I took up climbing during recovery. It truly is an incredible sport for mental health. I’ve seen several parallels between scaling the wall and my recovery journey. This likeness has perhaps never been more apparent than where I find myself right now.
There are times I’m up on the wall and I have no idea how to keep pushing to the top. My muscles feel burnt out, my mind not fully focused, the next hold seems completely out of reach. I’m stuck. I’ve achieved success in the climb up until this point but there is still more left in front of me to accomplish. This is exactly where I am at in my recovery.
I am stuck in quasi-recovery. At the beginning of my recovery, success seemed to come fairly easily. I broke through some of my food rules and began reintroducing foods into my diet. I forced myself to take rest days. I found myself less concerned about my physical appearance. I could measure progress on an almost daily basis. Sure, there were the difficult days and meals, but they seemed to pass.
That’s changed recently as I’m beginning to realize I’ve plateaued in my climb. It’s a tough place to be because I know I’m a heck of a lot freer than I was at the beginning of my recovery but I’m not where I want to be yet. While others may look at me and think I’m recovered, the truth is I orthorexia still has a hold on certain aspects of my life.
There are times when I’m flying high, like Super Bowl Sunday when I ate chips and guacamole and didn’t think twice about it or Valentine’s Day when Matt bought chocolates that were enjoyed anxiety and guilt-free. But then the following day, I found myself panicked over an unexpected cheddar biscuit with dinner.
I’ve come to understand that the toughest thing for me in recovery right now is the element of surprise. During the height of my battle, all meals were planned as far in advance as possible. There was absolutely no spontaneity, even on vacation! This is an area I’m still fighting in recovery.
Sure, I’ve reintroduced most foods back into my diet but the ghosts of the “bad” list remain and I don’t like it when they pop up and surprise me. I’m finding that I can plan to eat foods I once deemed forbidden but when a last-minute suggestion arises, I feel the anxiety set in.
I’ve also found myself falling back into old habits of eating the same foods or ordering the same items from restaurants time and time again. It’s difficult for me to decipher if I’m ordering what I want or what I think is “safe”. Many of these items are things I wouldn’t have eaten pre-recovery so that in and of itself is a sign of progress. Still, I need to make sure I’m not staying in my food comfort zone.
After talking with my therapist and Matt about the current state of recovery, I know that struggling in recovery is normal and not a sign of weakness or failure. I’ve come a long way but I must continue to trust and embrace the process. Nothing can take away what I’ve already accomplished. This state of quasi-recovery is not an obstacle; instead, it is an opportunity to reach new heights.