The days seem to be getting better. By that I mean the hours are more often enjoyable than merely bearable. There are still the beautiful breakdowns but I think they have gone from three/day, to two, and today, none. There is still a couple of waking hours in my day, however, and I need not jump the gun and pronounce to day panic free yet. On that thought, I have found a place in my mind where I do not remain braced for the panic or in a constantly expectant state. I know it might happen. I know that I can’t, thus far, predict what might set me off, but I cannot waste my time anticipating it. I have found my voice in a relatively short time and, as painful as it is to use at times, I am working so hard at reaching out in the moment.
Tonight I find myself worrying ever so slightly about the concept of relapse again. I’ve spent the greater part of the evening researching ideas of what I might like to do with my “real” life when I leave Portugal and it’s been fun. I got excited about my future for the first time in a long time. Then along came this hint of doubt. Like a whisper into a huge cave that echoes and echoes but without much strength. What if? Is it possible that this can be real, the changes I’ve made? I know I’ve learned a lot over the past year, beyond what I had ever imagined! I have made so much progress in so many ways but has it changed the core of me that I tried to extinguish for so long? It’s not the big ball of blackness that I used to visualize it as but what if, at the end of the day, I really just don’t like myself? Why would I not go back to silencing myself through my eating disorder? It kept me down. Through my disease, I lost myself but what was a Self that drove me nuts, that I hated, that annoyed me. Now I’ve been brought back in all aspects. I recognize my goodness and absolute lack of malice and hate that I believed existed for so long. I see my potential, I look forward to giving back but there’s still something that’s just not right. I can’t quite put my finger on it. Is it perhaps like meeting a new person who is to become a friend? It’s rarely been my experience that - from day one - a person drops into the bosom buddy category. Maybe I’m just so new to me that I’m still feeling myself out, getting to know me, assessing and deciding if the good is worth the weaknesses. I have to hope that it is and that when I do truly befriend myself, I will let the good shine brighter and outweigh the downfalls. It’s no longer a matter of being perfect. In fact, I noticed just the other day how rarely that word perfect enters my expression regarding all things about me. It’s about being the best I can be and hoping that whatever that is, is valuable enough to sustain.
The picture I created in my mind regarding my situation now is this: Throughout my eating disorder and associated symptoms, I was walking – quite briskly at times – towards a cliff edge. Just over a year ago I did my best to leap from that cliff but managed to hold on to the edge with my finger nails. When I came to Portugal, I started strengthening my grip on that edge and ever so slowly pulled myself up. This was with so much encouragement and belief from those around me but near the edge of this cliff, the ground is so fragile no one could join me and extend their physical hand to me lest the whole thing crumble. Before my trip to Canada, I’d pulled myself up and maybe even gotten to my feet and I could see safety clearly but I was exhausted from the effort. My legs hadn’t been used in so long. That said, my legs are strong and their muscle memory intense and they know what to do. For a moment, I just stood and looked back/down with fear and ahead with relief but also with a little fear as if I knew the ground beneath me was not solid and if I lost my footing, I would be back holding on with my fingertips. Since then, I have started the walk towards the world again one baby step at a time. Any great movements could shatter what holds me up and leave me clinging to the edge of a newly formed cliff. So regardless of how eager I am to get to the people who cheered me on, to get as far away from the danger that I just overcame, I have to tread gently and slowly.
I hadn’t actually thought that whole image through until I started writing about it and it makes so much sense to me now. The only reason I might go back is if I rush the work I have to do right now. It’s easier work (given the strength of my “legs” and their capacity to follow instructions largely from the subconscious). I can really see what I’m going towards and it’s wonderful! If I take my time, the distance between me and the cliff’s edge will be so great that I won’t even think to go back. Maybe now, because I realize I got through it, I survived, it doesn’t seem so bad. But have you ever done something crazy and adrenaline seeking at one time without fear and then you think you could do it again or might even want to do it again and you realize as you approach the activity that you just can’t do it in that moment? Perhaps that will happen with me with the eating disorder. If I tend in the direction of that self-defeating yet adrenaline seeking behaviour again I will hopefully experience a psychological presentation of that funny feeling in my stomach that is a loud indicator that there is something worth avoiding.
This is the image I will head to bed with tonight. I’m over the edge, I’m on my feet, and I’m moving away from danger but the ground is not solid yet.
Here’s to another night of a number of consecutive, restful, hours of sleep and hoping I rouse refreshed in the morning to see another day with great potential to be panic free.