It starts like any other day. Wake up to a good morning sung by a blissful 6-year-old, who proclaims it’s morning because a ray of sun has peeked in through the curtains. It’s 6 a.m. By now, the baby — who unintentionally co-sleeps with us — has awoken from the bustle of feet and dogs stirring and believes it is morning too. So, we get up. Coffee brewing, frozen waffles plopped into a toaster oven that could really use a good cleaning, but the crumbs on the floor remind me that I will be lucky to get laundry and vacuuming done today. Ambition silenced, I hand coffee to my husband who is off to work, then get my 6-year-old on the bus. It is in the moments after that chaos that the house settles into a quiet calm.
Dogs lie down for their mid-morning nap and I take a moment to drink the coffee that has been waiting for me for two hours. The baby explores the living room, scurrying into unknown corners and cabinets. After some adventuring, the baby goes down for her nap, leaving me alone with my coffee and my thoughts. For me, this is the most dangerous place to be…
A smooth silence fills my ears, harmonizing with the humming of the dishwasher cleaning the dinner dishes from last night. A weight starts to creep into my chest as I think about the day ahead of me.
You should have made plans today. You should be doing things with the baby but you don’t even have friends to hang out with… The baby needs to be around other kids her age, you are not doing a good job at that.
I am OK, I am OK, I am OK.
No wonder you don’t have any friends, you can hardly function alone!
I am working on it and I know I will find the right people when the time is right. I need to eat breakfast.
Are you sure you want to do that? How are you going to feel after you eat? This will slowly make you bigger over time, then you will lose whatever happiness you feel from being skinny… then what will you do?
I breathe through the tightness in my chest and focus on the bird picking through the grass in the front lawn.
Every morning is a battle in my mind to keep my thoughts where they belong. But trying to catch a wandering mind is difficult. Especially if you don’t realize it’s wandering. “Breakfast; I need to eat breakfast,” is where I focus as my mind says: Maybe I could skip it because no one is here to know. But I would know, and there is a guilt that lingers in the pit of my stomach. I portion out my food carefully, measuring so I don’t eat any more than I have to. Breakfast down, medicine taken and now I start my day.
I always envisioned recovery as the cure. That once I was in recovery, I would be “better.” I had no idea recovery was still having the thoughts but not allowing them to dictate my behavior. Not giving in to their lies but acknowledging they are there. Having to come to terms with that was probably more difficult than having to eat a food I felt was “unsafe.” This is not like a cold or bruise that goes away when it is healed. Having an eating disorder means I will always have a disordered relationship with eating and I have to learn to work around that. I hear the thoughts but know they are not true and hope that, with time, they will become quieter. I have had to learn that when I feel tired, I am actually hungry; instead of drinking coffee, I need to eat something because my stomach stopped growling years ago. I have had to accept I might feel upset after eating, that the feeling of being full will trigger anxiety, and it will pass.
Tub water cyclones down the drain, taking with it the suds of another day passing. I have made it through Monday. Kisses and cuddles, books and bedtime and my husband and I find a quiet moment together before a screeching car or dog bark wakes the baby from her sleep. Cuddled on the couch, I hear him ask me how my day was and I know he is asking if I was alright in my mind, if I ate, if I was happy. My heart twinges, knowing he wants to make sure I am alright but also swells because I know he asks because he wants to celebrate my achievements. I feel relieved to know I am not fighting this battle alone.
Recovery is small victories spanning the course of a day, little goals that are achieved and sometimes celebrated. It is a battle you can win as long as you are fueled for the fight and understand it doesn’t ever stop; it just gets easier.
Follow this journey on the author’s blog.