Jutting out from a dark abyss was a cliff so tall I felt like nothing beside it. I didn’t know how I’d gotten there, all I knew was that the only way out of this painful, suffocating place was up.
In the beginning, I could barely make it off the ground. I’d climb, fall, and shatter over and over again, and the higher I got the harder I’d fall. I’d scream until my echoes overlapped into thunder, cry until I had no tears left. With every fall I felt less capable, but I kept trying, driven by the thought of being in this unbearable, isolating crevice in the earth forever.
That looming wall of rock filled me with fury, with despair, with determination. Sometimes it would take me weeks to try again; other times I’d grit my teeth and get right back to it. As the years went by, the stone underneath my hands became intimate knowledge, the surface as familiar as my own face. I learned how to find handholds that could support me. With every attempt I climbed higher, faster.
One day I lifted my hand and to my amazement, felt nothing but the sky above. I pulled myself over the edge, hardly believing it. I stared down into the place I’d been for so long, trying to wrap my mind around how far I’d come. I hadn’t realized. Recovery had been one inch at a time, but now I could see how it all added up to here.
This summit had felt almost mythical, and I couldn’t move for a long time until I realized that yes, this was real. This was happening. I pulled my gaze away and faced the future, standing up on new ground. Trembling from exhaustion and anticipation, I took my first step of life without ED.
I’m now far, far away from the cliff edge, I’ve been walking for years. But, it’s still there behind me.
There were some days I walked a ways back towards it. Some days I would just turn around and stare out in the distance, knowing it was out there. Some days it took every recovery skill I had to keep myself facing forward.
And then there’s my backpack, full of the trauma I carry from living with an eating disorder for seven formative years. I’ve been slowly unpacking it, but it’s still so heavy. Some days I feel so strong I hardly notice it, but other days I struggle under its weight until I’m in a state of tiredness so deep I can’t move. Those days I lay there and remind myself that no matter how hard it is right now, it’s better than being back in that abyss, looking up at the cliff I thought I’d never conquer.
I can’t change the landscape of my life, that cliff will always be behind me. But it’s a big world out there– now I have the chance to get so lost in it that I couldn’t find my way back even if I wanted to.