Getting back to normal takes a long time.
In the early days I feared it would never come. The plummet down was so quick and deep that I couldn’t even imagine ‘the other side‘ far less how we would get there. I spent a lot of those early, early days staring off into the middle distance, disoriented and numb.
As we made our way through we settled into a new kinda normal. Things got ‘better’ they did not feel like before. The rug had been pulled out from under us and we had toppled. We got to a point of standing again but we didn’t feel steady. Not at all. We walked around half crouched: knees bent, arms out trying to hold our balance, suspicious of everything. We were shell shocked. I hated the ‘new’ normal. Hated it. Things looked the same but felt so unfamiliar. The oddest thing was not recognizing each other. I knew the girl who left….didn’t recognize the girl who came back.
Getting back to a more true ‘normal’ was a long time coming. It wasn’t a straight line and it wasn’t the normalization of the eating or dressing that made a difference. It was the return of trust: trust in each other and trust in the world. That happened ever so slowly. Looking back now, I would say it was a good year and half in before I could relax and let myself believe we would be ok. It is odd what stays with you. It was a funny little comment that allowed me to exhale.
The xmas she was 12 (1 year 2 months post weight restoration, yes, I was counting), my girl was eating breakfast with my partner and from the other room I heard her say, “My mum says my brain works differently than others…..and she said that is ok”.
That little statement made my heart stop. Really. It sounds melodramatic, but it did. It made me catch my breath. It was profound on so many levels: It was lovely that the girl was surrendering to the fact that she had a predisposition that she would need to be mindful of; It was brilliant that she said it in a ‘matter of fact’ way without any shame (she would lie on the floor and cry that she was ‘awful’ and that there was ‘something wrong with her’ when she was in the depts of it); It was lovely that she felt close to my partner again and shared her feelings as she said she hated her when sick and wouldn’t even look at her. Those were all wonderful pieces but the thing about the statement that pierced me to the quick was her innocent faith in what I told her. I had said there was ‘something up’ with her brain and I had told her it was ‘ok’ and that was good enough for her. It had been a looong time since she believed the world was safe simply because I deemed it so. That was such a ‘little kid’ thing and I had thought we had lost all of that due to illness and time. When she was really ill the emotional anorexia was so very high. She hated me and voiced it. She raged. She kicked me and spat venom in a way that was not only uncharacteristic based on her previous temperament but also seemed so much older than her years. She went into ed a goofy little girl and came out of the fog of it a quiet, self possessed pre-teen…..reserved in a way that she had not been before. She didn’t trust anything when she was ill: not me, not herself, not the world. I was quite sure we’d never get back there. It felt that we all knew too much and had seen too much and notions like ‘innocence’ and ‘blind faith’ were folly to be enjoyed by others.
That she was back to associating me with keeping her tethered and safe in the world felt familiar in the most profound way. I recognized that. it made me trust we would be ok. The eating disorder did not rob us of all of the natural transition from little kid to teen. We were going to be able to have some of that work itself out organically.
The longer she was healthy, the stronger and more sure of herself she became and with that came the return of her ability to approach the world like there was only good in it (…we don’t know where she gets that, the rest of us are cynics, but it is her and always has been). We may not quite get it but we know it and love it. It is ‘familiar’ in a way that is deeply delicious when you have been living with ‘unfamiliar’.
Recovery takes time…..a long time. It may, at times, feel like nothing is happening but trust….things are happening.