A Spiritual Bucket List

I’m going in for a minor surgical procedure in a few hours (and let’s hope this is the last one), and I’m feeling reflective.

I’m scared to go back to the doctor, but I know that this is the last time I will have to deal with this. I’m looking at this whole year-plus long ankle debacle as a message from the universe:

I’ve spent the last 10 years fighting for control over my body, and I’m finally coming to realize that it’s not mine to control. I assumed that I had the right to do whatever I wanted to it, but it turns out that I’m lucky to have been given permission to use it as I have. And, like a rowdy, disrespectful hotel guest, I’m responsible for any damages that I leave behind.

Looking down at my mottled and swollen skin (by-products of the past week’s allergic reaction), my atrophied calf, my bruised and scarred ankle…I’m realizing that I have no choice but to accept the body that I’m living in and to use it only to make a better life for myself. I read an amazing quote in Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters by Courtney Martin, one that I’m making my mantra: “I will meet my body where it is.”

In order to do that, though, I have to grow. I have to come to terms with the “me” who is not my body. It’s scary, uncharted grown up territory, but it’s time: I’m approaching 26, which always seemed like such a foreign, grown up land to the younger and more naive me, but here it is–and I’ve made it here without a map or stars to guide me. But I think it’s time to stop feeling my way through the dark and hoping I’ll end up somewhere comfortable.

I’ve realized that a lot of my “growing up”–my spiritual growth and my ability to relate to my mental and emotional needs–got stalled and stunted when I began my relationship with ED at the ripe old age of 13. But I’m ready to stop making excuses for myself and to double my spiritual age (from 13 to 26) in a much shorter amount of time than it took to keep it from growing.

So I’ve decided to make a “Spiritual Bucket List”. And I’m posting it here because I want to be accountable. I’m ready to take responsibility for myself. So, here goes:

– I will be honest–to myself and others–about my needs.

– I will articulate my needs.

– I will learn how to communicate without complaining.

– I will stop apologizing for my life.

– I will stand up for myself.

– I will set boundaries and communicate them effectively.

– I will establish a relationship with my higher power.

– I will stop making my higher power food and ritual.

– I will keep in touch with the people who enrich my life and let go of those who don’t.

– I will learn how to ask for help.

– I will seek friendship and fellowship–because the disease thrives on isolation.

– I will stop waiting for tomorrow and start living one day at a time.

– I will stop sweating the petty things (and I will never pet the sweaty things!–thanks Grammy :D)

– I will accept that I’m allowed to be happy.

– I will not engage in negative self-talk.

– I will not play the victim because I have the power to be a hero.

– I will actively work on figuring out what I want from life–and I will go out and get it.

– I will take responsibility for my life.

– I will stop blaming and living in the past.

– I will stop being afraid of success.

– I will take risks and stop being afraid of mistakes–they’re meant to be learned from.

– I will use my talents to help others whenever possible.

– I will stop being afraid to love and be loved.

– I will meet my body where it is, every day.

That’s all for now, although I’m sure the list will grow as I do.

-K.

An Interlude on Recovery

Before I go on, I wanted to say a few thing about recovery:

I am not recovered. I am closer to serenity now than I have been for many years, but I am not recovered.

When I first started out on this path toward recovery, I was thwarted by myself. I wanted a magic pill to erase the years of hurt. I wanted to wake up and say, “Today, my ED is gone, and I am all better.”

I’ve tried diets; I’ve tried overdoing “fitness.” I’ve hidden in academia, and I’ve run away from my dreams. I’ve picked up my life and moved across the country. But always I have forced myself in the direction of “being all better.”

But I’m learning that recovery doesn’t work like that.

ED is like a virus–once it’s in your system, it imprints itself on your DNA, becomes a part of you, changes you in subtle, but insidious ways. You can “get better” when you have a virus, sure, but “better” doesn’t mean that the virus is gone. It stays in your bloodstream, waiting for a moment to flare up and attack your immune system again.

All you can do is build up that immune system and learn how to fight through the symptoms.

I’ve known this fact for years, and yet I’ve spent those years trying to disprove it. Knowing that I will always have an ED was incredibly depressing to me. And yet the more I sought to control the virus’s symptoms, the sicker I got.

Today, I’m throwing my hands up and waving a white flag of surrender. Not because I give up–far from it. But I am giving up the control.

I will always have an ED. I accept that I am powerless.

Now, instead of fighting, I can focus on building up my immune system instead. By being powerless, I become powerful.

To those of you who are out there who struggle to fight off the symptoms of their own ED virus, just know that you are not alone.

Build up your immune system by reaching out and talking to others who suffer. Take time to meditate. Find a support system. Engage in positive self-talk (even if you don’t believe it) or find someone who will help you see the truth behind ED’s lies.

We don’t have to suffer forever. There is hope.

I’m not perfect. I’m not recovered. But if you ever need me, I’ll be here. And together, we can fight.

– K.