be in recovery or addiction while fighting Covid-19. I've heard a lot of talk about the glaring statistics that show how many of us are struggling out there. I've heard a lot about alcohol sales rising. I've heard a lot about house foreclosure and paying bills. I've heard a lot about wait lists for treatment centers and therapy. But I don't hear much about survivors until they show up at our program and that's not soon enough. There is a silent population out there who is not getting help.
That's about it. Ok, so what are we as a society going to do about it? Why are there so many quiet voices?
So many questions arise when you are sitting on the couch for days. Is this a relapse? I haven't been able to eat? Do I lose my days? When is it okay to not have an appetite and when is it not? How long will I be sick for? Do I follow my meal plan still? But I can't even taste the food. Oh, and I'm losing weight from being sick. But do I reallllly have to gain it back?
So many questions as I sit in a pool of my own sweat waiting for the chills to pass.
There is SO MUCH waiting. So many moments that cannot be filled with tasks to keep my anxious mind satisfied. The body can be so depleted, sluggish and passive, and yet the brain is a funny thing. The brain comes alive at night! It tells cruel jokes in the wee hours while running laps around a track of self-deprecation and doubt. So, when everyone else is asleep all the things we should have done or need to do appear. Knock-knock! Who's there? A little old lady who? A little old lady who?
I didn't know you could yodel! Fantastic! Just making sure you're paying attention ;-)
Ok where were we? Oh yes, all the waiting... I sit grasping at my recovery tools like straws. I know now that I am going to lose this argument. There is no perfect tool to use right now. I have to accept that the answer is to "just be", and sit with my thoughts instead. Acceptance doesn't always come easy.
In fact this one word, acceptance, is the key to recovery. We sit in the prison that is the eating disorder, busying ourselves with all our recovery tools. Anything to distract us and keep us "doing". The sad reality is that we are sitting in a prison cell with the doors wide open. We can leave at any time. But not without acceptance.
Acceptance is a bit of a collective struggle, isn't it? It is so hard to accept. Accept that we are sick. That we need help. That we're scared or uncertain. Our perfectionist brain cannot comprehend the fact that we won't be able to achieve something on our own. So we don't tell anyone. We sit. We stay focused. We work with all our tools that might set us free. No, no, letting go would be too easy... I must get the right combination of tools to crack the recovery code!
YOU HAVE TO LET GO! GIVE UP CONTROL. Accept and submit. It's the only way.
We get so used to looking in the rearview mirror at all our mistakes, trying to cover them up, or hide our true self. The amount of energy we spend to do this is tremendous. In fact so much so that we often lose sight of the road in front of us.
Have you ever gotten so lost you end up somewhere in the opposite direction of
where you intended to go?
I have. Lot's of times. AND THAT'S WITH A GPS! My grandpa would cringe if he were to read this. I should have paid attention when he was teaching me how to read all those maps. Sorry Poppa! You were right.
We cannot keep our eyes on the past. We have to learn how to show up in the present moment. We have to learn to react and to react with tact.
As someone wise once said, "it's no use in going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then." I am grateful for that and remember this as I sit years after starting my recovery journey. I sit. Covid cough and all. I won't be going back to that version of myself. I have programmed my internal GPS to avoid that route at all costs.
Sitting here for 6 days in bed I have found myself thinking of every possible solution. I've analyzed how I got sick, who spread it and when? The guilt creeps in. Could I have prevented it? Did I spread it? Will they be okay? What is the perfect fluid combination to give me the best odds? Is there a Covid specific diet? Which foods are best? What If I can't workout for months? What if my body changes? AH! See, there it is... it was trying to sneak in again, that little jerk!
Are these normal thoughts? Or are they sick thoughts? Eating Disorder is that you?
I've had a vaccine and a booster, and I'm still in this state? Several treatment stays in residential sadly won't equate to protection against relapse either. When I was sick these question marks would all pop up as red flags.
But I'm not sick anymore!
Hold on, let me say that again.
I'M NOT SICK ANYMORE!
( WOOOOOOOOO...momentary dance party, I invite you to join me.)
It's not uncommon for sickness such as flu or cold to spark feelings of overwhelm and uncertainty. Sick is a complicated word in recovery.
I've heard so many women in recovery say,
"I'm not sick enough to need help."
Sick Enough is also about the madness of war. A war with our bodies and medical contradictions. We can't get help unless we are sick enough? But if we are too sick then we are... crazy? How curious!
How many of you say you don't need meds for a headache?
"It's not bad enough."
Or what about those of you that workout through an injury ? (Crossfitters, Love you guys, but... let's call it like it is. And for those who don' t know me I'm a chronically injured CrossFitter ;-))
Enough. It is always enough. You are always enough to seek help. But that's not what we are taught to think. We do not have to wait til we hit rock bottom to be worthy of help.
AGAIN FOR THE PEOPLE IN THE BACK.
WE DO NOT HAVE TO WAIT TIL WE HIT ROCK BOTTOM TO BE WORTHY OF HELP.
So when I get sick with anything, my monkey brain resorts to old habits. I throw in a dash of perfectionism with a teaspoon of "you're not sick enough". AH! An old family recipe! It's the perfect mixture of confusion that would lead others to believe I suck at self-care. When you are young with this struggle it's known as FAILURE TO THRIVE.
There's that word again. No, not thrive... although that's what we as a society should be focusing on. How do we get our young women to thrive? But I digress...
I'm not sick enough with Covid to call the Doctor. I'm not sick enough with Covid to need medication. I'm not sick enough to need help.
My husband gently reminds me that I don't have to be sick enough, and that being any amount of sick is valid. I am jolted back to the present moment. That black and white thinking is so damn easy to fall into. This is one of the issues in our current recovery model. The 'sick enough' mentality plagues most women who struggle. It prevents them from seeking help.
I get chills down my spine when I think about that. No, it's not time for my next dose of Tylenol. This silent struggle is eerily similar in the way we see women come stuggle to come forward about sexual violence. Most incidences aren't reported for fear of not being believed. For fear that our story isn't valid enough. For fear that we won't be taken seriously. And we often won't. I've been there. Not enough proof. Not enough evidence, yada yada, enough with the patriarchal bullshit. That's a subject for another day.
If your best friend showed up with bruises on her face and wrists from a domestic conflict would you tell them to wait it out til shit hit the fan?
Didn't think so!
And yet, we show up to hospitals and are told our heart rate isn't quite low enough yet. Our vitals aren't that bad. Our blood work seems normal. Maybe this is just a phase, isn't it?
We walk away confused. So do I have a problem or not? Society already normalizes diet culture enough. The lines are blurred and this is the positive reinforcement we needed to give our ED full control.
Being denied treatment gives our eating disorder full permission to take center stage. ED is here to give you a REAL SHOW! There will be dancing and jazz hands and all sorts of restriction. Just sit back and enjoy! Watch and wait. There's a surprise ending, so make sure to see it through to the end.
We sit. We watch. We wait. We are so enthralled with the dance that we neglect to eat or care for ourselves at all. We end up in the final act, down on our hands and knees. To outsiders it might appear that we are praying.
But in reality we are stuck. We are wasted and exhausted and we can't see more than a few inches in front of us.
Encore! Encore! We go to stand up and give a round of applause... but we can't. We don't have the energy. We are dizzy. We look up and ask, "Did I do it? Am I sick enough?" ... and down the rabbit hole we go.
We leave with a playbill stamped with diagnoses. Eating Disorder! Failure to Thrive! OCD! Depression! Anxiety! PLOT TWIST, YOU ARE FINALLY SICK ENOUGH!
An ED with a failure to thrive.
Failure to thrive.
That damn word again.
Off to treatment. We can't be late! There are only so many beds available and there are some really sick people out there, they say. Am I still not sick enough?
We are thrust into a complicated world where black is white and up is down. That shrinking serum you've been depending on is replaced with a cake that says "eat me".
And up you go! You're increasing in size and everything will be better once your weight is restored. But something still doesn't feel quite right. In order to get out the door we have to be just right. Not too big- obesity is bad, it's an epidemic. Not too small- anorexic. Not too happy- manic. Faking! hmmm? not too sad- RISK! We get poked and prodded until we achieve the perfect combination of qualities that clear us to return to normal living. Whatever normal means.
These labels are bullshit.
Some of our girls at just 10 years old are immersed into the complicated world of recovery. A world of numbers, and rules and expectations. Rather confusing when our calorie counting and food rules landed us there in the first place. Are we all mad here, or is there something wrong with this picture?
Years of recovery and here I am struggling with the big F word once again.
I have Covid.
I feel like a failure.
Everyone thinks I am lazy.
I'll lose clients.
The business will be ruined!
I'm a terrible person.
I'm not good enough.
See there it is... it was trying to sneak in, again. Black and white thinking. A fear of failure. Catastrophic thinking. NOT TODAY! Today, I know better. I will not go down that rabbit hole. I am perfectly content with sitting. I'll sit with a cup of tea and a book of the Adventures of Alice in Wonderland instead.
So as I sit on the couch for a 6th day with Covid, I am grateful.
I am grateful to be well. So many with Covid were not so fortunate.
I am grateful to have years of solid footing in recovery.
I am grateful to have tools and support.
I am grateful for community.
I am also grateful to be an advocate and ally in the recovery world for so many women.
1/5 to be exact if we play the sick enough and label game.
If we just stick with the labels 3/5.
I'll let you in on a little secret, 5/5 women struggle with body image. This struggle isn't gender specific, it's universal to the human experience. So many contradictions. For society to thrive, must I fail?
I'm grateful for my husband. He reminds me that being any amount of sick is valid. He reminds me to take meds because I am sick enough. He also is an unconditional ball of light and love. The calm to my chaos. He helps me find my way home.
I remind the girls in our program every day that they are valid. That they don't have to be sick enough. That this mentality is imbedded into our culture. It is outdated and a way of thinking we do not have to accept. It's time to embrace being messy. Loud. Proud. Strong!
We can be anything we want to be in this world.
We have to be willing to let go of the ED though.
It has already taken so much from us.
So if you find yourself standing at a crossroad asking,
"Well which way do I go from here?"
To the left is your ED to and to the right is living life.
Choose right. Go the right way. Choose LIFE! No matter which way you go there will be stressors. Triggers, and situations to overcome.
The world is fraught with trials and tribulations. To avoid them would be impossible. So, take a risk. A leap of faith.
Jump on over to the wild side and let your ED go.
We are all a little mad here, and that's okay.
I love hearing from our readers! I love hearing stories of triumph. I also am here if you need a listener. If you're struggling you don't have to do it alone. Reach out!