Recently I have been fighting a nasty case of bronchitis. For the past week my life has consisted of skipping classes, taking medicine, skipping work, and getting extensions on assignments. On top of this comes the lack of social interaction and the requirement of getting as much rest as possible.
Then today I woke up and I felt better, not all the way better but just better enough that I realized I was able to go to class and probably should start getting some homework done.
And then it hit – the stress of all the responsibilities that I was about to face now that I wasn’t bed-ridden sick. I had to get ready and be on time for class, I had to start doing the homework assignments I’d been ignoring, soon I would have to go back to work… Suddenly being sick started looking pretty good to me. When I was sicker I had an excuse to not go to class, I didn’t have to go to work, and I didn’t have to worry about homework – I was fighting an infection for heaven’s sake!
This whole ‘feeling better’ thing, it wasn’t for me. I wasn’t ready.
I wasn’t ready to start being healthy again. It was too soon.
I never considered the fact that just the day before I had been coughing so much that the pain lead to tears. I forgot how frustrating it was to have no energy to get off the couch and how lonely it was to be practically in quarantine. I didn’t think of any of these things; all that mattered was that I did not feel ready to go back to normal living and the responsibilities that come with it.
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I liked having the excuse of infection to lessen the pressure of homework, to keep me from my job, and even to separate me from any social tensions that existed in the outside world that I had been avoiding.
Being that sick sucked, but it was free from pressure.
I believe this mindset is normal after fighting something like the flu. Although you hate being sick, as you start getting better (not necessarily well enough to go back to normal life yet, but well enough to no longer have the excuse of an illness to avoid life completely) you begin to feel the pressures of life yet you lack the full strength needed to face them and so you begin to long for the days of sickness and the comfort that comes with having a good reason to not have to deal with life.
You may wonder why I am writing all of this; well, I think it relates to recovery as well. See, before we begin recovery we are sick.
We are living in a state of discomfort and all that we focus on is ourselves and the state that we are in.
Then, as recovery starts, in the beginning we are still in that place where it’s understandable to maybe skip a shift at work here and hand in an assignment late there because we are trying to keep the pressure off and to give ourselves the chance to recover and not get stressed; but then as we get closer to full recovery the panic sets in.
We are stronger now, we begin looking outside of ourselves and our illness and begin to realize that life has not been waiting for us to get better – it has kept on going and now it’s time for us to become a part of it. We feel slightly unequipped, however, because we are not entirely healthy yet and we don’t have all of our strength back. It can be a scary thing.
What if I step out of my eating disorder-controlled life and step into the world of full recovery only to find that all of my friends have moved on and I am alone?
Or that I am no good at making new friends? Or that not being able to handle the pace of school had nothing to do with my eating disorder and that healthy or not I simply can’t keep up?
What if I recover and yet I am unable to function in this world?
These are frightening questions.
Just like with my bronchitis where I forgot how painful coughing all day was and how lonely I got sitting on the couch and how frustrated I was when I wasn’t able to exercise my brain in class, when faced with the fear of the responsibilities and realities that come with re-entering the world without ED we tend to forget the negatives that come with our illness and long for the comfort of our eating disorder.
However, we must never forget that this idea that living with ED is comfortable or easier than living without ED is a complete lie.
And in the same way that me being less than happy when my bronchitis seems to be healing and longing for sicker days can slow down how quickly my body fights off the infection, I believe that the feelings of hesitation of overcoming an eating disorder (although natural) can slow down our process of recovery if we give in to them.
If I said that I was afraid of getting over bronchitis because I didn’t want to face the realities of school and I didn’t want to go back to work, and I’d rather spend forever on the couch avoiding life and simply watching as it passed me by, people would be concerned and they would probably think I had lost all sense of reason.
Why would I want to stay sick like this? Especially if it hurts me physically, leaves me alone on the couch, and, let’s face it, makes me downright depressed sometimes. I would be crazy to want that. But sometimes fear can cause us to be irrational, to be a little crazy.
What I am trying to say is it’s OK to be afraid sometimes.
It’s OK to find the idea of full recovery intimidating because you are walking in to the unknown. But it is not OK to give in to that fear. It is not OK to allow that fear to keep you from pressing forward. Nobody wants to have the flu forever; nobody wants to struggle with an eating disorder forever.
With health comes life, and yes with life comes responsibilities and things we may not want to deal with, but it is life, it is LIVING. And living healthy is so much better than spending day after day on the couch taking antibiotics and coughing until you cry. Living healthy is so much better than letting ED keep you captive.
Life is good. Choose it every time. Don’t be afraid of it – run towards it, embrace your recovery, embrace your progress, embrace life.
You won’t regret it.
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