This semester has been a challenge for me academically. I have had to start two additional blogs for my already writing heavy classes and regularly post content to them– which is honestly why I have not posted here lately #oops.
I love it. I know that I am learning a lot.
Yet I still sometimes cry my eyes out at 1 a.m. in frustration at all of the work I have to do.
Why? Because learning freaking hurts.
Yeah, okay, so that’s cliche *eye roll*. Everyone knows that school will suck and you won’t always get an A. It is fairly easy to rationalize screwing up in school.
It is much more difficult, however, to accept the same kind of mistakes when it comes to recovery from mental illness.
I’ve been in a stable place for about a year. I’ve been living on my own for six months. I would say that, overall, things are great…but I still screw up… big time.
I learn and it hurts.
When it happens, I think to myself, “I should be better than this by now. I shouldn’t make these kinds of mistakes. Does this mean I am relapsing? Why can’t I just be normal?”
One particular incident has been replaying in my head for the past two weeks.
I was asked to cover an event for one of my journalism classes. We had to live tweet the event and then write a story within 24 hours.
I was incredibly nervous. I had never done something like this before. When I am nervous or stressed, my eating disorder symptoms become my coping mechanisms.
I don’t even realize that it is happening.
The event was at 7 p.m. I didn’t eat dinner before because my eating disorder told me:
- I wasn’t hungry (truth: I was hungry)
- I thought I looked huge (truth: I am not)
- I didn’t “have enough time” (truth: I had plenty of time)
- I wanted to be in control (truth: clearly, my eating disorder is in control here)
- The event would be over at 9:30, not a ridiculous time to have dinner (truth: it is a ridiculous time when you haven’t fed yourself since noon.)
I went to the event without dinner. I had prepared notes ahead of time full of questions and detailed research, though!
The research was absolutely useless.
My brain was cloudy, I was cold and shaky, and I could barely focus on the speakers. I could have had a snack at the reception that was held… right? No, I couldn’t.
Those with eating disorders respond to hunger differently than most people. I had a, “hunger high,” and that is not a melodramatic term. My brain reacts to hunger in the same way that a drug addict’s brain responds to heroin. The hungrier I am, the more difficult it is to eat and I know this to be true.
So, I was there: I asked the wrong questions, took terrible notes, did not fully engage with people and couldn’t remember most of the important details.
Oh, and the event ran an hour longer than I expected.
When I got home I denied that my lack of dinner had anything to do with how the night went. After all, I can accept academic screw-ups when I am legitimately struggling with material. Perhaps I just don’t really know how to cover a live event…
PUH-LEASE. It didn’t take me long to slap myself back to reality (after I ate dinner, to be honest.)
I KNOW how to adequately cover a story, write a lede and ask good questions.
I screwed up in my recovery.
You know what? That is okay. I am managing a chronic illness. I focus on it 24/7 and I do a damn good job.
I made a mistake. Will it happen again? Yes. Will it be fun? No. Will I learn from it? Absolutely.
I learned that my straight-A’s are achieved by a nourished body and mind. I learned that I can’t connect intelligently with other people when my mind is being tormented by my eating disorder. I learned that I need better stress management skills. I learned that screwing up in recovery does not mean that I have failed.
I woke up the next morning and I didn’t skip breakfast, didn’t overdo my workout, didn’t self-harm and didn’t pick myself apart in the mirror. I laughed with my roommates, went to my classes, followed my workout plan, took a walk and drank some tea.
I moved forward.
and I will not be skipping dinner because of my nerves again.
No matter what you are recovering from — depression, addiction, OCD, bulimia, orthorexia, anorexia, self-harm, anxiety, etc. — know that you WILL screw up.
You will screw up… and it will suck.
That’s how you know you are doing everything right.