As I stood in front of this middle school church group after sharing my faith journey through anorexia, I got the same old question… ‘are you over anorexia?’ Part of me wanted to yell, I AM SO OVER IT! But to be honest, there is still that part of me that hangs on to my eating disorder like a favorite blanket. I think that is why I hang on to the word “recovering” instead of “recovered.” You see, I have been recovering from anorexia for the past 18 years. Yes, 18 years. Now, I know for many of you out there that are new to this recovering gig, you may think, well, she must have had many relapses or maybe she’s been in denial. But you are wrong. I have been recovering for this long because, for me, this thing called recovery has been an ongoing process that has twisted and turned like a river and has become a life-changing journey.
I know there are many people out there that have said people can fully recover from eating disorders and completely move on. Maybe that is true for some, but we all have a different journey. For me, I can’t just say that I am all better and shut the door. I feel there is more to this journey and more to my story. I truly feel recovering is a process.
For me recovering‘ started on the day I found out I was pregnant with my first son. I was twenty-five or so pounds underweight, in a new precarious marriage, drowning in what seemed to be an endless sea of self-loathing and trying my best to just disappear into the background. When God tapped me on my shoulder and asked if I could use some help, I was so desperate, so scared, so alone, and had nothing to lose, so I said yes. On this day in February, I found hope, and I started a new journey called recovering.
In these past 18 years, I have had my ups and downs, my great times and my bad times. However, the lessons I have learned from recovering have given me a better perspective of my life and taught me many things about myself. There are three lessons I feel are important to share, and they speak to my premises that recovering is a process. These are: what it truly means to have inner strength, to be amazed at what your body can do, and finding your voice.
At the beginning of my journey in recovering, the word “strength” would have never crossed my mind as something I possessed. I felt like the weakest person in the world, beat up and torn down. Maybe you have felt that, too. But looking back, I have to admit I was pretty strong. We all have different stories about how we got to recovering, yet one very large similarity, we are all recovering. We have stood and faced these demons that we have listened to for far too long, these demons that tell us we are not good enough, not thin enough, not worthy of love. We stood up and we faced them.
We took on the looks of worry on family members’ and friends’ faces. We dug deep into our pasts and into the dark places we wanted no one to see and faced the truth about ourselves… we have an eating disorder. We asked for help or accepted help when it stripped us of our control, something we so desperately tried to hold on to. We stood when we wanted to fall, albeit it may not have looked pretty. But we did, and we moved into recovering.
Inner strength allows us to own up to our eating disorder, to face it head on and to choose ourselves over our eating disorder. If you are here in your journey, take a minute to breathe in the pride of inner strength, my friend. You may still trip and fall some, but the fact you are here, standing against your eating disorder is a testament to your inner strength.
Amazed by the human body
Like I stated before, my recovering started on the day I found out I was pregnant. It was amazing to me in general how a woman gives birth; but coupled with recovering from anorexia and being pregnant, I gained a whole new perspective. Our bodies are miracles. They move. They heal themselves. They regrow parts and even adapt to our situations. When I stop and think about all the things our bodies have and do, it takes my breath away.
I remember feeling so impressed by my body after I had my third baby. Maybe it was because time had passed and I could reflect on where I was with my first child to where I was with my third; but nonetheless, I was moved. My body, the thing I had punished, treated poorly and hurt, had just blessed me again. Together, my body and I brought into the world three healthy people. That is amazing.
Then years later, my body and I did something else, we ran a half marathon, then another one, then another one. Yes, I learned that my body may not be this “perfect ten” I thought it needed to be, but it was amazing. When I treated it right, loved it and cared for it, my body could do more than I ever thought it could. Our bodies are truly amazing and given to us by God with love.
Recovering seems hard at times because I forget the beauty my body is and I get lost in what I think my body should look like. But in all actuality, my journey in recovering has taught me to look past what-my-body-should-be thoughts, to what my body is and what it does for me. My body does more than I could have imaged back in my days that my eating disorder ran my life. My body is a gift from God, and when I look at my body as a gift, it changes my perspective and makes me look at myself differently.
Finding a Voice
One of the most surprising things that have come out of my journey in recovering is finding my voice. I have been able to find my voice, my voice against the thoughts that trigger my eating disorder, my voice to stand up for myself and not punish myself, and my voice to share my story. Being able to share my journey through anorexia and into my recovering process has helped me find a way to take what I’ve lived through and help others.
Sharing my journey opens the door to move past the ugly that was my eating disorder to sharing the hope that is recovering. When we can share our journeys and shed light on these disorders that claim more lives than other mental disorders, we open up the world to the discussions about body image and how we recognize eating disorders. We help others going through these disorders to find their voice and to keep the light of hope moving.
So yes, recovering is a process, a process that keeps evolving and changing as life marches on. I find that when I look at my recovering through the lens of process, it takes the pressure off of trying to be “healed” from eating disorder. My eating disorder, however ugly, has changed me and my life. It changes how I look at the world and myself. It changes how I look at such everyday things as the birth of a child or someone running for the first time. It changes how I look at the word “hope.” To me, to try to deny this, to put my eating disorder in a finished column of my life only seems to want to wish it away instead of claiming it as part of my journey. I want to own my journey and enjoy the trails and tribulations that have come from this journey and embrace the lessons learned from my walk with anorexia.