Coming Clean

Eating disorders are all about deception. They thrive on isolation. Prey on insecurities. And really “get ya” with shame and guilt.

One of the biggest contributing factors to my shame, guilt, and self-hatred, (aside from my “Capital L” Lie) were all the lies I was telling my loved ones. I detailed in full all of my deception and lies in this post, but just the headlines were that I was lying about my eating disorder really being due to my Ulcerative Colitis, I was throwing away the weight gaining drinks I was supposed to consume, I wasn’t eating my lunch, and I was exercising to burn calories – not as a form of “pain” relief from the Ulcerative Colitis.

And get this: even though I went to inpatient, I didn’t admit to actually having anorexia for 6 whole days. For nearly a week, I was adamant that the weight loss and everything was a result of my Ulcerative Colitis – NOT an eating disorder. To doctors. I told that to doctors. So needless to say, I was deep into propelling the deception, even at inpatient treatment.

But I wanted to share how my life actually changed once I finally decided to come clean and tell the truth to my parents. How, after exposing the darkness that was inside and becoming vulnerable, I experienced true joy and true freedom.

And instead of paraphrasing it, I thought I’d share straight from my inpatient journal. (I’m telling you, God must have known that I was supposed to write a book about this in the future, because I never kept a journal in my life. Never. Except at inpatient. There, I was a journaling fiend.)

So without further ado:

“So today is the start of a new beginning. Today I told my parents the truth. The whole truth. I came clean. First I came clean to Todd [my therapist] with everything. I cried, I yelled, I felt like hiding, and I felt so exposed and scared but then afterwards, I just wanted to tell my parents. So I called them and they were both in the car on the way to Minnesota. What a blessing from God that they were together and had the rest of the 13-hour drive to reflect together. He made that happen. So I told them everything: That I wasn’t eating the oatmeal bars or the drinks, and that I wasn’t in pain, and that I was taking walks because I was scared to get big thighs. I told them the stretching was because I was really doing sit-ups because I was afraid to get a large stomach, and that I was tanning everyday, and that I wasn’t having peanut butter with my toast. I told them everything. And apologized for living one big lie. And they forgave me. They said that Jesus was lied to and betrayed 3 times by Peter, but that Jesus forgave him and loved him unconditionally. They said that they love me unconditionally, and that nothing I could ever do would make them not love me. They said thank you for telling us, and that they want me to just get better. After I got off the phone, I did a sob-laugh – where you just feel so free and burden-less, but at the same time naked and that people can see the ugliness inside. I need to accept that I’m not ugly – but my choices were ugly. Afterwards, I felt shaky all over, and like everything was in slow motion. I’m a bit nervous about our next phone conversation. But I’ll just pray and ask Jesus to be there with me.

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When I first told Todd, it was so weird. There were times that I didn’t even know it was me talking – it was almost an out-of-body experience: I was listening to myself speak, watching the scene from above – from a bird’s eye view. Todd’s eyes – I feel like they’re Jesus’s eyes – that they can look right into my soul. That he knew all along and was just waiting for me to come clean. Todd told me that he did know and was wondering how long it would take for me to tell the truth. After I told Todd, I felt slump shouldered and hollow and exposed — empty yet fulfilled – like a slate was wiped clean. And as I was telling him, I felt very small. When I was telling him, I had my knees pulled into my chest and I was holding my body in a little ball, feeling so incredibly vulnerable and scared. And I heard a voice come out of my mouth that I’ve never heard before. It was deep, loud, dark, and cavernous. It was ugly. And I can’t replicate it even if I try. I think, I mean, what if that was me – or God — releasing Satan, or the evil spirit that had control over me? Who knows – that’s something to ponder. All I know is that when I got done telling Todd, I felt frantic, just wanting to tell my parents NOW. To get it over with so we could move on and heal. After I told mom and dad – it’s hard to describe how I felt. I think a word that I would say is “numb” maybe? Well not really though, because I was feeling a lot. But let’s see: relieved, scared, exposed, but with a strange sense of security. And now even a glimpse of hope. I’m determined, yet I know I’m scared as hell. But anyway – how I feel now – well, I just breathed a sigh, so I guess relieved, and that a huge burden has been lifted, and that things are going to be okay. Scary and hard and frustrating, but they’ll be okay. I am feeling shame and guilt and dirtiness, but I’m glad it’s out in the open, and that makes me feel somewhat clean. Basically, I’m a bundle of swirling emotions, a lot of contradicting feelings, but I can finally sleep because things are gonna be okay. I am exhausted. Thank you Jesus for working though Todd and giving me strength to do this and the grace of forgiveness by you and them.”

My goodness, reading that back brings up a lot of memories and feelings. And I don’t think I have to say much about it. I think it really speaks for itself.

But I will leave you with just one thought. For the girls who are reading this: I cannot describe how truly freeing this was. How imperative it was for my recovery to share the darkness that was inside and to tell the truth about everything. I was letting the perfection go. I was taking off the mask. Revealing my brokenness, thus allowing it to begin to heal. Did actually doing it suck? Yes. Was it probably the scariest thing I’ve ever done? Yes. Even more scary than eating butter for the first time? Hell yes. But it was worth it. Once I let someone in and came clean to my parents, my entire recovery turned around. I finally felt that I was worth recovery. I felt loved. I felt forgiven. I felt determined to actually kick ED out of my life once and for all.

But I had to tell the truth. I battled with so many different feelings leading up to doing that. There were literally SO MANY REASONS, so many “What If’s” that made me feel that I shouldn’t come clean: “What if they hate me? What if they disown me? This darkness inside is too ugly for them to handle. I’ve let all the lies snowball into something so big that they will never forgive me. I’ll expose how broken I am. I’ll expose the horrible, worthless person I truly am. They’ll see through my act. They’ll know the despicable truth. Telling them would be a death sentence. They’ll know I’ve failed. I’ll actually be an utter disappointment.”

But what I realize now, is that all those “reasons” not to tell the truth are actually lies. They were lies being told to me by ED in order to selfishly and ruthlessly guard the eating disorder. Eating disorders thrive in deception – in the darkness. But once you bring it to the light, it doesn’t have power over you anymore. And hear me, sweet girl, when I say this: becoming vulnerable and exposing the truth does not make you a failure or weak, it makes you strong. It takes an enormous amount of courage and strength to tell the truth. It takes tremendous bravery to share your struggles. You will not be a disappointment. Your loved ones will be relieved that you came clean, and you will be free. And you deserve that freedom.

And one final thought (I promise!) for the parents reading this. I could not have asked for a more loving response from my parents when I did tell them the truth. That was so huge: receiving love and gentleness and forgiveness. This is step one in the healing process, and your response will dictate how she should expect the tone of recovery to be from here on out. If you respond with anger or disappointment, that communicates something grave to her, and teaches her that she cannot trust you with her vulnerabilities.

Hearing how she’s manipulated and lied to you is hard, but the things she’s told you are probably not “news” to you. You’ve probably suspected at least some of what she’s told you. But her telling you, shows that she wants to change: that she’s choosing life and choosing recovery. So fight the urge to be hurt or angry, and rather, accept her into open arms, for much like the prodigal son, your daughter, in choosing to tell the truth, is coming home. So put your finest robe on her and throw a party, because she has decided to enter the ring and fight the battle of her life.

And sure, that sounds good and swell on paper. But in reality, getting lied to sucks. It really does. And it’s really hard to think about being loving and forgiving to someone who you hardly recognize right now: who is manipulative, and throws food, locks herself in her bedroom, yells hurtful things, and has a meltdown when you even mention food or eating. Those wounds are very, very real, and will take time to heal. But you have to be the grown up and just absorb those hurts for the moment and look at the big picture. She needs this forgiveness right now more than ever. It sets the ball rolling for recovery and is essential to it.

Remember: your daughter is being controlled by her disordered thoughts and mindset. Her “old self” is in there somewhere, being suffocated, and hanging on for dear life. Your forgiveness gives her permission to forgive herself, which is the first step to loving herself, and setting her “old self” free. Choosing to come clean is a huge step in the right direction. So take heart, for with your love and support, she can, and will beat this. And her telling you the truth shows that she’s choosing to fight.

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Celebrate the Little Recovery Wins

Some serious #RealTalk here. And I hope to delicately approach some aspects of recovery by speaking the truth in love.

So without further ado:

ED recovery accounts on Instagram and other social media are a relatively new phenomena. (Shameless plug: my accounts are: Twitter @anarevealed and IG @anorexiarevealed2.) But this type of global engagement (literally) with other girls in recovery is something that just wasn’t around when I first adopted recovery. Now, I know that makes me sound ancient, but come on, it was only 2007! (Although I will say this…at the 2007 MTV VMA’s, Fergie beat Beyònce for best female artist, so just let that sink in.) But in 2007, Facebook was really all there was in terms of social media after I left inpatient. Twitter was only just catching on with the hipsters, and IG was nonexistent. So it’s been really interesting to see how young EDwarriors have been using these prorecovery accounts as accountability for their intake, as well as a vehicle of encouragement and support for/from others. I’d say 99.9% of the images posted are of meals and snacks along with captions with how the day is going and a “feelings check.” One of the most “hallowed” hashtags for these recovery accounts is “PintParty,” which accompanies the picture of the pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream that you eat by yourself in one sitting. #yesiateitall. This is a “#RecoveryWin” because you face a fear food, and celebrate it with your IG followers. Other hashtags are “FearFoodFriday,” “ChunkPorn” (for the much-loved chunks of chocolate in the highly revered Quest nutrition bars), or “FoodIsFuel,” etcetera, etcetera. You get the picture.

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But I’ve noticed something. And this is where the #RealTalk comes in. And remember this is coming from a place of love, not judgement. The good Lord above knows that my road of recovery has not been paved in gold. But I’ve noticed that for the most part, there are really only two categories of ED recovery accounts.

#1. There’s the accounts where there are #PintParties, and snaps of McDonald’s, and pizza, and candy, etc. Accounts where – at least from what is being broadcast – she has really dove head first into recovery and is tackling weight restoration head on. That’s the first group.

Or #2. Then there are the accounts where the meals are of rice cakes with just a scraping of peanut butter, or carrot sticks and exactly 2 Tbsp of hummus, or “Arctic Zero” nearly-calorie-free ice cream, or plain chicken with steamed vegetables and dry toast. Every serving size precisely measured to the gram. Nothing more. Nothing less. This category of sweet girls is trying. They want recovery, but they’re still being gripped with and controlled by fear. They’re unable to break out and fully adopt the foods that will actually make them restore their bodies.

Well, this post specifically goes out to that second group of ED fighters. Because if I’m being really honest with myself, I was a part of that second group for a long, long time, until my dad helped me fall in love with food again. (Which is coming up in a future post.)

I was taking a walk this afternoon at the park, (because I’ve learned how to exercise non-obsessively for enjoyment and not for punishment), and earlier this morning, there was a 5K race held there. So all along the racecourse, people had written messages in chalk for the runners. There were arrows pointing the directions for the course, how many miles to go, and little encouragements for the runners. One “encouragement” in particular hit me: it said, “FASTER!”

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And it stuck with me. I kept thinking about it as I was walking along, and I realized that I had a knee-jerk negative response to that message. And it’s because of this: The people reading that “FASTER” message were running in a race. And whether they were running it to get their fastest time, or simply just to finish, they were being pushed by others to go faster. As though, the pace they are going doesn’t meet expectations, or that the person who wrote that message believed that the racer could do better. And maybe I’m being a cotton-headed-ninny-muggins and reading too much into this…but hey, I was on a walk by myself and had time to reflect. But I just put myself in the racer’s shoes. Here I was, running the race, pushing myself, going as fast as I could, and I kept getting the message to GO FASTER. And that just didn’t sit quite well.

You see, recovery is like a race. It is not a sprint – it is a marathon. It is an every-day-for-the-rest-of-your-life commitment to choosing life and to nourishing your body, soul and spirit. And it is hard. It’s an endurance test. I mentioned in a previous post that recovery is more like a Tough Mudder. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of these extreme endurance challenges, but the Tough Mudder is a team-oriented, 12-mile obstacle course. When people finish up these insane tests of strength and perseverance, they’re covered head to toe in mud, soaking wet with sweat, physically exhausted and worn down…Yeah it’s more like that. Recovery is the hardest battle you’ll ever have to fight in your life. But you do it. Every day. So the thought that someone would be telling you to do recovery faster, or to do recovery better got me kinda wound up inside.

Just like every girl’s eating disorder and every girl’s “capital-L” Lie is different, so is her journey of recovery. Every girl’s road of recovery is different. The ultimate goal – the ultimate finish line – is the same, but the race will be run differently by all.

For some girls, yes, recovery is #PintParties and Big Macs, Frosty’s and chocolate. And that’s awesome. Truly. It makes me so genuinely excited and happy that some girls can tackle those fear foods right away and do that. So kudos to you. You’re an inspiration. Keep it up!

But for other girls, a #RecoveryWin is choosing to make her oatmeal in the morning with milk instead of water. Or a recovery win is choosing full fat yogurt over fat free. It’s choosing to eat 10 more almonds than yesterday. Having cheese on her sandwich. To her, those choices could be astronomical in significance. Or perhaps she had a little less guilt and anxiety sitting with the food in her stomach after a meal. Or she mindfully sat through the intense urge to exercise or purge, and didn’t. Perhaps she didn’t “body check” that day, or have as negative thoughts as the day before. These little things have great significance, and should be celebrated. And so for her, those little wins could be just as meaningful as eating an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s, maybe even more.

For her, these are the little things that should be celebrated – rejoiced in, even. Because here’s why: Even though the progress is slow, she is choosing life. She is consciously fighting back against ED and making the decision to choose recovery. She’s just still full of fear. Because it is scary. Recovery’s a bit like jumping out of an airplane and praying that the parachute will open. But the fact that she’s decided to take the journey should be celebrated and rejoiced in.

So for the girls reading this, I’ll just leave you with this one final thought: never compare your recovery with anyone else’s. Just because you’re not posting #PintParty pictures, or fast food porn, doesn’t mean that you’re failing or that you’re not good enough. Do I hope that one day you can enjoy a pint of ice cream and be at that point in recovery? Absolutely. But never discredit the tremendous strength and courage it took to say “yes” to recovery and to break the ED cycle and decide to nourish your body and fight back against the voice of ED.

When you hear the voice of ED tell you that you’re not worth recovery, that you’re not good enough, that you’re destined to fail, that you’re recovery should be going FASTER, or that it’s not as good as so-and-so’s recovery, remember: those are lies. You’re a warrior. And I want to cheer from the mountain tops for you when you choose to add a yolk to your egg scramble, or cheese to your sandwich, because I know how scary that seems, and how big of a deal it was to do that. So keep going. Keep fighting.

And here’s the last thing. Fighting back against ED is a muscle. And every time you have a “recovery win,” no matter how big or small, you’re strengthening that muscle. And the more you strengthen it, the easier fighting ED gets. And it will keep getting easier, until one day, a #PintParty will become a reality, and you can celebrate with your fellow EDwarriors on IG.

Recovery is a long journey, and although Instagram can sometimes make it feel like a race, or competition, remember: you’re doing the best you can. And that’s good enough. You’re good enough. And you don’t have to cross the finish line first – you just have to cross it. So when you receive messages along the racetrack telling you to go FASTER, just keep your eye on the finish line, and do the best you can. Do the next right thing. It’s not a race. It’s an endurance test. Some days you’ll sprint, others you’ll crawl, but the important thing is to finish the race. Don’t worry about how fast others are going around you. Focus on you. On your recovery. One day at a time. And don’t forget to celebrate and rejoice in the little recovery wins.

Just Have a Damn Beer

As I sit here at 2:30 am on a Friday night, a little tipsy after a fun-filled night of beer and “pub grub” with my friends, I am reminded of how grateful I am to be in recovery, and how this is how life is supposed to be. How life is supposed to be filled with belly laughs, smiles, spontaneous adventures, and FUN! Beer is FUN, ladies and gentlemen! Seriously, I feel like if, at inpatient, they switched out the Ensure in our NG tubes with beer, just for a day, many eating disorders could be cured, or at least a lot easier to get through! Because, face it: Alcohol is fun, and it eases the perfectionist/OCD thinking, ya know what I mean?! Plus, it is just fun to get a little tipsy now and then — not drunk off your face, but just giggly. Good, old-fashioned, clean fun. (Actually on second thought, that whole NG beer tube thing is a horrible, horrible idea. Kind of 😉 )

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But I digress. Beer and I have quite the history. Let’s just say our Facebook Relationship Status would be “It’s Complicated.” Back in high school when I was in my eating disorder, perfection was my measuring stick. My Lie was that in order to have worth, or in order to be worthy of love, I had to be perfect. So naturally, this extended to all areas of my life. At this same time, all my friends started drinking alcohol. But being the perfectionist I was, there was no way in hell that I was going to drink a beer underage, let alone consume the calories in beer and get fat. No way, Josè. Not this girl. I was going to be perfect. Unattainable. Unstained. Beer was beneath me. (I’m literally SMH in disgust at my former self right now). Anyway, since all the social activities now involved beer and partying, I felt so isolated and outcast. And with the eating disorder starting to take hold, I began to withdraw.

Part of me often wonders what would have happened if I would have just had a f#cking beer like everybody else in high school. Would I have developed anorexia? Would I still be struggling with thoughts of inadequacy today? What would have happened if I would have just decided not to get straight A’s and relaxed the whole, “perfection thing?” I know that’s not really something that you can just turn off, like “Oh hey, let me just flip the perfection switch to the ‘Off’ position.” Because I know that was inside of me whether I wanted it to be or not.

But if I just had a damn beer. Seriously. Because with the beer came the friends. With the beer came the engagement and interaction with others, and the acceptance of my friends. I was never judging my friends for drinking. Quite the contrary. But I think they felt that I was, or that I thought I was better than them because I didn’t drink. And if I’m being really brutally honest with myself, I probably did give off a bit of that air: “Thou filthy drink shalt not pass my porcelain lips.” But I just couldn’t do it. The perfectionist in me wouldn’t allow myself to “drink with the masses.”

I would go to my friends’ parties only to be greeted by my friends in their bras and jeans, playing strip pool, while others had sex in the back room. That may sound outrageous, but that was the culture at my public high school. Parents need to remember that this isn’t “Mayberry” in the 1950’s. Today’s teens are from the post-Clinton scandal. They “go hard.” But anyway, being in that scene, I felt like an outsider. That wasn’t me. And so, I stopped going to those parties, withdrew from my friends, and eventually my eating disorder became the only friend I needed. And ED was a stage-five clinger. He was my best friend. The only one I needed. And in time, the only one I wanted.

But back to the beer. If I could go back in time and say one thing to my pre-ED self, it would be this: “Just have a damn beer. It’ll be okay.”

Now, to be clear, I am not condoning underage drinking. And I don’t mean, “Have a beer and have sex and play strip pool like everybody else.” No. What I mean is, “Just relax. Don’t be so uptight.” (Boy, do I sound like a peer pressure/bullying stereotype or what?!) But in all seriousness, having a beer to fit in socially isn’t going to make the sky fall. Break the rules a little. You don’t have to be perfect.

So tonight, as I sit here with beer in my tummy, I rejoice in the victory of recovery. I revel in just how blessed I am to have supportive friends in my life that love me, and want to share a drink with me. I think about the grave significance this silly beverage has had on my life. And I think about journey that I’ve been on, and how, with this beer tonight, it has come full circle.

“Just have a damn beer.”

Living in a Triggering World

There is a universal truth that all women know to be true: Our culture is obsessed with thinness. Ask literally any woman, eating disorder history or not, and she will tell you the pressures that society places on her to be “pretty enough,” “thin enough,” “sexy enough.” Watch any television program, and the female lead will always be a beautiful, rail-thin woman with perfect skin, hair and teeth. Then, during the commercial breaks of said program, every other ad will be for either a beauty product or a weight loss program. We are fed the message that as women, our worth comes from our outward appearance, and we are only desirable — we are only good enough — if we match the media’s air brushed image of beauty.

Those pressures and messages are hard enough for a woman without an eating disorder to be bombarded with day in and day out.

For a woman with an eating disorder in her past, these messages and images are beyond difficult to face. They are, in a word, triggering.

“Triggering” refers to something, whether it’s an image, or a comment, a behavior someone else is doing, -anything really- that stirs up the voice of ED in her head, and makes her have to, in that moment, consciously choose recovery and fight off her instinct to fall back into ED behaviors.

Triggers are one of the hardest aspects of recovery. Why? Because they are everywhere. I remember one night in college, post-relapse, when I was actually recovered, my entire sorority was over at the house and everyone was watching the Victoria’s Secret fashion show. I just couldn’t do it. I made an excuse and had to get up and leave. I couldn’t watch unnaturally thin models parade around in underwear, while listening to my sorority sisters proclaim that they’re not eating for 3 days, or how fat they are, or how they need to go to the gym, or that their juice fast starts tomorrow. I could feel ED’s strength growing with every minute I was sitting there, and I just had to leave.

That’s another one. Juice Cleanses. For lack of a better phrase, “I can’t even,” with juice fasts. For a split second, I look at them longingly, and then immediately realize that those thoughts are coming from ED.

Weight loss commercials, yeah that’s obvious. Fast food “porn” as I like to call it, sure that’s one too.

But I’d like to talk about a couple triggers that don’t often get talked about as much, and are not as obvious.

First: Idiotic Comments Made By Moronic People

Ok, maybe I’m coming on a little bit too strong here. But there will come a time when you’re in recovery, when you’ll run into someone who you haven’t seen since you were drastically emaciated. You’re in recovery, restoring your weight, and this amazingly smart person will say something along the lines of, “Wow, you’ve gained weight!” Seriously? This is just…I just…Way to point out the obvious, buddy! Clearly, I am recovering from anorexia, and I have some serious body image issues, as in, I hate my body, so thank you for twisting the knife, good sir!

Another thing people will say, is “Oh, you look great!” Or, “Oh, you look so healthy!” Or, “Oh, you look so much better now!” And I get it, people are trying to be nice, be supportive, they don’t really know how to address the obvious change…I get it, I really do. But my goodness, this is one that ED really likes to use to get a foothold in her mind. You see, these comments usually come when she first comes home from inpatient. So chances are, she will most likely not be at her target weight yet. She will most likely still be in weight restoration. So she will panic when she hears that she looks healthy, that she looks great, because she still has more weight to go. This was a huge one for me. When I got back from inpatient, I still had to gain 15 pounds to reach to the very bottom of my weight range. Fifteen pounds that I was absolutely petrified of. So when I heard that I looked “great,” this is how my ED-filled brain heard those comments: “Oh, you look like a normal, fat, American teenager now. Just think, when you do gain these 15 pounds, you’re going to be a disgusting, obese whale! Nice knowin’ ya, fat ass. [evil laugh]”

Secondly: Idiotic Jokes Made By Insensitive Moronic People

I can’t tell you how angry this one makes me. Anorexia is a disease. A mental illness. Not the butt end of an insensitive joke. I saw a meme on the Internet of a morbidly obese person wearing a t-shirt that said, “I Beat Anorexia.” I mean, get real buddy. Girls die from anorexia. I almost did. And you know what, those who don’t die, end up struggling every. single. day with their body image. So yeah, I’m sure those heroic warriors who survived such a terrible disease would really appreciate their weight restoration being mocked.

Along the same lines, are people publicly making light of your disease. I had a UC doctor once – I’ve since changed after this incident – and it was the first time I had seen him since my recovery. So clearly, I looked different. I last saw him when I was 78 pounds. So yeah, I look like a different girl, thank God. So he walks into our exam room, (I was with my mom), and he goes, “Oh my Gawd, look at you! The difference a year makes! Remember last time you were here and you weren’t eating?! I see you’ve found McDonalds!” I mean, you couldn’t have scripted a more jackass response. Seriously. I mean, I was not fat. I was 103 pounds for crying out loud! I still had weight restoration to go, and you’re telling me I freaking found McDonalds?!

Next, food policing by parents.

This is a big one. And it’s hard to hear, I know, but this is her recovery. She is the one who has to choose to nourish her body everyday. And when you make a comment about what she is or isn’t eating, it sends her back to the dark place, and can make her re-engage in ED behaviors. Now, yes, when she first gets back from inpatient you will need to keep an eye on her intake. And if you see her skipping meals, or not following her meal plan and eating only egg whites and carrot sticks, then, yes, you should address the issue. But this is her recovery and she needs to learn to be accountable to herself.

Lastly, and this is the biggest for me, are environmental triggers.

Now what do I mean by that? Well, sadly, it’s any place or setting, or piece of clothing that reminds you of your eating disorder. In completely transparency, my hometown is one big reminder of my eating disorder. My bedroom, with its full length mirror that I used to scrutinize my body and keep my weight graph on; the parks and the nature preserve where I would sneak out to power walk; different gas stations where I would throw away my Ensure drinks; my car that I would use to speed off to “get away” from my parents; any food that was part of my regimen: (I’m looking’ at you, White Label Albacore Chunk Low Sodium Light Tuna in water, Carnation Instant Breakfasts, & Kashi GoLean instant oatmeal). Seeing those foods now send chills down my spine. I literally never will eat canned tuna again. Too many horrid memories. My high school, the tanning bed salon, the grocery story, my neighborhood where I would take walks – all these bring up horrible memories. Brutal reminders of the eating disorder literally followed me around everywhere I went. Even relationships with certain people can be triggering, and yes, you may have to distance yourself from some people to protect and guard your recovery.

So what’s the best way to deal with these triggers. For me, I have to fill my mind and my heart completely with God. I go to Mass every day, listen to Christian music and podcasts throughout the day. If I am every confronted with a trigger, I take a deep breath and try to see myself the way God sees me: as his precious daughter. Or, you could adopt a phrase that is the contradiction to The Lie that fed your ED. Breathe and think, “I am enough.” “I am worthy.” “I am loved.”

What do I do? Take the negative emotion that is stirred up by the trigger, and turn it into gratitude. That sounds a little strange, so I’ll say it again. I take whatever fear, anxiety, anger, or breath-catching panic that the trigger stirs up, and I turn it into gratitude. I say to myself, “Thank you for how far I’ve come.” “Thank you for delivering me out of that pit of darkness where I was truly dead. I am grateful that I am now living abundantly and am not imprisoned and shackled by my eating disorder. I am grateful for life. I am grateful to be free.” And in doing that, I remember just how broken I was, how truly alive I am now, and how precious my recovery is, and that it is worth guarding. “I am stronger than this trigger because You give me strength.”

But one of the biggest ways I have protected my recovery, is that I have removed myself from the triggering environment. I have not lived in my hometown since my recovery. I now live in New York City. I have created a new life for myself with new relationships (and old ones too), a new parish, new goals – a new environment conducive to thriving. And honestly, it’s really hard, because my family still lives in my hometown and I miss them terribly. But I have to protect my recovery. I have to be diligent. And recovery has to come first.

I’ve placed myself in an environment where I know I will succeed. Not succeed in the, “perfectionist, gotta-achieve, always-striving-higher” mindset, but succeed in – beating ED, staying in remission, reclaiming my life. I’ve surrounded myself in an environment where I have a dream to chase and healthy goals to go after. I’m surrounded by amazing new friends who are supportive and healthy themselves. I’ve got an active involvement in my neighborhood church, and most importantly, I’m away from the triggers of my hometown. I explain it to my family, that when I’m home, I feel this overwhelming shadow follow me around. I needed to break out of that crumbled, desolate wreckage -the aftermath of the storm of my ED,- and embrace a new place where I had a clean slate. A fresh start. An environment where I could not just survive, but thrive.

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At the end of the day, no matter where you go, triggers will be popping up everywhere. And they’ll knock the wind out of ya, if you let them. But I’ve learned to persevere by keeping my focus on Jesus, remembering that His love gives me total healing. He is filled with so much joy when I surrender and place my fears and anxieties at the foot of His cross, and just allow Him to love me. For when I’m showered in His love, the negative rain of triggers can’t hurt me.

For Parents

First things first: I want to give you a hug. What you’re going through, I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Every day you put on armor to go into battle, and I know, it’s exhausting. It’s scary. It’s exasperating. It’s heartbreaking. For lack of a better word, it just sucks.

I was recently talking with my mom about her experience, watching me go through my eating disorder, and I realized in talking with her, just how truly terrible it is for the loved ones. Here are some of the things I took away from that talk.

“One of the most painful things about watching your daughter [or son] go through an eating disorder, is that you don’t know who your child is anymore.”

Growing up, my mom and I had the type of relationship that is depicted in Hallmark movies. We were best friends. Inseparable – Joined at the hip, doing everything together. She was my hero. I wanted to be just like her. We spent so much time together. We would take a walk every evening, talking about life. And then as though that wasn’t enough, she’d tuck me in for bed every night and lie in my bed for 30 minutes, and we’d talk and laugh and pray. We took mother/daughter trips together. We took cooking classes. Went to seminars together. She was a preschool teacher and I’d come over every day after school and be an assistant in her classroom. We were BFF’s.

But when I developed my anorexia, that all came to a screeching halt. As I got more and more entrenched in my disease, and more and more deceitful with the lying and manipulation, I severed ties with all the relationships in my life, going into what I like to call, “frantic isolation“. Not isolation where I barricaded myself in my room, (although I did do that, but only to secretly exercise). But frantic isolation, where I had to stay busy – by myself. I was constantly running here, running there, running errands, sneaking off to take power walks, etc. Communication stopped, cold turkey. Our only interaction was when there would be a blow up about food, or calories, or treatment, or where to go from here. And my mom withdrew. She couldn’t watch me eat, as she couldn’t watch me “self destruct.” So she withdrew. She spent a lot of time in her room. She went to church to pray for me every night. And as my weight dropped and dropped, she came to terms with the fact that I would die. You see, my mom knew all along that I had an eating disorder. I was “fooling” everyone, including my father, that the weight loss and the inability to gain weight were due to my Ulcerative Colitis. And as I said, it did start out as that, but then the anorexia took hold. But my mom knew all along that it was anorexia, and not Ulcerative Colitis. And she knew that there was nothing she could do to make me get better. She knew that it was up to me to choose life. That it was up to me to beat the eating disorder.

And that’s where the overwhelming feeling of helplessness comes in. That was one of the more resounding themes echoed by my mom, dad, brothers, friends — Everyone felt this utter sense of helplessness. That they were completely out of control. They were watching me waste away to nothing, yet there was absolutely nothing they could do. They couldn’t get me to eat anything that wasn’t “approved.” They couldn’t get me to talk about what was going on. They couldn’t get me to go to treatment. They couldn’t break me out of the deathly cycle I had gotten my self trapped in. Their hands were tied, because try as they might, I was the one that had to do it.

“And there was a tremendous life-or-death desperation.”

If you’re reading this, that probably hits pretty close to home. You’re watching your child spiral out of control, every day wasting away a little more and more. You’re desperate. You bring her to the hospital, and they monitor her vitals, “pump her with Ensure” and then discharge her two days later. Nothing solved. “But at least we bought her a little more time. We staved off death.” But then, once she’s home, the eating disorder rages even harder than before. You’ve taken her to doctor after doctor, therapist after therapist, nutritionist after nutritionist, but even IOP outpatient isn’t working. Maybe she’s one way to her therapist, but you know the real face of the eating disorder, and it’s not what she’s presenting to the professionals. Maybe you check on her in the middle of the night to make sure she’s still breathing, like my parents did. You’re desperate. And everyday you gear up for battle, facing tantrum after explosive blow up, over small things that to her are insurmountable. This is a dark time, and it is all-consuming, for all involved.

“I didn’t know who you were. You were lying to me. Manipulating me. There was no trust. And I was taking the brunt of your anger and aggression. Who was this girl?”

Getting lied to, eating disorder or not, just hurts. There is such a lack of trust when it comes to eating disorders, it’s gut wrenching. Face it; you can’t take your daughter’s word for anything. She’s sneaking exercise. She’s getting rid of food. She’s not eating what she said she did. At inpatient I heard so many “tricks” from girls about how they “got away with” this and that. I won’t go into too much detail, but it involves socks, and plastic baggies in undergarments. Use your imagination. But the cold hard truth of the matter is that trust is nonexistent.

But my mom was smart. She revealed this to me just the other day, about her “game plan” back then. Even though she couldn’t/didn’t have trust in me, she wanted to make sure that I maintained my trust in her. Now, that’s a little hard to grasp, but it vitally important, as I realize now, so I’m gonna say it again:

My mom didn’t and couldn’t trust me, because my ED was lying to and images-3manipulating her. But she knew that if I was ever going to recover, and if our relationship was ever going to heal, I had to be able to trust my mom, so she made sure that I maintained my trust in her.

That’s one of the main reasons why my mom withdrew from everyone. You see, my mom went radio silent with her friends, our neighbors, my friends’ moms – everyone – about what was going on with me. She didn’t talk to anyone about me, or what I was going through. No Facebook statuses, no prayer requests, no email blasts. Nothing. That’s why she went to church every day – because she needed to pour out her fears and anxiety, and just talk to someone about the hell that she was going though, so she talked to God. And the fact that she wasn’t talking about me to any of our friends was seriously so important, because whether I knew it at the time or not, the trust stayed intact. This made communication lines stay open when I slowly began healing and started talking, because I knew that she was a “safe space.” I knew that she was trustworthy. I knew that she would not betray me to anyone when I was at my most vulnerable.

And I asked her why she did this? It’s so counter intuitive – when you’re in need, that’s what friends are for – to listen to your troubles and shoulder the load with you. Especially in this day and age with Facebook, and Internet support groups, a listening ear is easily attainable. But like I said, my mom was smart:

“I knew it was not my story to tell. And I knew that if you were ever going to trust me again, if there was any hope that we could get back to the way we once were, I had to be someone you could trust.”

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And here’s what I want for you to take away from this post: You can get back to the way you once were. I know right now, all you know is that your child is a shell of who she once was, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. She’s blatantly lying to you. She’s manipulating you. She’s spewing rage and anger. She’s manic in her behaviors. She’s isolated. Depressed. Perhaps even suicidal. She’s out of control. You’re out of control.

This is where inpatient comes in. Not outpatient, not intensive outpatient, but inpatient. Because the fact is, she can’t beat this eating disorder on her own, and sadly, you can’t do it for her. And with outpatient, she’s still in her environment, where there are triggers, stresses, and distractions (hello: internet, cell phones, and skinny-obsessed media outlets like TV, movies and radio). Plus, with outpatient, she’s still able to exercise control. With outpatient, you, the parent, are placed in the role of enforcer. You have to be the police. The bad guy. Not only is that exceedingly unfair to you, but also – she knows how to manipulate you. There can’t be any, “Okayyy, if you just eat half of it.” Or, “Okayyy, just two more bites and you can go.” No. To beat this disease, it is ALL OR NOTHING. No compromises. No gray area. Because ED dwells in the compromises. ED preys on your daughter by shaving off just a little bit here, and a little bit there. She needs the Gestapo to enforce her meal plan and her recovery. You should not be placed in that position: It’s not good for you or her.

You see, inpatient completely strips you of control. As I mentioned in this post, they take every ounce of control, and take it away. For three meals and three snacks, you sit at a table with 4 other girls and two nurses who are table monitors. They make sure that she eats every bite and scrapes the plate clean – literally. They make sure that she is not hiding food, that she is not exhibiting disordered eating habits, like pushing food around on her plate, eating with too many condiments, eating too slowly or too quickly, eating food in patterns, drinking too much liquid with her meal, etc. They know how to handle breakdowns, they know how to relieve anxiety. Sound like a headache to be responsible for all that? Yeah. That’s why they’re professionals.

And there’s no compromise. At outpatient, you can get by without conquering fear foods. “OK, honey, you don’t want butter on that toast? Okayyy, I’m just glad you’re eating the toast.” No. At inpatient, it’s “No, you’re eating the toast, with the butter, and if you don’t then you have to drink the calorically equivalent amount of Ensure.” Plus, if you pull that stunt at inpatient, you’ll be taken off of “privileges” and not be allowed to walk anywhere, but instead be driven around in a golf cart. At inpatient, there are no mirrors to “body check” her reflection, like she does roughly 10 times or more a day in her bedroom. At inpatient, there’s no bedroom door to close so that she can do crunches or jumping jacks. At inpatient, they flush the toilets for her so that she can’t engage in bulimic behaviors. Not to mention, inpatient is actually a hospital, so they take her vitals three times a day to make sure her organs don’t shut down suddenly due to the shock to her system of metabolizing food, or God-forbid that she go into Re-Feeding Syndrome. Like I said in my earlier posts, inpatient didn’t cure me of my anorexia, but it did save my life. I got the weight (mostly) on. And to be fair, I do think it planted the seeds for my total recovery. The thing was, I wasn’t ready for recovery yet when I went. I still wanted my eating disorder – I wasn’t truly ready to give it completely up yet, which is why I relapsed. But it did save my life.

Sorry about that rant/tangent, but back to my mom and her wisdom to keep my trust. Healing will come. It is a long road and a difficult process, but healing will come. And when that day arrives, having your daughter’s trust intact will make all the difference in the world.

I am happy to say that my mom and my relationship is better than ever. She’s still my best friend. I can talk to her about anything. And to be completely honest, I think the whole situation brought us closer. They say that that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and there’s actually a lot of truth in that. Through healing therapy we were able to open up about some things that probably would have never been “unpacked” otherwise. I think the biggest thing though is that we both have this shared hell that we both endured and overcame. There’s a mutual respect, and for me, there’s an overwhelming sense of gratitude for her forgiveness and her willingness to love me, despite the pain I caused her, and despite the fact that I had broken her trust.

You are in the midst of a storm right now. But there will come a day when you have the daughter you know back, and she will be stronger for getting through and beating this. And you will be stronger. And your relationship will have been reinforced by a situation where all parties were tried, and triumphed. But first, she needs to beat this disease. She needs to expel the voice of ED that is dictating her eating disorder, and she needs to claim recovery. But you can’t do that for her. Only she can. Only she can decide to get better. Inpatient can help: she just needs to get there…one way or another.

For the Hard Days in Recovery

As I mentioned in my last post, in every girl’s recovery, there will come a time known as The Moment. It is the moment when she realizes that her body is actually filling out; and it is in this Moment that she literally becomes paralyzed with fear and freaks out that she is going to get fat.

“Oh, but that’s not my little girl. She’s stronger than that. She’s so committed to recovery, there’s no way she’ll have those thoughts.”

First of all, there is so much wrong with that statement, I don’t even know where to begin, and frankly, I don’t want to veer off onto a tangent….but…just headlines: She needs to not be treated like a “little girl” because part of her disease may be a way to avoid growing up. Secondly, saying that she’s “stronger than that” or “better than that” a) places her value and worth on an accomplishment or achievement, and b) it places an impossible expectation on her (because struggles are real in recovery). Lastly, by you having pride on her “accomplishments,” and arrogantly (sorry!) dismissing the notion of weakness sends her the message that vulnerability is unacceptable. That if she struggles (which she will) or slips up (which she will), that she is an utter disappointment. I know, that is not the message that you are intending to send, but that is how her brain construes that statement. You have to remember, even though she is in recovery, the Voice of ED is still in there – she is just starting to become stronger than it. But statements like that fuel ED and his way of manipulating messages. ED twists it so that it feeds right back into her Lie that she is unworthy, unlovable, a burden, unwanted, etc., which then feeds into her guilt and shame, and now you see, we’re back at square one. Sorry for the total tangent there, but it needed to be said.

Okay. Back to The Moment in her recovery where she feels that she is at her absolute end of the line of weight restoration. That Moment when she freaks out that gaining any more and she will be fat.

So how did get past my “Capital M” Moment?

I was scared. I was so terrified. I wanted recovery so badly, but I was so petrified of the last 20 pounds. I wrote in my journal:

“I’m still at —-. I have 20 more pounds to go and I am so scared. I really like how my body has changed, and I am just nervous and weary of how it will be at the end of my stay [at inpatient.] And I feel like such a disappointment and that I let everyone down because I’m scared. I feel like a failure.”

So what did I do?

To take a quote from my inpatient journal, “Well, I guess I just am going to have to tighten my jock strap and just f#cking do it.”

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No, but seriously, here’s what I did. It was a two-step process. And instead of me trying to paraphrase, I thought I’d let the words come directly from my journal at the time.

First, I poured out all my fears to God. And I wrote down the prayer in my journal. Here it goes:

“Dear Lord, I come before you tonight and Lord, I just want to crawl in your lap because I feel like a vulnerable little child. Lord, please comfort me. I am so scared to gain this weight. Lord, I want to be healed of this so badly, I am just so insecure with myself and I feel like I have to be perfect. Lord, please help me see myself through Your eyes and help me to accept Your love for me and believe it and embrace it. Please give me peace through the Holy Spirit. Calm my heart and mind and please heal me Lord. You are the only way I can get through this. Please give me the strength and perseverance.”

So that was step one. The second part is what will perhaps come a little more easily. I GOT MAD. I let out my wrath on ED and what he had robbed me of.

I mean, not just like, “Jeez, I’ve been on hold with Time Warner for 45 minutes”- mad, but like, enraged-mad. Get so mad that your eyes are blurry with venom and your whole body is shaking in fury. Like, seriously get your heart rate up.

Again, I wrote down my irate episode. (Side note: I don’t know why I was so candid with my journal. Perhaps it was because I was at inpatient with no phone, TV, radio, Internet, or computer. Hmmm)

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A little context here: I wrote this at inpatient on what would have been my high school graduation. (I mentioned this in this post about my intervention to get me to inpatient and miss graduation)

IMG_8266“I am angry. Today I felt real anger because ED (who is really Satan) has robbed me of my life. He takes everything I love doing and twists my thinking on it. He manipulated and lied to me and as a result I manipulated and blatantly lied to the people I love and care about. And that F#CKING PISSES ME OFF. Satan used this ED and the things I love as a foothold in my life. The real me does not like manipulating people. Satan has been feeding me lies. He has been feeding me disgusting thoughts and manipulating me. He would torture me by making me have to go to ShopRight and walk past all the food and feel the need to burn calories. He was choosing me as a target because the Lord has blessed me and Satan knows that God could and will use me for His work and he felt threatened by that and so that’s why he picked on me. And he wanted nothing less than to kill me and he almost did. He made me not go to youth group or get close to Luke Rowfronter. I couldn’t look Luke in the eye at the intervention, just like I couldn’t look mom or my therapist in the eye, because Jesus was in their hearts. Satan was controlling me. In the name of Jesus I command Satan out of my life. Get out you f#cking devil. You have manipulated my life for too long. Jesus: fill the dwelling place in my heart that was once occupied by ED and fill it with the Holy Spirit. Satan get out of my life. I BANISH YOU TO THE FIRES OF HELL! Wow. That felt really good. From now on, God will control my life and I WILL NOT BE ED’S PRISONER!”

Re-reading that brings me back to a very interesting place. I can remember exactly where I was. I can remember the ache in my hand after scribbling so furiously in my notebook. I remember trying to catch my breath after writing that, gasping for air like I had just run a race. That anger, that rage: It was freeing. It was refreshing. It was healing.

IMG_8265I made a list of all the things that my anorexia — ED– had robbed me from. ED robbed me of my relationships. Of my determination to chase my dreams. ED robbed me of my happiness. ED robbed me of my senior year. Of my graduation. ED robbed me of my bedtime conversations with my mom. Robbed me of school. Robbed me of my body going through puberty, the ability to have children, the desire for a boyfriend. ED robbed me of family time and family dinners. ED took the attention away from my brother and his wife at their wedding. ED robbed me of my physical appearance: I became skeletal, with osteoporosis as an 18-year-old girl. ED made all my hair fall out. ED ROBBED ME OF LIFE.

The next thing I did the following day, was I took that anger and ran with it. Eating became a way for me to stick up my middle finger and flip ED the “bird.” Every bite I took, I took with a vengeance. It was my way of reclaiming my life, reclaiming what was stolen from me, and taking revenge on ED, or Satan, who tried to take my life away from me. That’s how I pushed through my Moment. I did it through getting so pissed off at ED that I was going to get better just to spite him. And if I’m being totally honest, I would sometimes even utter an “F-Bomb” to ED every now and then when I was facing a seemingly insurmountable snack, or an increase of supplement, and it felt good. It felt good to retaliate against that demon.

Part of the reason why I think the anger felt so good, and that recognizing (in rage) all the things that ED had robbed me from, was that, in doing so, I was remembering all the things about pre-anorexia me. I was remembering the old me – the girl who is in there somewhere, being suffocated by the eating disorder. By realizing all the things ED took away, you take an inventory of all you used to be. “Oh, yeah, that’s right! I was an excellent performer, and I did have the dream of being on Broadway. ED took away that passion in my life.” Or, “I forgot about how my friends and I used to watch the OC every Thursday night and eat popcorn and laugh and have fun. ED made it so I avoided going – or even answering the phone – because I was too wrapped up in my eating disorder.” Or, “Oh yeah. I remember how I used to actually have a passion for dancing, until the day ED made it so the only thing I saw in the mirror was how my body compared to the other dancers.” By listing what ED robbed me of, I had a revelation of who I was before anorexia dictated my life.

Recovery is a long process. And yes, there will still be days where getting angry at ED, and drawing on the strength from Above still isn’t enough to kick the disordered thoughts. And if we’re being really honest, there will be days when she actually misses her eating disorder. Sad, but true. And it’s on those days, where she has to remember the darkness that she was in, and how far she’s come. She rose from the ashes, and has overcome too much to turn back now. It is a day-by-day process. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Day by day. Meal by meal. Bite by bite. Until one day, the load on her shoulders won’t seem quite as heavy, and she’ll look and see she’s on the other side.

The Truth About Weight Restoration

As I’ve mentioned before, anorexia is not about the weight. It’s about the Lie that is feeding her eating disorder, and causing her such intense self-hatred, which manifests itself in eating disorder behaviors. And that true healing comes only when that Lie – that Voice of ED – is silenced and replaced with the Truth: that she is loved. That she is good. That she’s not worthless and not a burden. That’s where true recovery takes place.

But let’s get down to brass tacks: Weight Restoration. It’s a hush hush topic in the recovery community because it is so triggering and, let’s be honest, you don’t want to talk about weight gain with girls who are terrified of that notion, and that you’re trying to convince to get treatment. But let’s face it: treatment and recovery require weight restoration.

After truly adopting recovery, two things were very apparent in my journals:

  • #1) I truly – on a conceptual level – understood that my Lie was false. I conceptually “got” that I was loved, that I was not a burden, that I was forgiven. And I truly did want freedom from being controlled by my anorexia.
  • #2) I was petrified of the weight gain after a certain point. I was horrified of putting on all of the weight once I was approaching my weight range. I would do anything not to put on those last 15 pounds. I was paralyzed with fear.

So it’s a conundrum. I wanted recovery so badly. I had such a strong desire to kick the Eating Disorder. But even stronger than that desire, was my fear of the final weight gain.

You see, when you’re so depleted, and are so severely underweight, your body feeds off of its own muscle to make up for the lack of nourishment you’re giving it. That’s why your legs and arms get so skeletal: because your muscles are literally deteriorating. But here’s the thing that people forget: your organs are muscles too. So, yes, you notice your arms and legs wasting away – your organs are too. That’s why you lose your period: because your reproductive organs are shutting down. That’s why your digestive system gets messed up. That’s why your circulation is poor. And that’s why girls die from anorexia: Because her heart is a muscle, and it shuts down.

So, those first few weeks when you’re re-feeding your body, the nourishment rebuilds the most important muscles first: The majority of the nutrients are going to your organs. So the girl actually doesn’t see much in the way of physical bodily change for that first week or so. She’s gaining a few pounds, but doesn’t look as though she is. It’s not scary yet. Then, with slow weight restoration (which is best for a number of reasons), the changes in her body are gradual, and she’s able to start to accept the changes. I even liked the changes!

But then, there comes The Moment. It is The Moment when she begins to look at the progress she’s made, and the changes in her body, and freaks out. She is petrified of going any further in recovery for fear of getting fat.

You see, she suffers from such a distorted body image: literally all she’s seen and meticulously – obsessively – scrutinized in the mirror during her ED, were bones and an emaciated, skeletal frame. And she honestly saw her reflection as fat. You see, her inner self-hatred is projected onto how she sees herself in the mirror. She views her insides as so ugly and dark, that all she sees in the mirror is hideousness and a distorted image of herself. For me, it was the area under my belly button. That was literally all I could see when I looked in the mirror. I was a gaunt, skeletal, 78 pound shell of a girl, yet all I could see was a “pooch” on my gut. Those were my intestines. Not a pooch! But my brain couldn’t comprehend that. That was the degree of my body dysmorphia. So, going from that extreme, to having put on a little over 15 pounds, she feels huge, and internally (or externally) has a melt down.

That’s why it was good for me to be in inpatient: because I would have figured out a way to thwart the weight gain otherwise. But I digress. The Moment comes –and it will come- when she is terrified that she is going to get fat.

Well. I’d like to debunk a couple myths about weight restoration.

MYTH #1: You will be fat and disgusting when you hit your target weight range.

This is so false. The dietitians are not “out to get you” or make you fat. They’re not. They’ve figured out what your healthy range is for your height and body type, and are not going to let you get fat. You will still be very thin. You’re used to seeing an emaciated version of yourself. And #realtalk: that version is scary. Really scary. As in, it makes people uncomfortable. And oh yeah, you will die if you keep it up, so there’s that too. But in all seriousness, you will not be fat when you get in your weight range. It’s a range for a reason: the low end is lower and the high end is higher. You can choose.

MYTH #2: Once I get my weight restored, I have to stop eating all these delicious foods that I’ve now come to love, because I will balloon up to the size of a whale and keep gaining indefinitely.

Again, this is so false. So, so very false. The human body is an amazing machine. Truly incredible. It takes what you feed it, and uses the nutrients to repair your body, and the rest, it gets rid of! Your body has a “natural resting point” in weight. It’s what your body naturally wants to weigh when you are nourishing it and not restricting. And that natural resting point is not fat. Trust your body. It is amazing how it can process food. Even ice cream and dessert and other “fear” foods. Metabolism is a beautiful thing. Trust that it will keep your body in fine form.

Further to this, you have (hopefully) been restoring weight by eating a normal diet, with the addition of supplements for the weight gain. The actual food that you are digesting is not what is making you gain weight: the supplements are. Therefore, when you reach your weight range, all you have to do is stop the supplements and you’ll be golden. The normal diet is not what is making you gain weight – including dessert. Dessert is part of a part of a balanced diet where one maintains his or her weight. So no, you do not have to stop eating the foods you love simply because you’re in maintenance and not in restoration anymore. Just the supplements.

Weight restoration is the nitty gritty of eating disorder recovery. It is where the rubber meets the road. Even though she can whole-heartedly be committed to recovery, and mentally want recovery so badly, the fact is, actually putting on the weight is still terrifying, especially when she has severe body dysmorphia. So be ready for The Moment when shit gets real and she realizes that, yes, her body is going to fill out. Remind her that that’s not a bad thing – it’s a good thing! One of the most popular “hashtags” on prorecovery websites is “BoobsNotBones.” Remind her that being a woman is beautiful, curves and all. This is also a great time to help her remember what her dreams and goals were. Help her set up a goal or something that motivates her to work for and recover for: going to college, getting a job, following her dreams, finishing high school. Having a sense of purpose helps, as she begins to realize that there is life outside her eating disorder, and that being at a healthy weight – read: not emaciated – is an essential part of reaching those dreams or goals and moving on.

When facing The Moment it also is helpful to talk about what ED has robbed you of. But more on that, later this week.

To Those in the Throes

To Those in the Throes:

Hello, sweet girl. First of all, thank you for reading this. Thank you for taking a moment to pause your brain to do something good for yourself. That’s a win – Something to be proud of.

First of all, I want you to know that I have been where you are right now. I have been in that dark place where everything is out of control: food is scary, you hate yourself, your life is ruled by the clock and the scale, you hate your life and this food prison you’re in, your mind is always manically racing, you feel you don’t have a purpose – that you’re worthless, unlovable, and a burden. You just can’t find a minute to catch your breath. You’re always racing, trying to keep up the calorie burning, avoiding eating, keeping your life and your body hidden. Believe me, sweet girl, I get it. The comparisons, the anger, the anxiety, the fear, the battles with your loved ones. Life is hard. You feel that it is not worth living.

Sweet girl, please hear me when I say this: You can be free. And you are worth that freedom.

You can have freedom from the suffering you’re going through every day. You can be free from the self-hatred. You don’t have to torture yourself. You deserve better than that – because you are precious. I know, you’re probably rolling your eyes at that notion right now, but it’s the honest-to-God truth. YOU are PRECIOUS. And loved. And enough. Not because of anything you did, or what you look like, or what your BMI is, or who your friends are, or what you’ve achieved. No. You are precious just for who you are. You are intrinsically good simply because you are the daughter of the King – God. He made you, and He does not make mistakes. Your worth and value come only from the fact that you are made in His image. There’s nothing you did to deserve it, and there’s nothing you can do to change it or be disqualified from it. You are more precious that gold, simply for that very reason.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “But I’ve done so many awful things. I don’t deserve to be loved. I’ve lied to my loved ones about my eating disorder. I’ve caused so much tension and stress in my family. I’ve manipulated and hurt everyone I care about. I’ve been so self-centered about my looks and my body and whether or not I have a thigh gap. I’ve shut everyone out, including God. I don’t deserve that freedom. I don’t deserve that love. I’m too awful.”

Please hear me, sweet girl, when I say this: You. Are. Worth. It. There’s nothing you can do that will change God’s love for you OR His forgiveness. You see, God knows all the shit that you’ve done in your life. And He knows all the crap you’re going to do in the future. But you know what, He still loves you, despite all those shortcomings. In fact, you are so precious to Him that God sent His son, Jesus, to earth with the sole purpose of dying on the cross for YOU. Because He loves you. And He wants to be with you forever in Heaven. So Jesus came and paid the price for all your sins and the shit you’ve done in your life so that you don’t have to. Why? Because He freaking loves you.

That’s hard to believe. I know. And it’s even harder to accept. “But the things I’ve done are too horrible for that to be true. Jesus died for the girl who’s biggest sin was hitting her little brother, or not flossing.” Wrong.

He died, knowing the darkest part of your heart and your sins. There’s a song lyric that goes, “I’ll never know how much it cost to see my sin upon that Cross.” Yes – accept it – your lying, your manipulation, your deceit, your purging, your anger and rage, your eating disorder is on that cross.

And here’s the thing – by saying that the shit in your life is too big for Jesus to have died for it, you’re saying that your sin is bigger and stronger than Jesus. Think about that for a minute. The God who made Heaven and Earth, who flooded the entire globe, who created people, who rose from the dead – He can literally do anything. He is God. By saying that your eating disorder is too awful and horrible and disgraceful to deserve Jesus’ forgiveness, or that it’s too grave a sin to be forgiven, you’re saying that your sin…that YOU…are greater than the Cross. I don’t think so. Jesus loves you so much. He came for that very reason. He came and died so that He would pay the price for your eating disorder. Not you. That’s how much He loves you.

“Okay. I hear you. Now what? I understand that…but how do I actually get that freedom you were talking about before, that to be honest, sounds impossible right now?”

Sweet girl. That freedom, and that forgiveness comes only when you lay down your eating disorder at the foot of the Cross. When you surrender it to Jesus: “Lord, take this eating disorder from me. You came to Earth to save me. Please Lord, carry this eating disorder so I don’t have to anymore.” And in doing so, accept the forgiveness that He is desperately trying to give you. Accept it. Accept the love that He is beaming your way.

You are His daughter. He is your daddy. You’re His little girl. He just wants you to lay your eating disorder at His feet so that you can climb up onto His lap and be bounced on His knee. He wants you to feel His warm, fatherly embrace. He doesn’t want you to suffer – because, honestly, right now you are suffering. Think about how amazing it would be to not be controlled by the manic thoughts in your head. How freeing it would feel to be able to actually enjoy food and the way it tastes without worrying about how it will affect your body or the numbers on the scale in the morning. Think about being able to hang out with your friends again and laugh so hard your body hurts. I mean, when was the last time you truly laughed? Or genuinely smiled – not a fake “I’m okay” smile, but a true, joy-filled smile? Sweet girl, the life you are living right now is not the life you deserve. You deserve to laugh. You deserve to be loved. You deserve forgiveness. You deserve to be free.

Jesus loves you so much. He was literally crucified because He loves you so immensely. And He loves you so much that He doesn’t force you to love Him back. And He loves you so much that He wants to take your eating disorder off your hands, so you don’t have to be imprisoned by it anymore.

But, Sweet girl, YOU have to choose to lay it down. He loves you so much that He gave you a free will, so YOU have to choose to give ED to Him. You have to ask for and accept the forgiveness that He is literally dying to give you. He just wants to hug you and cuddle you and LOVE you! Accept it!

That’s how I stay in recovery. It’s nothing that I am personally doing or not doing. All I’m doing is being open to receiving the love that Jesus is pouring on to me. His love is a gushing fire hydrant on a scorching hot, summer day, and I’m just standing in the downpour. My eating disorder wouldn’t let me receive that love. I had to choose to surrender my ED at the foot of the Cross, so that He could take it away, and replace it with love.

Sweet girl, there is such an abundant life out there, beyond the eating disorder. And you deserve it. You are worth it. You are so worth this love. And it starts by surrendering your eating disorder to Jesus – after all, He was sent here to die on the Cross to take away your sins – to take away your eating disorder.

He knows the lies you’ve told. He knows the secret exercising or purging you’ve done. He knows how you’ve manipulated your loved ones. He knows the hateful words you’ve shouted at them. He knows how you’ve lashed out, or thrown things, or barricaded yourself in your room. He knows every detail of your eating disorder. And He loves you anyway.

He is reaching out His pierced hand for you to grasp. He so desperately wants to lift the burden of your eating disorder off your weary shoulders so you can once again be the vibrant, vivacious, fun-loving, silly, spontaneous, creative, bright, and cheerful girl you once were. All you’ve got to do is lay it down. Hand it over to the One who loves you so much that He died for you.

How I Actually Got Better

So let’s recap so far:

First and foremost, we know that in order to get better, SHE has to WANT to get better. Period. No one can make her get better but herself. She has to make the decision to give up her eating disorder.

Secondly, we know that to recover, she needs to a) Identify the Lie and b) Replace it with the Truth. She needs to get to the core of the Lie that is feeding her eating disorder – (not good enough, not loveable, unworthy, etc) and replace that with the truth – that she is worthy of love, that she does deserve to get better, that she is forgiven, that she is loved for who she is, not what she accomplishes.

That’s all well and good on paper. Sure, it sounds lovely and easy enough. “Oh, wonderful, we’ll just have a delightful little conversation over some tea and fix her right up!” Wrong. The fact is, it will be more like a Tough Mudder. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of these extreme endurance challenges, but the Tough Mudder is a team-oriented, 12-mile obstacle course. When people finish up these insane tests of strength and perseverance, they’re covered head to toe in mud, soaking wet with sweat, physically exhausted and worn down.

Yeah. It’ll be more like that.

But how, then, did I actually get better? How did I actually adopt recovery? Even though I still battle with the ED voice, I am in recovery. I am alive. I am healthy. How did I do it?

One word: Jesus.

If I were left to my own devices, I would not be better. I am better only because of the work that He is doing in my heart.

You see, in my post about Intimacy, I talked a lot about the walls that she has built around her heart: She’s keeping everyone and everything out of her heart and out of her mind so that she can focus entirely on her eating disorder. She’s blocked out the world to embrace her ED – including God.

That is so very hard to hear, I know. And it is not something that she is doing consciously. It’s not like she’s saying, “Oh I’m turning my back on God because I want to starve myself.” No. That’s not how it works. What happened is that in her obsession with her eating disorder, she has essentially blocked God out of the picture. He is nowhere in her mind. She’s given herself to her disorder, and has built an impenetrable fortress around it that no thing or person can break through.

When talking about trials and suffering in life, a common theme that comes up is, “Well, if there’s a God, then why did He let this bad thing happen?” “Why did he let me suffer?” “Why didn’t he just save me?” Well, it’s the same for the eating disorder too. “Why is God allowing my daughter to starve to death? Doesn’t he CARE? Why doesn’t he DO SOMETHING?!”
Imagine this scene. You’re drowning in the ocean. Thunder and lightning, rain beating down sideways. The waves are crashing on top of you, one after another, relentlessly pummeling you as you struggle to keep your head above water. Where is God? Why is He letting me go through this? Why doesn’t He save me? Where the hell is He?!? Doesn’t He care?!

First of all, yes. He does care. He cares a lot. His heart is breaking for you. And here’s the thing. He never left. He’s been right there all along, right next to you as you’re drowning. And he’s thrown you a life preserver. You know those old-fashioned red and white circular life preserves, a la the Titanic? Yeah. One of those. He’s thrown you one. His heart is breaking, watching you struggle, but He has given you a way out. That life preserver has been there the whole time, you just have to choose to grab on. That’s the thing: God is a God who loves us – Who wants us to love Him. But He’s not a dictator. He’s not a tyrant, so He gave us free will to choose to love Him or not. And in that same way, He gave us free will to choose to grab onto that life preserver that He so desperately wants us to cling to.

That’s the answer to the eating disorder. That’s the way she’ll get to recovery. She has to choose to grab onto the life preserver. It’s right there, but she has to reach out and hold on.

Jesus has never left her side during her disease. He has suffered through it with her. His heart is broken with sorrow for her. He hates to see His daughter in pain and starving herself. And every moment, He’s trying to break through those walls that she’s built around her heart that are shutting Him and everyone else out.

For me, worship music is what helped me see that Jesus was there with me in the midst of my suffering. It was the line, “I’ll never know how much it cost to see my sin upon that Cross” in the worship song, Here I am to Worship. We were singing it in Chapel at R. and I just broke down. I remember I literally felt the walls around my heart crumble and I let Jesus in. I was sobbing and I was smiling. It was the first time I had truly smiled in over a year and half. And after I let Jesus in, He did the rest. Fr. Mike Schmitz once said that “God does his best work in caves.” Meaning, when Jesus died, after He was crucified, His body was put in a cave – in the tomb. Well, after three days, when they rolled the tomb’s stone away, Jesus had risen. He had beaten death. That’s precisely what He will do with you if you let Him. He will take what is dead and give it new life. He is an expert at taking what is broken, and making it whole again. But you have to invite Him in and allow Him to do so.

And you’re thinking, “But you relapsed…” Yes. I did relapse. I let the voice of ED come back into my head and I “let go of the life preserver.” But my recovery happened when I kept my eyes on Jesus, and allowed Him to fill my heart with His love.

And that’s been how I’ve stayed in recovery ever since. I have to continually fill my heart and fill my mind with His word and His love. I constantly have Christian music playing in my apartment, or am listening to Christian podcasts. I go to church everyday. I wear a cross necklace that I haven’t taken off since Remuda. I have to keep my focus solely on Him, otherwise, yes, the voice of ED will come in and wreak havoc on my recovery. I have to choose Jesus and choose life.

You see, that’s the thing: There is a hole inside all of our hearts – A part of us that feels incomplete. It is often referred to as the “God hole.” It is the broken part of us that we try to fill, unsuccessfully, with different things: alcohol, sex, food, pornography, achievements, designer shoes, cars, material things, and yes, eating disorders. We strive to fill that emptiness we feel with all these things that will never satiate that desire for love that only God can fill. Because once Jesus is in your heart and filling it up, then the Lie that is controlling her will be silenced. She will no longer feel unworthy, unloved, not good enough — because she will be filled with His love, and will know that she is precious in His eyes. That she is His daughter, and is enough, simply because she was made in His image. That there is nothing to strive for, because just her being a daughter of the King is what gives her her worth: not any achievements, or skills, or looks, or a particular number on the scale or a particular BMI. No, she is enough because He lives and dwells within her.

That is the key to recovery. That is the key to truly kicking the eating disorder once and for all. She has to let Jesus in. Just give Him a crack in the fortress wall around her heart, and He can work miracles. But she has to decide to let Him in. She has to decide to grab on to the life preserver. He’s not going to force Himself into her life. She has to let Him in.

The Voice of ED – Revealed

One of the things that gets tossed around when talking about anorexia and eating disorders, is this notion of the “Voice of ED.” I remember when I first got to inpatient, all the girls and the staff would talk about, “ED this” and the “voice of ED, that.” To be honest, at first, I thought it was so stupid: I mean, how juvenile and foolish to talk about this abstract notion of an “ED voice.”

But I soon came to realize that they were right on the money about this “ED voice.” ED dictated the inner Lies in my head. ED ordered me to believe that I was worthless. ED commanded my self-hatred.

That’s another thing that gets gratuitously thrown around a lot: is the notion of self-hatred — That she feels an enormous sense of self-loathing and disgust.

So, okay, we hear that. She hates herself. Blah, blah, blah, next topic.

No. I don’t think people quite understand the severity of that self-contempt. Unless a person has had an eating disorder, they will never truly know the degree to which she literally abhors herself. Not just her body – but also her soul, her spirit, her heart, her persona. Who she is. And it is all dictated and decreed by the “voice of ED.” ED: a ruthless tyrant, who orders this self-hatred.

So I was looking through a journal I kept during my eating disorder and found an entry that actually captured the “voice of ED.” I didn’t realize it at the time, but looking back, these words were directly from ED. And it was particularly revealing in the level of self-hatred and the degree of control ED had.

And I’m sharing it, because the “Voice of ED” is an abstract concept for those that haven’t personally had an eating disorder. Parents often think, “What a cop-out,” or “Gimme a break…the ‘voice of ED?’ Please. What do you take me for?” Well, I’m here to tell you, it is real. And this is ED, verbalized.

This is the entry from my birthday: You can see, halfway through, where ED comes in and takes over.

The silence is throbbing inside of my ear.

My spirit, it yearns for a way out of here.

Out of this hell hole – This pit of despair,

That I’ve come to fancy, despite of its fares.

The toll takes me back to a place I despise,

Where I’m full of deceit, self-destruction and lies.

My soul was as white as the new fallen snow,

Now is black with the soot from the fires below.

And I hate who I see when I look in the mirror.

I don’t know this new girl who out-lashes in fear.

She’s deliberately hurting the ones she loves best.

Just think of the guilt when they’re laid to rest.

But this bitch doesn’t care – she looks the other way,

When her parents call her and text every day.

Cuz they’re worried and love their sweet baby dear,

But she spits and curses a mean, “don’t you dare.”

Just who is this monster, this girl cold as stone?

Are you really this fucking depressed and alone?

What’s wrong with you, girl, you pathetic fat heap?

You’re a loser, a screw up, just pass out to sleep.

That’s the one thing you’re good at: just wasting away.

And while you’re at it, stop eating – leave your fat ass away.

It’s your birthday and you’re an enormous-ass whale.

And the one thing you’ve done with your life is to fail.

You’ve got no friends and your life is a joke.

And did I mention your fat ass is completely broke?

That’s right! Your whole life’s a pathetic scam.

What a waste! – You’re not even worth a small damn.

You should’ve just hauled off and died in Chuck-town,

Now look, in the pot, just flush your life down.

No one loves you, you’re worthless, just spare us the time,

Won’t you please disappear – is that such a crime?!

Just reading this – gag me – stop wasting your ink.

Cuz if people read this, they won’t even blink.

Get it through your brain – they don’t give a damn!

No one loves you! Not even your dog is your fan.

That’s why I tell you to just fucking quit.

But that’s it! I am done. In your face I do spit.

Wow. It’s hard to believe the dark place I was in. This exemplifies how ED berated me every night. That darkness was all I knew. And it’s all your loved one knows.

People talk about the “voice of ED” as the driving force behind her eating disorder. This “ED voice” sounds so trivial, or childish, but it is actually real. And a powerful dictator at that. This poem is ED. This poem verbalizes ED’s tireless lashings, and rings true for eating disorder sufferers everywhere.

This is the “voice of ED” that she talks about. This is who is manipulating and controlling your loved one. This is who you’re up against.