Before we begin, I wanted to quickly thank you for listening to my interview on Leah Darrow’s Do Something Beautiful podcast. I was overwhelmed by the kind feedback I received about our conversation. So thank you from the bottom of my heart! 🙂
Now onto tonight’s post!
If there’s one thing that’s an overarching theme of recovering from an eating disorder, it’s far and away: fear.
Fear. It seeps into every waking moment of the day — and sometimes, even your dreams too.
It controls your actions. It manipulates your emotions. But most of all, it puts an absolute chokehold on your true progress of recovery.
I remember back to when I was in inpatient, the beginning was completely dominated by fear. Starting from the literal first moment I walked in — being stripped naked by the nurses in a back room to be “body checked” for any signs of self-harm.
Little did I know, that was only the beginning. Even just looking around at the girls with feeding tubes coming out of their noses, brought me so much fear. Daily needle sticks when I had to get my blood drawn. Having to face “fear foods” like butter, cheese, cream sauces, white flour, dessert – the list went on and on. The weight gaining supplement drinks I had to drink each day ((there were 5.)) Having to sit through the anxiety of not being able to exercise after eating. The therapist meetings. The paralyzing fear that my dietician was trying to make me fat and that I was going to gain weight and then never be able to stop. The changes my body would make. What I was going to do after inpatient.
I was one huge, walking ball of crippling fear. And ask anyone who’s gone through it — and they will concur.
Which, I think is something that’s not specific to eating disorder recovery, either. Why is it that anxiety affects over 40 million American adults — over 18% of the population?
Because we are all being ruled by fear, in one way or another.
So how then, did I do it? How then did an anorexic girl who was literally petrified of butter put on over 30 pounds in three months?
Well – for starters, I didn’t do it alone. I clung by my fingernails, to Jesus to give me strength.
But it was through daily prayer to Him, that He gave me a subtle shift in perspective, that – religious or not – was the key to unlocking my courage and overcoming the fear that was prohibiting me from fully embracing recovery.
And here it is:
Instead of being terrified of getting fat, or gaining weight, or having to eat this or that — turn that fear into curiosity.
Go with me here —
Yes, I could be terrified of gaining weight OR I could be curious as to what will my body look like if I allow it to bloom?
I had been manipulating my weight to be so dangerously low through starvation, overexercise, insomnia, etc — what would happen if I let it flourish?
Because here’s the long and short of it: the inpatient treatment facility was not going to make me fat. It was there to save my life – and news flash: I was starving. At 78 pounds, I was completely malnourished and severely underweight. And getting me to a “healthy weight range” was exactly that — healthy. Now, if they said, “Oh yeah, we’re going to get you to an obese weight range” — then, yes – my fears would have been valid. But no – a healthy weight range.
But – with God’s help – I was able to turn those fears into curiosities, and that’s when things started to turn around for me. “I wonder” became my new favorite phrase. I wonder what this food will taste like? I wonder how beautiful I will look in my clothes after I put on some weight? I wonder how much energy I will have to live my life when I adequately nourish my body?
But here’s the thing — just that subtle shift in thinking takes an incredible amount of courage to make. Why? Because you’re giving yourself the teeniest, tiniest bit of freedom from the eating disorder, which is strangling the literal life out of you with fear. Fear is how it controls you.
So allowing yourself permission simply to view your life through the lens of curiosity is such a huge recovery win — I truly believe it is square one.
Why is it that “Be not afraid” is the most commonly used phrase in the Bible?
It’s because Jesus knew this continual battle we would all face with fear. As children of the fall, it is our default emotion, and conincidentally, precisely what the evil one preys on.
Just look back to Adam and Eve. What was the very first thing that happened after the fall? Genesis 3: 9-10
But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
I was afraid. It was the very first emotion Adam felt after he ate the apple.
Fear is no stranger to our lives. You don’t have to be battling an eating disorder to know it. Fears of inadequacy. Having enough. Infertility. Being alone. Providing sufficiently. Being loved. Being respected. Every single one of us faces fear in some capacity.
We have to give ourselves that slight shift in perspective to turn that fear into curiosity. Turn that crippling emotion into an empowering force, propelling us to take action and turn things around.
—— A Passage from My Inpatient Journal —–
“I am scared of my body changing, but I’m kind of excited and curious. And I realized that the reason is because my ED hit right when I was entering puberty, so I don’t know what type of flower I’m going to bloom into. And it’s scary because I’m not in control, but it’s also peaceful because God is in control and He planted me and knows exactly what type of flower I’m going to become. All I have to do is grow.” – July 6, 2007
Give it to God. Surrender that which has you incapacitated and desolate.
I will end with a quote from Saint John Paul II that truly sums up my recovery in a nutshell. If there’s one thing I would tell my former self, walking into inpatient that day, about ready to face the greatest challenge of my life, it would be this:
“Remember that you are never alone, Christ is with you on your journey every day of your lives! He has called you and chosen you to live in the freedom of the children of God. Turn to Him in prayer and in love. Ask Him to grant you the courage and strength to live in this freedom always. Walk with Him who is ‘the Way, the Truth and the Life.’”
**To get a copy of my interactive journal, Bloom, based off of my own Inpatient Journal, click here. I created this book because it’s what I wish I would have had during that crucial time in my life.”
“This is what the Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.” Ez 37:5
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