There are certain moments in time that are just cemented in your brain. And I’m not just talking about milestone memories either — like weddings, graduations, winning championships etc. Because, of course.
No — I’m talking little moments. Meaningful episodes that stay with you forever.
I was reminded the other day, of a very precious point in time. In an instant, my mind was brought right back to the place, 13 years ago – at inpatient.
I think sometimes we underestimate the power our words have on others. The things we say, the way in which we make people feel. It matters. And it can leave a lasting impact – either good or bad.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Allow me to set the scene…
It was a slow Thursday morning, and I was working on the blog, and brainstorming content for Instagram. And I was flipping through my book, Bloom — which I do from time to time. It’s always a nice little reminder of where I’ve come from, and a good reminder of what my recovery from anorexia is centered in.
But the page I flipped to, recounted an episode at inpatient, when my mom and dad came out to visit.
Inpatient was not some stroll in the park. It was the most challenging, terrifying time of my life. I had over 30 pounds to gain. The things I saw and the stories I heard at are things I would not wish on anyone. There were some women there who were detoxing from drug addiction. I heard stories of sexual abuse and other horrific acts of violence. The veil of innocence was ripped from my eyes. And I was there for three months.
But one of those weekends, my parents were allowed to come and visit, and take me on a day trip in the surrounding area of Arizona.
It was the first time I had seen them since I had begun the recovery process. And additionally, the first time I had faced them since coming clean about my anorexia, and apologizing for the deceit and lie I had been living for the last two years during the eating disorder. So to say that I was a bundle of nerves to see them was quite the understatement.
On the one hand, I was so longing for the comfort and familiarity of home, in that sterile, frightening environment. But I was nervous for them to see how my body had been changing, and for how it would be to see them now that everything was out in the open.
I remember it just as it was yesterday. Not only was the greeting warm, but there was so much hope in the air, it was palpable.
We ended up driving to Sedona — we stopped a little nature preserve, and little shops along the desert high way. I remember we went to Olive Garden, and I was absolutely terrified to order off the menu. I got the spaghetti pomodoro — and we split a chocolate lasagna for dessert. I successfully hid the racing fears in my mind, and tried, as best as I could, to be in the moment.
But as we were driving back to the inpatient campus, my dad pulled the car over to the side of the high way. And proceeded to pull out of his pocket, a little figurine of a carved crystal owl taking flight off of a purple quartz rock. He had picked it up without my knowing, when we were in the shops in Sedona.
You see, owls were a special “thing” between my father and I. Every night, growing up, he would tuck me in for bed, and tell me a bedtime “owl story.” They were quick little tales about a little owl, and each story would have a moral at the end. He told thousands of them throughout my childhood. Each one different, each one just as special.
So as a result, to this day, anything owl related, holds an incredibly special place in my heart.
But back to the side of the road in Arizona…
He pulls out this little owl, and hands it to me, and looks me in the eye and says, “Caralyn, I believe you will fly.“
Here was this incredible man that I had been blatantly lying to for the past two years during my eating disorder. He had been championing my healing that whole time, believing that I was truly sick from my Ulcerative Colitis — which was initially true. But then became a pawn, used for my eating disorder’s benefit.
But here was my father, whom I loved and respected so much — demonstrating to me the love and forgiveness of our Heavenly Father.
I mean – gosh – I’m writing this on an airplane right now, and I’m just sitting here in my seat with tears streaming down my cheeks just thinking about this amazing man.
I believe you will fly.
In that moment, in those five little words, my dad said more than he will ever know.
All the fear I was holding on to, all the anxieties about the weight gain, and the calories in that stupid chocolate lasagna, and the way my body was changing, the shame I had in my new shape, the guilt I carried in my heart — in those five words, it’s as though he cut loose all those weights I had tied around my neck.
I believe you will fly.
Not can fly. Not might fly.
Even after all the deception and manipulation, and hurtful words, and lies, and outbursts of rage — he still believed in me. He still loved me. He still saw me as his precious daughter, whom he wanted the best for. And he forgave me.
When he gave it to me that day, for the first time, I felt something.
I had been spending the last two years during the anorexia bottling up all my emotions and fortifying the heart of stone I had adopted. I didn’t want to feel anything. I wanted to be a void of emotion. Numb. Empty.
And with that demonstration of unconditional love and forgiveness, I knew that everything was going to be okay. I, too, believed that, yes, I will fly.
Eating disorders, as with most adversity in life, can blind us to our potential. To our power. To our strength and will to thrive.
And to have someone champion you, and remind you of your worth and capability — it matters. It can change an outcome.
We never know the impact something we say or do can have.
This world is full of so much negative noise, we need more voices of truth.
My dad is my hero. He loved me when I was at –what I believed – was my most unlovable.
He showed me that just because I was at rock bottom, I didn’t have to stay there. He reminded me that I could change the outcome. I could pick myself up, brush myself off, and be the woman God made me to be.
He reminded me that I have a life to live. Not just a mediocre one. But a life of abundance. A life where I will fly.
I have been blessed with two wonderfully loving parents. I honestly don’t know what I did to deserve them, but I am so grateful for the love they pour out every single day.
We are all on our own journeys. Ups and downs and triumphs and set backs — if you need to hear this today, I want you to know, that I believe you will fly, too.
We are never stuck. We are never too far gone. There is always, always hope. Tomorrow is a new beginning. Heck, right now is a new beginning. And we are never alone.
Just like my dad reminded me that day, we have a Father who will love us no matter what. His love and mercy and forgiveness is wider than the ocean. All we need to do is open our hands, and accept His gift.
“This is what the Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.” Ez 37:5
A big thank you to my foundational sponsor, BetterHelp Online Therapy. I cannot begin to express how beneficial therapy was for my recovery from anorexia. Speak with an online therapist. Or check out content about eating disorders from BetterHelp.
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