her office is dimly lit with a small fountain on a table in the corner and a red blanket on the chair and it is all supposed to soothe me, all of the ambience, supposed to make me feel safe and at peace. But instead what I feel is the sadness and the fear and overwhelming sense of dread that I will relapse as soon as I discharge from the treatment program.
"the thing that's missing, lindsay, is a willingness to tolerate the fear," says the therapist and I stare at the carpet and nod. It's not new information that she's telling me: I know full well that I am running, making bargains with the devil again in an attempt to not feel the panic about what's in front of me. And I am trying to prove her wrong, trying to eat when god knows it is the last thing I feel like doing, trying to move towards my future when every last inch of me wants to let the paralyzing fear overtake me. I am doing the right things, acting opposite to my emotion, using my "skills" and reaching out and moving in the direction of Life, but I remain unconvinced that this whole recovery thing is worth it.
I cross and uncross my legs, avoid eye contact and squeeze a stress ball that I grab from her basket of gadgets.
It will be worth it, she promises, it will, Lindsay, but my god, how am I supposed to trust that? how am I supposed to go on in blind faith that things will turn out okay? all I can see in front of me is chaos and uncertainty, things that seem to be falling apart. Everything that once anchored me is is not enough to hold this together / hold me together.
The problem I run up against is that I want evidence, I want indisputable proof that this is worth it, but the only way I get that evidence is by moving forward and living despite the uncertainty. It is a dilemma I face every time I contemplate recovery, the wall I hit when I move out into the world: this overwhelming, all-consuming fear that life is not, in fact, worth living. I want to know that if I am about to throw all of my energy into this thing, put every last bit of my fire behind this, that it is going to be worth fighting for, that on the other side of this is a life that I will want to be present in.
I know the life that I want. I know the life I dream about living.
But I am in the unbelievably frustrating place of knowing and not having, holding a vision of the future but being forced to live in the painful present. The present is the part I want to escape from and not face: the only way out is through: I don't want that to be true. I want to have a way to get to the life I dream of living by going around the hard stuff, avoiding the scary moments and hard decisions and discomfort.
And I know that that isn't how any of this works. I know that by facing what I am afraid of I am paving the way to the life that I want. But the fear: dear god, the fear. It threatens to choke the life right out of me, squeezing the air out of my aching lungs.
Today is heavy.
It's been one week since I left the treatment program and I can barely drag myself out of bed to make coffee because that sounds like it would take too much energy. The world looks grey today and the fear is pressing on me like a weight and I am desperately trying to remind myself why it is important to eat and breathe and live. I want to crawl back under the bed covers and hide there forever.
I have a choice to make - to stay in that which is safe and comfortable and risk-free and never have to feel the discomfort of fear and heartache and shame, or to confront the fear head-on and potentially move into a meaningful life. I know what my heart is pushing for, know what answer my truest self would give, but I don't know if I am brave enough to choose it.
It's been a long, lonely week, living a life that is not quite recovery but not quite sickness either. The self-destructive voices call me backwards, pulling at me, promising me relief and numbness to the fear and chaos I feel. So far I've been holding them at bay, finding little reasons why I can't starve myself today. But I'm not sure how much longer I can hold out, how long those little reasons will be stronger than the Fear, stronger than my desire to escape / hide / avoid / not feel. I feel like I am on the brink, teetering between worlds, between falling back into the disorder and falling headfirst into my life. It seems that all it would take is a little push in either direction to send me over the edge.
I remember telling her just a few weeks ago that I wanted my power back, saying that I was tired of having a life controlled by other people. I remember how good it felt to imagine a life of my own, outside of their beliefs and words and strict ideas about who I should be. It feels like that piece of me, that deep, guttural place, gets buried when I'm faced with fear and uncertainty about the future. Suddenly, all of the work that I've done gets thrown out the window and I am turn myself over to be a prisoner to the Fear.
But I'm doing it again, aren't I? Giving over my power to someone or something else? When I was younger, it was family and religion, and later it was the eating disorder, and now, now, it is Fear that has the power over my life. And I am so tired of not choosing my own life, worn down and worn out of giving myself over my power to that which doesn't deserve to be running the show. I want to "belong deeply to myself," as the the poet Warsan Shire wrote, to be my own person and no one else's.
I don't know how to stop being afraid. Right now, fear is large and monstrous and clings to me like a shadow. I don't know how to get rid of that, dig it out of me and throw it far, far away. All I know is that I must begin to live anyways, in spite of the fear, to spite the fear, to refuse to be ruled by anyone else by my true self. I don't even know what that looks like really, except getting up every day anyways, getting up when I want the world to stop spinning, getting up and trying again, throwing out the pills and the razors as back up plans, and continuing to live.