Those of you who have been around a while, know Shelly Guillory. Shelly was featured in the HBO documentary THIN, by Lauren Greenfield, and she has been a regular contributor to this blog. I am happy to post this update on Shelly and the status of her recovery.
Other posts on this topic:
Polly Rests (story of her suicide)
Two years ago I started on my journey of “real” recovery, not that fake, pretend recovery, where I thought I was fooling everyone ( in reality everyone knew I was faking and everyone could see through my bullshit).
No, this time was the real deal.
So I was off, full of giddiness and excitement because I was going to make my life right. A day later the giddiness and excitement faded. I had no idea what to do with myself. Food was still on my mind and it seemed like battling my ED thoughts was much harder than just giving in and doing what they told me to do. It had been one day and I was already tired. I had THE worst anxiety of my life and felt out of control. I felt like a failure for trying to recover. I wasn’t sure I deserved recovery. I had to keep reminding myself that I had made the choice to recover and I wasn’t going to back down.
When I gave up my drugs and my ED, I was very unprepared for what crept into my life.
I was diagnosed with OCD, panic disorder, and agoraphobia. I have wanted to give up nearly every day the past two years. My OCD is existential, so there are days when I am completely terrified of everyone and everything. Literally.
Things don’t look real to me.
People I know and trust seem weird.
I have days when I can’t leave the house and panic attacks come one right after the other.
I have many days when I wonder if having an ED was easier than facing all this shit.
This is what I was running from with my ED and unless I face it head on, it will always be lurking around to pop in at the most inconvenient time. I need to deal with it now or I have no chance of living the meaningful life I so desperately seek. There are days when I crumble to the floor and cry. Crying for everything I have lost and everything I want to gain. Crying because this is way harder than I could possibly have imagined. Crying because the thoughts are still there and I cannot run. Crying because sometimes it gets to be too much and no one understands. Crying because I want to go back to my ED so bad and I cannot.
But this is real.
When I am done crying, I stand up and keep going.
There really isn’t an outline for recovery. No clear, definitive way to beat an ED. I am the kind of person who wants a straightforward, clearly defined plan of action. Problem is, there isn’t one. Damn, I had to figure this out for myself. The most important thing I had to do is eat. Ok, I am doing that, but was I prepared for the anxiety and the fight that my ED would put up. Um, no. So I kept going no matter how hard it got. I kept eating and I found ways that work to battle back against my ED.So my plan of action was just to talk back to my ED. To get mad at it, to laugh at it. I distracted myself.
I reached out and asked for help.
I recited positive affirmations constantly.
I listened to relaxation tapes.
I took deep breathes. (I still do all these things)
I surrounded myself with people who have “normal” eating habits. I watched them eat (but not that crazy, obsessive let me watch people while I don’t eat a thing). I was doing research. I watched them enjoy the food and they didn’t feel guilty. I wanted to be like that. I have had lapses where I dabbled with restricting just to see what it was like because yes, I missed it. Nothing major. A day or two, a week. Every time, I was reminded that I don’t miss it. I don’t want to go there ever again. I am trying to find out who I am and what I want from life and every time I have a major relapse I lose more and more of myself and I am farther away from living a meaningful life. I have fought everyday minute of everyday for the past two years. I am still fighting and will probably have to fight for a very long time.
The good news…My fight has been worth it.
I am more comfortable around food and two years later, I am enjoying food and the guilt has started to subside. I still don’t fully know who I am, what I want, what to do with my life and so on, but I feel like I am becoming an entirely different person. One that I might actually like. Many things I thought I wanted when I was sick might not be what I want now. People I avoided when I was sick are now an important part of my life. I am learning to trust people more, and relationships that I thought were beyond repair are now an
important part of who I am. My mom told me the other day how happy she was to have me back.
Now, I laugh more than I cry.
I am venturing out more, trying to learn new things. I started a dance class that I love. I am writing
more. I go for walks and instead of thinking of how many calories I have burned, I am looking around and just taking it all in. I have read an embarrassingly high number of self help books. I am scared to be on this recovery journey. I know where anorexia would lead me, but the journey of recovery is different. I don’t where I am going or how I am going to
get there. Perhaps I will never now and this question will remain unanswered, but my life is whatever I want to make it. It is terrifying for me to not know, but every once in awhile, I find myself getting excited.
I can do what ever I want. I have a chance to start it all over. So I try to embrace the unknown, to sit with it and not run. To be ok with it.
I have found more meaning in life in two years of recovery than
I did from 11 years of being sick.
It will always be an uphill battle. I think it gets easier. I am so much more ok than I was 2 years ago. So in four years I have to be more ok than I am now. It gets overwhelming, sometimes it seems pointless to keep moving forward, but I just have to keep going. Recovery is not easy (in fact I think it is easier to be sick, but living is much more satisfying than dying), but I will not give up. My hope is that you don’t either.
It’s worth it.
Other posts on this topic:
Polly Rests (story of her suicide)