There is often a notion of “the bottom”. The place you will hit before you can climb back up. Some people vow that they needed to hit the bottom before they could recover.
For me, the bottom means death. The bottom means I had become all consumed and defeated. The bottom means it’s too late. The bottom was a place I did not want to go. A year ago today, at my lowest weight and in the sickest state of my eating disorder, I vowed I would NOT hit rock bottom.
What helped me was the following statement that a very important person in my life told me. She said, “Every time you feed your body you are deciding to live. You are saving your own life, you are CHOOSING to live.”
This has stayed with me since, and each time I become overwhelmed by the thought of eating or convinced that I was never sick anyways, I think about this statement and it reminds me that this choice has kept me alive.
I do not know how I was able to achieve climbing up before going further down, but I did. It’s not easy, and it’s not until you begin to recover do you realize how sick you were and how hard it is to build a new “normal”.
Perhaps it was my passion to fight for my goals, the support I had in my life, or my new understanding of recovery that helped me overcome being sick. But whatever it was, I just continued to remind myself that I was saving my life and that was great. That meant I was moving beyond being sick. Choosing life meant recovering, and honouring my vow of not hitting rock bottom.
Recovery can be defined as “a return to a normal state of health, mind or strength” and “the action or process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost”. And in the beginning that was my view of recovery, but somewhere along my journey with mental illness I discovered that for me recovery would mean not only creating an identity outside of illness, but outside of recovery as well.
Laura Barton, in a previous blog on January 29th,“This is Not My Identity”, said:
“It’s important to me to continue to advocate for awareness for my disorder, but it is also important to me to live in spite of it, which to some degree means to live beyond it. It’s not the only thing in my life and more importantly shouldn’t be the only thing in my life. I’m a multifaceted person, as we all are.”
When I read her blog, I was encouraged to see someone saying what I had been thinking, an idea that I believed might be seen as unpopular. I decided during my healing journey that not only did I not want others to know me only for my experience with mental illness and advocacy, but I also did not want to know myself only for my mental illness and advocacy. I wanted to learn new things about myself, and focus on the complexities of life. I became all consumed in everything mental health and decided to build a life with it as a piece, not a whole.
I began to focus on living my life day to day, moment by moment, rather than living for recovery. I began living by focusing on my goals in life. I focused on school. I expressed gratitude and continued to remind myself that I was saving my life in order to do wonderful things. I transferred all of my energy that I had used towards making myself thin and put it into my schoolwork, my friendships and all the things I loved.
There’s a quote that I love by Socrates that I have paid attention to for a while, but only recently have been able to fully appreciate its meaning.
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”
So like Laura mentioned in her blog, our ties to mental illness and advocacy, or to any individual problem is NOT our identity. It is simply a piece of our puzzle. We can move beyond that and define ourselves as a collection of unique things.
Recovery does not entail a return. Recovery is a growth, healing and transformation into something new; something that never existed before. Relearning how to live, to love, to be happy. A journey like that of a butterfly.
Recovery is not a cessation of a journey, but a continuation of a multifaceted story. For me, recovery was synonymous with a burgeoning sense of self-efficacy.
Perhaps recovery means moving past the acknowledgement of the concept of recovery and into enjoying the moments of everyday life.
RECOVERY MEANS CHOOSING LIFE, YOU ARE CHOOSING LIFE
And I wanted it, I wanted it bad
But there were so many red flags
Now another one bites the dust
Yeah, let’s be clear, I’ll trust no one
You did not break me
And I know that I can survive
I’ll walk through fire to save my life
And I want it, I want my life so bad
I’m doing everything I can
– Elastic Heart by: Sia
Student at the University of Waterloo, studying Sociology and Social Development Studies. Research Assistant for the International Anthropomorphic Research Project (IARP; furries) Introvert. Tenacious. Bubbly. Free-spirited. Creative. Passionate advocate for mental health and the promotion of prevention and intervention strategies. Academic study interests include policy and mental health (families, parents, children), child socialization, and identity. Plans to pursue a Master of Social Work specializing in art therapy, a Master of Sociology and a PhD in Sociology.