This morning, I woke up and my mind was flooded by memories. I was lying in bed around 6:30 AM and suddenly I remembered being a Junior in high school.
One Spring day, upon my request, my mom took me to the doctor. I had been compulsively overeating in response to dieting efforts and online resources led me to believe that I was experiencing an eating disorder. Like the good student I was, I discovered that I was supposed to see a doctor, a therapist, and a nutritionist to heal from my eating disorder.
I arrived at the doctor’s office, slightly terrified and full of shame. Visits to the doctor in my house were generally limited to broken bones. Upon arrival, the doctor took my blood pressure and… weighed me.
I remembered so clearly this morning, nearly 15 years later, how I felt when I saw the numbers on the scale. I was horrified, ashamed, distraught. I had gone from not knowing nor caring exactly how much I weighed to gaining 20-30 lbs in a matter of months. I knew I packed on some weight, because clothes were not fitting and the face that stared back at me in the mirror reflected a chubbiness I had not known before. But now I had proof in the numbers. I became determined to lose this weight, no matter what.
The doc handed me some pamphlets on eating disorders and sent us on our way. The doctor looked baffled. This girl is probably just tall. And she’s not too skinny! She does not have an eating disorder. I was distraught, hopeless. I do what I am supposed to do and I get weighed, measured, and sent on my way with some brochures!
Hope drained out of me like torrents of water bursting from a cracked pipe. The doctor. The nutritionist. The therapist. None of them understood. If anything, I felt like I was pulled deeper into this strange world of eating disorders and dieting that I did not comprehend. Nor did I want to. I did not find these subjects compelling and I wanted out, quick and dry without scars to show for it.
Despite my longing to reverse the clocks and do better in round two, the world of dieting and eating disorders quickly became a familiar territory. I have no love for dieting and eating disorders, but I have navigated my life with these companions by my side. And I have developed a deep respect and understanding of the many powerful, unseen, dark forces that take hold when we least expect.
We often enter the territory of dieting and eating disorders innocently, playing with fire, unaware of the depth of darkness and fear that awaits us in the long, hungry tunnel of such a dire existence.
And yet, somehow, we find our way through, stumbling upon the cracks in the tunnel that let light in, as we continue to search for the exit. Eventually, we do make it through. We emerge from the dark tunnel with guiding light that only some higher power could have sent us.
The light illuminates from within. It is like a flashlight beaming from the center of our beings.
When we emerge from the darkness, we find ourselves strong and vulnerable, hopeful and humble, and more compassionate than we knew was possible.
Although I am not a religious person, I have found that the combination of education and faith provided the light I needed to transform my deepest struggles with food and body image into something useful… informative… and even beautiful. My healing journey has taken many different turns and many false exit routes. And I have come to this place of acceptance that, for some reason bigger than myself, this has been my journey and I am grateful. I am grateful for my experience, because my inner light was illuminated in the depths of dark struggles.
From the pain of such an existence emerges a clarity and gorgeousness that is full of scars and impish humor. We emerge from the struggle simultaneously aware of the powerful shadow that exists within us all and the loving, higher power that helps us to understand and break free of our self-imposed, culturally-imposed chains. With such awareness, we become our own teachers, forever guided by our own inner wisdom and guiding light.
At times, we continue to stumble through life, just like we find ourselves flowing through life in the joy of it all. But we are transformed, because each time we stumble through new territory, perhaps failing several times along the way, we reach inside and access our persistent faith and determination to learn something from our experience.
Through our stumbles and our failures, we come to know ourselves as multidimensional beings. We emerge more integrated and whole than before.
Through our trials and tribulations, we dig in and continue to wake up, because there is no going back into the tunnel of darkness. Consciously choosing to move forward through new paths of existence is the current adventure. These paths are sometimes dark, sometimes light, sometimes grey, sometimes red, sometimes purple, sometimes green. We are healing. And healing becomes a willingness to learn from the experiences life grants us, despite our stumbles, failures, joy, and bliss that happens along the way.