There are some things that I didn’t know about recovery.
I sit in my paddock at home, connected to the earth, a mob of kangaroos settles in for the evening in front of the dam before me and I hear the steady ‘thwump thwump’ of my horses’ lips as they graze contentedly behind me. The clouds move slowly across the horizon, the sun prepares to set, the sound of frogs and kookaburras fills the air and the cooling breeze brings a tingle to my skin.
“Is this joy?” I ask myself, “or maybe peace?” And, before I allow the sensation to truly settle in my being, that familiar old voice pipes up, “How do you not know what joy is?” and, “What’s wrong with you?” Before the clincher that sends my heart rate momentarily skyrocketing, “What if something bad happens?”
It’s an old script, it’s familiar and it’s one that has sent me into a Dr. Google self-diagnostic frenzy more than I care to admit. And, I share this with you because it’s the thing nobody told me about recovery from bulimia; to truly recover, I would have to learn how to feel my feelings again.
For seventeen long years, bulimia was my constant. My best friend, my companion, my sworn enemy, but also my protector and yes, my identity.
For seventeen long years, bulimia acted as a wall between the world and myself. And, I’m now discovering, that it also served as an effective boundary between me and the fullness of my feelings.
Don’t get me wrong, recovering from bulimia has been the most amazing and truly fulfilling achievement of my life to date. It’s something I truly believed simply wasn’t an option for me. I thought it would be part of my narrative forever.
Without bulimia, I now feel a sense of freedom like never before. I feel an aliveness I didn’t know was possible for me. And I feel a genuine urge to lead a more socially engaged and connected life.
And yes, with feeling more alive comes, well, feelings! At first, I wasn’t entirely sure they were necessary but, as time goes on I realize they are the key. To know me and to being myself. To knowing what I want from life and actually being able to take the steps to achieve it – feeling and experiencing every step along the way.
I can’t stress enough the importance of seeking out robust support as you embark upon this wholly worthwhile part of your journey. Building a network of experienced professionals who will assist you as you navigate this new world of emotions and sensations is so important. And, my fellow warrior, please believe me when I say this, this is the support you deserve.
I used to think about recovery that healing meant getting to a place where feelings went away. But I now know that was my own inner judgment about who I thought the world needed me to be.
The truth is, having full access to my own inner world is what makes me alive. My feelings and emotions are what make me human. They are, without a doubt, my birthright.
And dear warrior, they’re yours too.
As I reach this conclusion about recovery, a long exhale escapes my lips and a single tear rolls down my cheek. And instead of conducting a self-interrogation to find its meaning, I simply allow it to be. A movement of energy. Another moment of life.
And as I do, Charlie my beloved horse approaches and lowers his velvety muzzle to my face. His own warm, sweet breath kisses my face and this I know for sure. This is the reward for my bravery. This is true connection and this is feeling. I guess this is what it means to be alive.