Can You Recover After A Lifetime of Struggle?

Image: @ismaelnieto

I am very early in the recovery process. Let’s call it the beginning, shall we? It has taken years – years and years – of searching my heart and soul (and the deepest depths of the internet) to believe I deserve recovery. That after a lifetime of struggle, recovery is possible.

A lifetime of struggle

I have had disordered eating behaviors and thoughts for 51 years. That’s 51 of my 51 years. My entire lifetime. I know nothing else. To me, they are just normal eating behaviors and thoughts. It has taken a long time to realize binging, purging, restricting, food obsession, hidden eating, sneaking food, planning a meal before finishing the one I’m eating, and feeling intense shame and disappointment almost every time a morsel of food passes my lips, are anything but normal. They are, in fact, highly disordered and indicative of a serious eating disorder.

I started formal psychological therapy two years ago, searching for ways to understand my formative years and how they shaped my relationship to food.

Taking back the power

Now, I understand the impact of the damaging messages about my body and my value as a human being I received as a child. I forgive those loved ones who inadvertently taught me I am not good enough unless I’m a certain size. I forgive them because the messages were sent subliminally, unintentionally, and like many, the message-givers were a product of their own difficult upbringing.

It is my time now. It is time to take back my power and stop old voices telling me I’m not good enough. It is time to accept I am enough.

Right now. As is. I am enough at any weight and any dress size. My value is not in my appearance, but how I interact with the world.

My value is in the things I have dedicated my life to and have been blessed with. Like raising three children from boys to men, 25 years of marriage. Or the kindness, care, and empathy I offer to all I meet, influencing the lives of thousands of young music students and the contribution I have made in the work place. These things demonstrate my purpose in life. This is where my value lies.

Now that I can slowly – ever so slowly – start to believe this, not just intellectually, but absorb the message into my heart and soul, the real steps of recovery can begin.

You have to choose recovery

I have gathered an abundance of recovery tools, resources and supports in the past few years. However, I felt intense frustration from knowing how to recover, but choosing not to. I have searched and searched within myself to understand why.

Now I think I have the answer. I wasn’t ready and didn’t believe recovery was possible. There was a lack of hope. I believed I was beyond redemption. After a lifetime of struggle, did I even deserve recovery? I believed I was an eating disorder. It felt like my identity. More faulty beliefs.

The truth? I am Simone, I am a mother, daughter, wife, friend, colleague, musician, teacher, writer, administrator. I’m kind, compassionate, empathetic, intuitive, intelligent, thoughtful, organized, resilient. I am good at listening, planning, teaching, perseverance, patience, exercising.

What am I not? Definitely not a dress size or a number on the scales.

I am NOT an eating disorder

It has taken me a long time to accept this truth. And will probably take a little more time to believe it deep in my heart. I am working on a daily affirmation,  “I am enough, I am enough, I am enough”

I recently began a course for recovery from binge eating and bulimia. My intuition is screaming that this is one of the most important steps I have ever taken. This may be the key piece of my recovery puzzle – the recovery picture is finally taking shape.

Get ready for real life

Grief for the only means of reacting to life I have ever known. And I cried in anticipation of the overwhelming fears and emotions that are inevitably going to be heading my way.

Without food to numb them, the emotions are going to be intense, uncomfortable and very unpleasant.

That’s life. That’s the same life we all lead. No unicorns, pixie dust and magic wands. Real life. The full gamut of emotions. Not the trial version – the whole experience, warts and all.

Sadly, my eating disorder has served me faithfully. It protected me from emotions and experiences I had never learned to deal with. It gifted me with the ability to keep living, to keep on keeping on.

I’m now 51, and I have spent all this time hearing about and learning about other ways, it is time to choose. Choose healthier ways to react to life. Time to choose serenity, peace and real life.

I am deserving of recovery and I am enough.

I keep saying these things to myself. Someday soon I’ll really believe them. For now, I have grief. But I also have hope. This is my life, my destiny, and my choice. I am going to fly with those happy little bluebirds.

Bring on the rain. I’m going to find the rainbow 🌈

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