June marks my recovery anniversary (I forgot the date or maybe I purposefully didn't take note). This year makes it three. I have been in recovery for three years. Thirty one days where I drove 33.7 miles to Montecatini Treatment Center in Carlsbad at 8am. I was part of the outpatient program since I was working in the afternoons. After 4 hours of therapies, activities and treatment, I drove back those 33.7 miles and made it back right on time for my shift at the restaurant. It wasn't that long ago but these days seem so distant now. So much has happened since then, so much has changed.
We were already trying to have a baby when I was in treatment. My body was obviously not in a good place health-wise, which is why it just wasn't happening. In the back of my mind I knew that my body was most likely not a home for a baby with my current mental and physical situation, but I wanted it none the less. I know for some girls who have struggled with eating disorders, pregnancy is a very fear-driven thought but that was just never the case for me. I knew that I needed to be healthy to have a baby and I knew that being pregnant meant that my weight would go up. That fact didn't scare me though. I think because at that point in my disease (almost 10 years in), I already knew that what was going on with me wasn't about being thing or hitting a certain number on the scale. I knew that my mental disorder was more self-worth centered and that in the end, it had nothing to do with my physical appearance.
My marriage and the thought of growing our family kept me in recovery. I followed the meal plan that my nutritionist gave me, I journaled, I read self help books (still do!), I focused on work and my marriage. In return, my body responded. I got pregnant with Sienna six months after being done with treatment. That time frame was hard, transitioning into recovery comes with an entire new set of challenges but I was tenacious. When you're 100% sure that you want to stop living as your mind's slave, you take it one day at a time and you do what you have to do.
Unfortunately, a recovery mindset does not free you from some behaviors and habits that were created during the sick time of your life. With years of being friends with my eating disorder came a set of patterns that haven't all gone away. Behaviors that after years of being repeated, became engrained to who I am. This is why you need to "stay in recovery". You don't just checkout from treatment and all of a sudden you are free from anything eating disorder related. You have to take action daily and slowly revert all the damage that you did over the years.
The biggest trait that I developed (a pretty common one for people with eating disorders) during my years of being sick was becoming a perfect control freak. Control was the key that kept the mental disorder chest locked and safe. Control over what I ate. Control over how much I weighed. Control over how I felt. Control over my relationships. Control over others. Control control control. Feeling like I was in control gave me a strange sense of relief. Temporary relief that is, until I started to notice some feelings arise again and when they did, I could just revert to control and get that relief once again.
Letting go of control gives me anxiety. It's what I truly want the most but it's my biggest challenge. I wear the Mrs. Rigidity crown and I want so bad to take it off and burn it so that it can't come back to haunt me.
I've come a long way though. Marriage, pregnancy and motherhood have taught me so much about letting go of control. About handing the reigns to someone else and understanding, that it's going to be ok. That I am still going to be loved, that I am good enough, that I don't have to be in charge of everything. That I can live in the moment. That I can be happy.
Being pregnant is challenging in itself but in my experience as an eating disorder survivor, I've noticed that the control factor adds a little extra obstacle to it. At this point in my recovery, I understand, accept and appreciate that I can't control everything. It's actually a very big relief to think about that. I do however have visits from the control monster from time to time, and what is my coping buddy when anxiety and other feelings that I don't want to feel creep up on me while I'm pregnant? Food.
What happens when we are in Ensenada enjoying lunch and it's getting close to Sienna's bedtime but we still have to cross the border and drive home? I eat an extra slice of pizza. What happens when I'm waiting for that phone call with the down syndrome tests results for our baby? I snack even though I am not hungry. [Important note: Not every instance is played out this way, i.e I just had an argument with John and instead of opening the fridge to grab something, I just started writing this. Total win.] I have noticed that with both of my pregnancies - feeling so out of control in so many situations makes me want to turn to food. I know over eating is "normal" and I consider myself very strong in my recovery but this is just something I have noticed.
I am not worried. I know how to lose the weight the healthy way and more importantly, I know it's not even about the weight. It's not even about pregnancy either. It's about letting myself feel. Letting myself have experiences and overwhelming emotions that I didn't allow myself to have for so many years.
It's about slowly and surely, learning how to let it go.