Then and Now: The Amazing Ways Recovery Has Changed My Life For The Better

Happy girl in red cardigan - recovery changed my life for the better now

Are you at the beginning of your journey to recovery? Are you stuck in the belief that recovery just may not possible for you right now? Do you feel like you are drowning and the lifeboat just passed you by?

I have been there. I have felt all those things. You are not alone.

Our founder, Jessica Flint did a few Instagram stories on the concept of “Then and Now”. This moved me something fierce. There is such a stark difference in my life between “then” verses “now”.

I wanted to elaborate on this for you, because it may bring you peace to know that it’s possible to climb up from rock bottom. It has been a long journey but after sixteen years of suffering and two years behavior free… 

This is my then and now:

Then: I would put very strict restrictions on what, how much, and when I could eat. If any of those rules were broken, I would purge, run, or exercise (or all three!) until I believed that I was “cleansed” of my “mistake”.

Now: I eat what I want, when I want, according to what my body desires, wants, and needs. It may be a pop-tart, a salad, fried pickles, or a chicken wrap… all food are available and eaten in moderation.

Then: I would make myself exercise at least for X amount of hours a day. If I didn’t get to exercise, my thoughts and anxiety were unbearable. I was obsessed and saddened that my life was so controlled by my exercise routine.

Now: I have not run in 2 years since the ultramarathon that threatened to kill me. I have done light physical therapy for my back, played with my kids, and walked mindfully through the woods- and that’s it. I’m not ready to exercise yet – and that is okay.

Then: My heart was failing. My resting heart rate was in the 30’s. I was at risk of dying each night that I went to sleep.

Now: My heart has healed. I am well. I can sleep in peace.

Then: I couldn’t connect with anyone in my life due to the overbearing voice of my eating disorder sabotaging every moment. I was a time bomb waiting to explode with anxious uncertainty, focusing only on the control of my body and pushing down any emotion that threatened to rock my stability”.

Now: I can feel without anxiety taking over. I can love without fear. I can connect without reservation.

Then: I would feel anxious, choose a behavior that was “appropriate” for the moment, use the said behavior, feel guilt and shame, and then proceed to beat myself up for being so weak… That process would be on repeat day after day for 16 years.

Now: I feel anxious, I tap into my wise mind, and I face the deeper issue that is causing my anxiety instead of trying to literally and figuratively to run from it.

Then: I would think about all the ways I was ruining my life and everyone who was in it over and over in my mind. I thought everyone would be better off without the burden of me.

Now: I think about what a blessing, an example, and a mentor I am to those around me.

I know that I am a light in the lives of many, especially those who are close to me.

Then: Entering a restaurant would cause a panic attack. Being within a two-foot radius of doughnuts was terrifying. I would rather go without eating than actually consume fast food.

Now: I enjoy Mexican buffets with my family, doughnuts on occasion (my favorite are doughnut holes!), and Chick-Fil-A is my jam.

Then: I cringed at the thought of my husband and I being physically intimate due to the overwhelming fear of him feeling any imperfection on my body.

Now: I can fully admit that I am the one who is initiating physical connection of all kinds because I feel so alive when he and I are close.

Then: I hated getting dressed because how my body felt/looked in clothing.

Now: I am modeling clothes with my sweet daughter for local boutiques.

Then: I was terrified of getting fat.

Now: I can think of 1,000,000 things worse than gaining any amount of weight.

Then: I counted every exchange and every calorie.

Now: I have not a clue what amount of calories I consume on a daily basis.

Then: I had a weight requirement/limit.

Now: I am what I am. I have no idea what I weigh.

Then: I felt hopeless

Now: I feel grateful.

Then: I felt like I lived in chains.

Now: I live free.

I remember, Warriors, being in the trenches and not knowing how to climb out. I remember the desperation, disbelief, and sheer terror that engulfed my every waking moment and even haunted my dreams.

That was then… and I am living in the now. It is possible.

I was in it for 16 years. It is never too late. You are never too far gone. It is the fight of your life, but your then will eventually become your now.

The now is where it’s at… trust me!

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8 Comments

  1. Avatarsays: Anne

    This made me cry. This is everything I hope for my own recovery, and is everything I am holding on to to keep myself accountable to my recovery. I’m 23 years and counting of anorexic life and I’m so, so tired of fighting myself all the time. Finally my fear of the recovery process is less than how tired I am of my anorexic life. Posts like this make me cry because I finally feel that this recovered life is something I may be able to have if I can just keep doing what I’m doing. Thank you.

  2. Lucy Van Baarssays: Lucy Van Baars

    Just THANK YOU. I’m in a dark and hopeless mental space at present and fear for my future physically and emotionally. Guilt and shame and sorrow for what i am doing to everyone i love and to the self i was given to care for.
    You’re then resonates with me and so your now seems more possible for me, too. Thank you for giving me a shred of hope. Well done a millions times over for where you are now. Xxx

    1. Brooke Heberlingsays: Brooke Heberling

      Lucy, sickness grows in the dark, but you are bringing it to the light! Keep challenging ED- you are worth freedom!

  3. Avatarsays: Susan Truss

    Brooke, this is amazing. Thank you. I am in recovery and need daily reassurance that life will be better when I am healed. Just your sentence about not being ready to formally exercise, 2 years down the line, has strengthened my resolve. I have found it very hard to stop running and wonder if it is worth it. Your article proves it is. How did you recover? How were you able to resist the movement component?

  4. Avatarsays: Shannon

    Wow….I too was reading with tears in my eyes…I’m now a 41 year old woman and have lived with ED since I was 15…..every time I gear up and say I’m all done living in prison, I get up the next morning and go for that 45 min run….. and eat the same safe foods at the same time of day for another day and the cycle continues. I feel embarrassed that I’m still fighting these thoughts and want to live free…I want to enjoy life with my two boys and not worry about eating a slice of pizza or a fresh baked cookie with them. Instead I make it for everyone else and the do the dishes while they enjoy or eat my veggies and chicken while they eat pizza. Thank you for sharing such vulnerable and honest thoughts. I truly felt like you were in my brain.

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