This Is How It Goes

   Aimee Mann Magnolia

I’ve been working on this entry based on another song by Aimee Mann from the movie Magnolia since before my honeymoon, and now I hope to finish and publish it today.

The song “This Is How It Goes” makes me think of how isolating it is to go through something like an eating disorder, alcoholism or any addiction. It makes me think of being on the other end of the spectrum, and watching someone you love deal with the forced isolation that an eating disorder, alcoholism or any addiction demands. It’s like you want to let people help, but you just can’t. It’s like you want to recover, but you just can’t take that first step.

For me, letting people in was one of the hardest steps in recovery. Communicating to people that I needed help was next to impossible. Acknowledging that I was struggling seemed impossible. Even in the midst of treatment, I remember a residential counselor telling me that she had noticed while we were eating dinner that I was struggling to eat my food knowing that I had to keep it down, that I was struggling with the never-ending battle in my head of “Do I suffer through the uncomfortable physical and emotional feelings of keeping this food down or do I slip down the hall and purge the food and my feelings when no one is looking?” She told me I didn’t have to fight that battle alone, that it was okay to ask for help, and to even just say I’m struggling. It had never occurred to me that my struggle was so plainly written across my face. It hadn’t occurred to me that asking for help was an option.

“This Is How It Goes” also makes me think of feeling that being eating disordered was just how my life was, that it was just status quo for me. For a time, I was so entrenched in my eating disordered life that it was simply normal to me. To most people who haven’t struggled with an eating disorder, that statement defies logic. They wonder how restriction, starvation and puking can become normal. I think it happens in the same way that drinking becomes normal for alcoholics. In time, the disordered behavior becomes a way of life, and it’s easier to remain eating disordered and miserable than it is to change, because change is scary. I think this also applies to depression in some cases, people are used to being depressed, and the thought of working their way out of depression is too overwhelming.

It’s hard to make that transition from depressed/ED’ed/alcoholic to actually fighting the disorder and seeking help. It’s painful to start dealing with and feeling emotions again. That is one of the hardest parts of recovery. Learning to feel pain and not use your disorder as a coping mechanism or way to blunt the pain.

This song also makes me think a great deal about what it is like to watch someone struggle with the same demons (or related ones) that you have struggled with. After my stint in treatment, one of my good friends relapsed, and watching her relapse while I got better was an exercise in feeling helpless. Here was someone that I cared deeply about, and I wanted to do anything to keep her from falling back into the hellhole that is bulimia. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so powerless in my life. It was a hard lesson in realizing that I could give all the love and support I could muster, but in the end, the only person I could save was my self.

To some extent, recovery is up to the individual. They can have all the tools needed to recover, but it is up to them to pick those tools up and start the work.

During the darkest moments in our friendship, I would drive around Minneapolis, listening to “This Is How It Goes” on repeat. It was like Aimee Mann just got it. She understood. She put into words what I couldn’t at that moment.

I feel for anyone who is supporting a loved one in recovering from their ED, alcoholism or any other addiction. It’s a hard place to be in, and hurts to watch someone you love hurting so much.

This Is How It Goes

This is how it goes
You’ll get angry at yourself
And think you can think of something else
And I’ll hear the clanging of the bells
Cause I can’t stop you baby

Cause I don’t have the bribery in place
No bright shiny surface to my face
So I won’t go near the marketplace
With what I’m selling lately

Cause this is how it goes

Cause it’s all about drugs, it’s all about shame
And whatever they want
Don’t tell them your name

This is how it goes

One more failure to connect
With so many how could I object
And you, what on earth did you expect

Well I can’t tell you baby

When this is how it goes

Cause it’s all about drugs, it’s all about shame
And whatever they want, don’t tell them your name

So I try to hold on
While you try to let go
You won’t tell me it’s gone
But baby I’ll know (x4)