The metaphorical fence

I feel like I’m perched on a metaphorical fence – staring down at recovery, staring down at illness, and trying to decide – which way do I go?

While perched on the fence, I can dangle my feet on both sides, but in order to progress one way or the other – for better or for worse – I have to get off the fence, and leave the other option behind.

I am truly blessed to have this option. I really am. There are a great many people who have varying mental health issues, with varying degrees of severity, who are not in a position to fully recover.

I am fortunate in that for me it actually is an option. Not an easy option – but an option none-the-less. I have been through a period of major depression and anxiety, but both are now fairly well managed through a variety of means and circumstances. With a little more work, diligence and acceptance, I can expect to recover and lead a life predominantly free from depression. Anxiety will be something I may have to manage throughout my life – but it is not severe or debilitating and I now at least recognise it for what it is.

My eating disorder is more problematic – more deeply entrenched and more serious. But it too is an option. I can choose recovery. I didn’t choose to be ill, to learn poor coping mechanisms, to bury my emotions, to hate my body, or to have a poor relationship with food. But I can choose to recover.

So why don’t I?

Jumping off that fence into recovery is a BIG leap. And will mean forever walking away from a road that has been incredibly familiar and comfortable.

Having an eating disorder may be as miserable as all hell, but if I hadn’t been getting something out of it, I would never have gone there in the first place. I have gained a lot through my illness…

  • A way to control my weight
  • A means to numb emotion
  • Stress management
  • A chance to “have my cake and eat it too”
  • An identity

A safe, familiar, comforting place that has been my only home for 51 years. Sure – it’s depressing, exhausting, shameful, unhealthy and potentially deadly… But there is a lot to be said for feeling comfort in the familiar.

If I choose to move away from the road to recovery, and to jump off my fence and accept a life where I routinely binge, purge and restrict my way through the day, I also need to accept that my relationships will become damaged, my health will deteriorate, my emotions will remain numbed, and there is a high risk of me dying prematurely from possible complications. It is highly unlikely this side of the fence will bring me peace and joy and a life filled with purpose and hope. It does seem strangely enticing – but I believe that is because I don’t understand recovery. I have no experience of it.

I have been dabbling in the recovery waters for a couple of years now and feel I have exhausted so many possibilities. I feel I am incredibly resistant to the change – I can’t explain why. Not to you, and not to myself. I have made a financial commitment to an eight-week course commencing next week, and I feel this is one of the last possibilities for exploring recovery. I have a good feeling about it – but there are no guarantees in life.

I do know that everyone else wants me to recover. I’m sure they want me to recover because they believe it is the best thing for me. I know that I want to recover to make other people happy, but that is not enough. Recovery must have intrinsic motivations or it just doesn’t work – believe me I have tried to recover for others. It doesn’t happen…

So here I am – staring down at both sides of the fence. Knowing I have made positive moves in the right direction for recovery- enough that I have reached the crossroads – the metaphorical fence – and now I must decide. I have a choice. I need to make my choice, accept, and stop procrastinating.

1 thought on “The metaphorical fence”

  1. The first step is always the hardest! As you point out the familiar calls to us, and the work associated with recovery is daunting, at best. You also understand that recovery requires self-motivation; no amout of other-motivation will carry us down that difficult path, though it will certainly make the journey easier once we start…

    What it comes down to in the end is what we want for ourselves. When our illness causes us enough stress that we are willing to do almost anything to stop it, then recovery becomes an option. So says traditional wisdom…

    For me, recovering from alcoholism and schizophrenia, I could not get to that point at first. I could not let go of my coping behaviors, no matter how harmful they were perceived to be. So I latched onto the “one day at a time” philosophy instead, though maybe not in a traditional sense. Instead of telling myself I could recover a day at a time (or a breath at a time often), I told myself I could relapse any time I needed to. I promised myself that if recovery failed to produce real results, I could always go back to the way it was. From my perspective, recovery might not come around again, but relapse was always an option…

    Lucky for me, recovery paid off. At first it was little things like feeling physically better for it. Then there was always the positive support of loved ones and fellow strugglers. Then came a forceful return of my sense of humor, and the ability to truly see where my former behavior and thinking was insane… and ridiculous (to me, anyway). Eventually, recovery became my way of life, and I couldn’t imagine going back to the loneliness and isolation of my past. (Which is not to say the urge never crossed my mind, either.)

    Now, some 32 years later, I am glad I chose recovery, even though I was so certain at the time that I was wasting my time trying. The one thing I had, and used, was time…

    Good luck, whatever you decide to do!


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