"What does this mean for us?" my therapist asked me today as I spoke softly but with increasing confidence about my plans to move to Hong Kong in the summer. "It's six months. How do you feel about that?"
In my mind, therapy has been an endless endeavor, an undertaking to explore - perhaps (but not necessarily) understand - the deepest and most shameful parts of myself. I'm almost embarrassed to reveal the extent to which therapy has been a part of my life - the ways I've organized and planned my weeks around the 45-minute pockets of time. Such an admission would be a betrayal of the narrative I have ascribed to myself, in direct defiance of the needlessness from which I have founded the very roots of my identity.
I am at a point in my recovery where the topic of therapy itself seems to weave its way into nearly every session I have. A meta-analysis of the now, a logical and logistical discussion of the future, the understanding that my therapeutic bonds - strong and transformative as they may be - carry with them a temporal quality. I could go on like this forever; I'm confident I could benefit from psychoanalysis for the better-part of my life. But it's becoming increasingly evident to me that the opposite might be even more true. That I might grow even more not from analyzing my life, but from living it wholly on my own.
I began to cry just as I typed that sentence - aware of the strides I've made in my recovery, in my journey to access and even accept the most terrifying parts of myself. The presence of my tears, my ability to feel the weight of their sadness and their functional and biological purpose is only another argument for exploring a life without weekly analysis, a life absent of weigh-ins and monitored dinners and post-meal processing and group DBT and individual CBTE and daily meal logs and nutritionists and psychotherapy. A life lacking the very backbone that gave it structure. A real life - a healthy life - free from the burdens and shackles of the disease to which it lived in service for nearly 15 years.
Recovery is not linear, my treatment team tells me. It is not black and white, it's far from perfect, and it's never what you expect it to be. Recovery is not the absence of thoughts or impulses or a morbid fixation on numbers. It is an acceptance of those things and a willingness to explore them - without judgement - in order to understand what you really think or want or need in the moment. Recovery is not measured in days, months, or years, abstinent from purging or laxatives. It has no motives beyond transparency and health. To be "in recovery," my team tells me, is to exist wholly, presently, and honestly. It is a commitment to feeling your feelings - a resolve to participate in the journey - to do so alone but never unsupported. And, for me, as I look toward my future, recovery is a life lived largely independent from the checks and balances derived from regular and consistent therapy.
Being "in therapy" means different things to different people. To me, being in therapy has never been - nor will it ever be - a sign of weakness. Some of the people I admire the most - personally, professionally, spiritually - have long-praised the expansive benefits of a therapeutic relationship. For these women (and men) therapy has expanded their capacity for empathy, for understanding and identifying feelings. It has enhanced the pleasures and perils of the shared human experience that is founded in simply being alive.
For me, therapy is an exercise in boundaries. Its power was nurtured in the bonds formed between sessions, the gnawing feeling I had when confronted with the possibility of taking a month, or even a week, off. Therapy was wanting to tell someone - for the first time - the intimate details of the peaks of my highs and the depths of my lows. It was the giddiness of exploration, of being understood and not judged, from which my love for the therapy grew. I have come to love my therapists in much the same way I assume other people love their families, as my time in therapy has allowed me to be vulnerable and lost in a way that my family has not.
I used to fear that I couldn't live my life without therapy. That I would crumble without the support and nurturance it offered me.
Now I am terrified at the prospect that I can.