22 May 2013

Just Keep Swimming

Do you remember learning to swim? The thought of swimming the length of a pool was terrifying wasn't it?

Well, imagine recovery from anorexia is like swimming the Channel. 

(Hard, challenging and a really, really long way.)

You know from the moment you set off that it's going to be tiring and push you to the extreme, but nothing quite prepares you for just how challenging it is going to be.

In the beginning, you're anxious, is this a bad idea? But once you've settled in and paced yourself, you're doing okay, moving forward and covering distance, full of energy and confidence.

But you hit a wall. This is where it gets hard. This is where I've been with recovery recently. 

One day you stop swimming and look around. Water, everywhere. Panic.

There's the initial shock of realising just how far you have left to go, but being so far out to sea that turning back is not an option.

Here's where the fear set in. 

"Too scared to swim anywhere, but also scared that if you stop for too long you'll sink anyway." 

Then the doubt sets in. 

You don't feel good enough to make it to the other side of the Channel, you don't believe in your ability.

You're determined to not start swimming back to shore, you know that achieves nothing (and you 'don't do quitting or failing anyway!) but you're tired, but there is no one that can swim for you. It has to be me

You know how to swim, you know what you've got to do, you know you've learnt HOW to swim. (All I need to do is move my arms and kick my legs, right?But we all know there's a difference between knowing how to swim and actually swimming.

The problem here is that treading water wastes the energy you need to swim on... 

..but I've been using up all my energy trying to tread water for the last 12 months.

Maintaining my weight, eating regular meals (with the odd challenge and restriction here and there) worrying about my body, eating out, not eating out. Not eating with people, not cooking with people, but eating. Arguing WITH anorexia and arguing FOR anorexia. Listening to advice, thinking about swimming, knowing I can swim, but still treading water. Bobbing up and down. All the time, using up energy that could be getting me closer to the coast. 

"You can't stay floating in the sea forever. You'll sink."

I don't want to sink, that's just as bad as swimming back to safety, so I've started to push forward. Slowly. Taking it a stroke at a time, challenge at a time. Changing my style slightly to adjust to changing conditions.  

The problem here is, the shock of swimming again is hard.

The same arms and legs that have stopped me sinking have now got to keep me moving towards the shore. 

I still have a long way to go, but it's no good swimming back to Dover, because I'm too far in now. I can't give up. I am surrounded in deep water, it's scary either way, in fact, I am not really sure where I am or how far I have to go, but I do know how to swim.

If I am not turning back, I either stay here and slowly sink or push through the pain and reach my goal.

So, Sarah...Sink or swim? 

I've got my team cheering me on, but ultimately, It's up to me to change my stroke and get to France.