They say grief comes to us in all shapes and sizes, in every life shift there is loss. Loss of a loved one, a job, a relationship, a friendship, a home, a pet…even the loss of who we used to be. I am finding that recovery comes with much grief, more than I could have ever anticipated. My whole life was wrapped up in my distorted and disordered world. Every experience, moment and relationship were defined and dictated by my eating disorder. This grief journey has been a long one. At first, I was so angry with myself. How could I be so stupid? How could I ever do those things to myself? What was wrong with me? But as time wore on, I see my past in a different light, a more compassionate light. I do not grieve out of a longing to be back in my disorder. I do not grieve out of regret or a yearning to turn back the clock of time. I am finding myself grieving the girl I used to be. My grief comes in tears of sadness and compassion for her and what she endured. I am mourning the loss of me. I find it easier to see my past as a separate person, a girl who is no longer with us. A girl, who felt alone, broken, lost and shattered.
Recently, something I overheard made sense to my mind’s incessant curiosity surrounding the death of my former self. My husband was watching some show on plane crashes (Discovery Channel and ESPN are his two addictions). Uninterested in yet another ‘How’d They Do It’ show, I was quietly reading in bed, until something caught my ear. The show commentator said, “Many family members often return to the scene of the crash to see where their loved ones died.” That was it. I wanted to visit my crash site. But I don’t have a crash site to drive to nor a tombstone to lay flowers upon. All I have are fuzzy memories of what used to be. Then I realized I visit the crash site with each new experience I encounter in recovery. Whether it is eating a once banned food, visiting a place for the first time since recovery or throwing out a pair of jeans riddled with disordered memories, my crash sites are not one, they are many. And each time I visit a site, my compassion for the girl who died grows.
My most recent visit was by far the most disturbing. Last week I was chosen to be the host monkey for our family’s stomach flu. Not only does that scenario suck in general, but for a former bulimic, it was unbearable. I have been symptom free for almost two years and have not been sick during that time either, not even morning sickness. I always knew the first time I got sick was going to be tough (for obvious reasons), but it was certainly more than I had bargained for. Once the physical sickness began to subside the emotional impact took a serious toll on me. Knowing I used to put my body through that kind of pain and abuse made me so incredibly sad. There was no anger, only sadness. My heart broke for that lost girl whose only way to cope with life was by abusing and torturing her own body. She must have hurt so bad to have gone to such measures to find peace in such a painful and dark place. My wonderful therapist often tells me, “You really were doing your best, even though your best back then really disturbs you now…find some compassion for that part of you that really wasn’t able to access other choices because she didn’t know how.” This reminder always helps me to see my past and former self in a much more loving light.
Recovery and its teachers have taught me so many incredible lessons. In this time of grief, I learn that I do not move forward when I continue to beat myself up over the past and what could have been. I move forward when I realize and accept I did the best I could with what I had. I was sick. She was sick. She did the best she could. I will carry her memory always and find comfort knowing she is finally at peace.