I have so many important words and phrases highlighted in my copy of Life Without Ed, the book might as well have bright pink pages. One of those lil nuggets of wisdom is one I need a reminder of all too often – “compare and despair”.
I know recovery is a personal thing, I know everyone’s recovery looks different, and I know it does absolutely no good to compare your progress to that of others. But still, some days I find it hard to remember how far I’ve come, when others seem like they’ve gone so much further.
It’s strange, because even while I’m frustrated with myself and jealous of their progress, I am so incredibly happy when I see my recovery friends doing well. Seeing the difference between the sad, sick, empty girls I met last spring and the vibrant, happy, healthy girls I now call my friends is amazing. I can feel the difference when we’re together – the room is filled with hope and laughter and love (all rarities just a few months ago). It fills me with joy to see all the positive changes in my friends, and to see them leaving their eating disorders behind and moving on to better days.
The problem comes when I start the comparisons. Right now, a bunch of the girls who went through orientation with me and started group therapy at the same time I did are getting close to “graduating” from the Hope program. They’re all doing the “Stepping Stones” therapy group, which is basically the finishing up, review-what-you’ve-learned, end of your therapy and treatment. Never mind that I’m not doing any groups right now (so it’s not even a valid comparison), the fact that they’re doing the group and I’m not makes me feel awful.
This just starts a whole slew of worries and self-criticisms. Am I that far behind? What’s wrong with me? How come it’s so easy for them, while I’m still struggling? Have I even made any progress at this??
Another girl came in to group last week, noticeably happier than she’s been in weeks, saying she was feeling so good about recovery. She was having a good few weeks, and feeling happy, so she had started eating again! I’m sorry – what?! I’ve had happy times, and sad times, and all the while I’ve eaten, and still had an eating disorder. You cannot tell me that it’s as simple a matter as being happier and deciding to eat. And yet, looking at some people’s recovery, it seems like it is just that easy.
I know, I have no idea what’s going on inside their heads, and I have no idea what issues are truly present in their lives and recovery. It’s just so frustrating when I keep seeing other girls making recovery look so easy. For me, it’s been anything but.
See? Even just trying to explain those comparisons comes out sad and negative. Jenni Shaefer knows what she’s talking about when she says compare and despair. I need her in my head constantly, reminding me to focus on my own recovery. When it’s not being compared to everyone around me, my progress is pretty impressive, too. This is my story, and my recovery, and I’m doing the best I can. Just gotta be good with that! (Although it doesn’t hurt to celebrate and be happy for my friends’ progress too – we’re all pretty great)