Don’t scroll past this.
It’s too important to let social media’s algorithm take this message away from the eyes of those that need it.
It’s dark and grim, but not in its entirety.
There is light at the end, there is always light at the end.
On the left is a photo of me on my 30th birthday. April 23, 2020. In the midst of COVID-19. In the midst of quarantine and depression. Eyes and cheeks swollen red from crying.
On the right is a photo of me a month later. Not “cured” or “fixed” because that’s not how it works. But happy and in love with myself. Feeling in that moment that I am capable of more than I have ever allowed to give myself credit for.
What you regularly see on social media is a face of bravery and survival. But I think it’s just as important to see the dark side of recovery. The true face of an eating disorder recovery: loneliness.
Recovery is lonely.
It’s a struggle you battle within yourself. You feel like no one will understand you or that you will only be a burden forced onto others. You don’t want people to see you at your worst or to assume that you are sick, that something is wrong with you. That you are broken, damaged goods, never good enough or healthy enough to be loved. While there is a type of empowerment amongst the loneliness, reminding you of your strength, most often it doesn’t feel that way.
And if there is one thing we can all relate to at some point in our lives, some more than others, is the sense of loneliness.
What loneliness feels like.
There is a certain kind of feeling that embodies loneliness.
An emptiness in your stomach. A void attempted to be filled with various vices. Indulging in food behind the confines of your own four walls. The repetitive taste of alcohol burning the back of your throat. Sip after sip, bite after bite. Filling your lungs with smoke to feed the bottomless pit you think is your chest screaming for more, but the soul begs to differ. Finding an escape through a high of injecting, snorting, validation through multiple partners, other means of reckless adrenaline. Punishing yourself by restricting things that are good and make you happy or pushing others away only fueling the beast called loneliness.
You do it because it’s comfortable. Familiar. A territory that has been charted so many times you could navigate through it blindfolded. Time and time again you return to the same sheets that barricade you from the rest of the world. Blocking out the daylight to hide from reality. Sleep is your companion. The more you are awake, the more you feel too much of what you don’t want. The more you are asleep, the less the world exists with less time to acknowledge the pain.
Your eyes will eventually awaken from your slumber with a spirit alongside the morning sun, even just for a brief moment, that this time will be different. This time won’t be the same as the last. You see something as your conscious becomes aware and your eyes slowly open their blinds. An opportunity. A glimpse of a present moment that isn’t tainted by what is yet to come. The wave of sadness has yet to engulf you back into the land where you aimlessly meander through life waiting for the hand to hold that will guide you through what it means to be normal. What it means to not be alone.
Then the moment passes. The hours turn to minutes. The minutes turn to seconds. Everything slows down in a way you wish it would only speed up. For nothing but to sleep again so you can live in that one, brief moment remembering what it’s like to live without the beast.
Loneliness. A familiar kind of pain, and you can’t seem to let go. The one where, even with ten or twenty hands reaching out, you still fall back into its arms. It’s safe. There is no chance to be hurt because you are always hurting. It’s just a hurt you’ve gotten used to. Nothing is scary when you know the ending.
What recovery feels like.
But you are different. You are one of the fighters. One of the lucky ones who says that despite the lethargy of darkness and isolation, you rise up. You push back on the cloud that is hovering heavily over your eyes. Dry from barely blinking it feels like a sheet of cement holding down your eyelashes. Claustrophobia attempts to take care over while you push yourself out of where you are comfortable. You won’t let it have you. You won’t let it win. This is not the turn of loneliness. This is not its chance to claim victory over the person you want to be or the life you want to have.
To love. To feel. To exist. To live. Not today.
So you pick up the pen. You grab the paintbrush. You dial the number. You type voraciously. You drive in your car. You go to the store. You pick at the strings note by note. And you try, even just for a small victory. Now, you have rewritten the narrative.
You have decided when that brief moment will happen in your day. You will make it last just a little bit longer. And you chose to let it happen more than once, more than twice. Until finally, that moment comes and you, my dear, are no longer lonely. You have found the piece that matches your puzzle. You have weeded the ground upon which you stand. You are in recovery, on your own, both feet firmly carrying your entire being with your shoulders back and head towards the sky.
You are your own savior. You are a fighter.