Recovery isn’t linear. It’s cyclical.
You have days, much like I did a week ago Saturday, where you feel so GOOD that you could just OWN the planet. Nothing can stop you!
You strut proudly. You’re feeling stable and solid. You feel unshakable.
You feel good. It feels GREAT!
You feel confident. You feel strong. Hey, life is…good!
You feel at peace with what you are and where you’ve come from. You sigh in relief. No mountain is too tall. No earthquake is too strong. You can do this! You’re tough. You’re solid. You’re ready.
This feels easy.
One day, without warning, the wind changes direction. The gentle breeze you were enjoying develops a sharp edge. It starts to feel cold. It begins to sting.
Perhaps it was a snub, a slight. Maybe you received harsher-than-necessary words from a loved one. You might feel a bit shut out from friends as you see they’ve planned an outing, a project, without you. Your teenagers might possibly be waffling between childlike affection and adult indifference, and their flexing of the latter leaves your soul tender and mottled with bruises.
You draw yourself inward, trying to protect what you thought was strong and solid from bending and breaking under the heavy, cold blackness that seeps in. You look to seek shelter, and the ground quakes around you. You step gingerly, seeking a secure foothold, not knowing which moss-covered rock will teeter and slide, casting you into the icy darkness.
You struggle wildly, desperate to keep your head above the surface, gulping breaths between violent waves. You grasp at something, ANYTHING, to keep you from washing away.
A branch. A rock.
Something familiar, something predictable.
All you can think about is stopping the slide. You want to get out of the cold blackness. You need to get out of the wind.
You can’t find a branch; the rocks you grasp slip out of hands that refuse to cooperate. You need to get out of this NOW.
You need to get back in control.
You latch on to the one thing that has pulled you out before. Ah. It’s familiar; it feels solid. You climb on and look around. You’re still in the river, and it’s whirling around you, but you can SEE that from here, and from this vantage point, none of the dangers that tried to suck you in can reach you.
I don’t need people. I don’t need their drama and their utter crap. I need to be thin. I am powerful when I’m losing weight. People are more interested in me when I’m thin. I’m perceived as smarter, prettier, more competent when I’m thin. I can lose five pounds this week; I’ll eat only fruit, I’ll run four times a week and do crunches until I can’t anymore. I can be lighter, leaner.
It’s no wonder no one wants anything to do with you. Look at how your arms jiggle when you gesture wildly to make a point. Look down and see the fat that bulges over your waistband when you sit down. Walk some stairs and notice the bounce in your thighs, your hips.
You are nothing with this layer of weakness you wear. You are worthless. Meaningless. Nothing.
Unbeknownst to you, you are not safe.
You were so focused on pulling yourself out of the current that you have hauled yourself onto the back of a crocodile.
You’ve climbed out of the water, but you’re still smack-dab in the middle of the river. You know the water still surrounds you, waiting to suck you to its black depths. But it’s no longer your primary danger.
You feel safe, because you’re relied on crocodiles before. On the back of a crocodile, you know what to expect. Sure, there’s some danger here. But I’m in control now. I’m not in that uncomfortable river of “emotions” and “feelings” and speaking my mind and standing up for myself and demanding respect.
I don’t have to do the very difficult job of “working through” this, because all I can focus on is staying on the crocodile. Because one flick of the tail, a snap of the jaw, and he’ll have me in his unyielding jaws. He’ll drag me to the bottom of the river, exhausting me quickly as I succumb to the sea.
I should be looking for a sturdier platform. A branch, a tree. Something rooted solidly in the bank and the sun. I should be shouting for help and reaching out for a hand.
But I don’t dare take my focus off the crocodile.
Eventually, the storms will subside a bit, and he’ll swim close enough to shore so that I can leap off his back onto the ground. Once I do that, I have to run – run hard and run fast – so he can’t drag me back in.
He doesn’t have to try too hard, though. He just eyes me cockily, and with a tilt of the head eases himself back into the water.
He knows the storms will come again. He knows I’ll relax, let my guard down, be overconfident, and think I can row the rapids without a life jacket.
Perhaps one day I’ll find some reliable life preservers that I can keep securely on my person, having them at the ready with an emotional poncho.
Because no matter how brightly the sun shines today, the storms always roll back in.
And maybe one day, I can shoot the stupid crocodile and make myself a sweet pair of shoes out of his empty, depleted shell.