Before we get into tonight’s post — I forgot to mention that I made a video for last week’s post: The Plight of a People Pleaser! It got a lot of feedback – so you can watch it here:
Ok, onto tonight’s post!
There’s a dirty little secret they don’t tell you about recovery.
One that…seems to be conveniently omitted from conversations, if not deliberately swept under the proverbial rug altogether.
And that is how difficult it is to find peace in the environment where you were sick.
Sure, we’re quick to point out the abundance of life that comes with recovery — be it from an eating disorder, like me; or from any other “addiction” — such as alcohol, codependency, an abusive relationship, etc.
And rightfully so — there is so much good to be celebrated. You’ve reclaimed your life, adopted healthy habits, and freaking kicked an addiction that was surely leading to destruction — if not ultimate demise. Relationships can begin to heal and dreams can once again be chased as you journey down the lifelong road of recovery.
But what they don’t tell you, as you’re diving head first off the cliff into the unknown world of life without your addiction, is that it will be incredibly difficult to heal in the environment where you were sick.
This is not an easy post to write, or — I’m sure, read.
Because this truth is not pretty. It’s not an easy pill to swallow, but then, reality – especially when dealing with recovery – never is.
This past week, it seems like I’ve been confronted with this issue more than usual. And as a result it’s been really weighing on my heart. I’ve lost sleep, been completely distracted as I’ve been trying to work, and just overall unsettled, as this particular issue is not only something that impacts me, but my loved ones as well. Deeply.
So I figured, the only way to get clarity is to really get in the weeds, and go there – get messy. So I guess, welcome to my thought process. Enjoy your stay in the intricately messy world of my innermost brain. So…buckle up, people.
Home – is complicated. They say it is “where the heart is” — which is five hundred percent true. But what if it is also ground zero for something that nearly killed you?
And I don’t mean to hyperbolize that. During the depths of my anorexia, I had wasted away to 78 pounds. I was an 18 years old senior in high school with the beginning stages of osteoporosis. And my body was literally shutting down.
Imagine enduring the most traumatic experience of your life, and then prolong it for two straight years.
That does something to you.
That deeply impacts, not only your own self perception and world view, but also — you can never see the “scene of the crime” in the same way again.
The memories just haunt you. Scenes of outbursts flood your mind. Remembering past episodes that make your body just recoil. Sleeping in the room where you’d slowly self-destruct — seeing the memorabilia from high school, smelling the smells, coming face to face with old photos of your sick self – it is not good.
But more than that, it’s having to reenter a community that deeply stigmatized you. Especially with anorexia, you are literally wearing on your body the turmoil that’s going on inside. You’re a walking billboard for your brokenness. Everybody knows, not only because everyone is gossiping, but because everyone can see it.
During my disease, I was like an urban legend. I went from being homecoming court, Varsity soccer player — to the anorexic girl.
And as a result, even now — almost 13 years later — there is still this dark shadow that follows me around. I’ll run into people from my past, and I can almost see their eyes calculating how they remember me looking from 2007, to how I look now, in 2020 as a healthy young woman.
It’s a horrible feeling.
And it’s incredibly devastating because home is where my deepest heart is – my family is there.
And the truth is, aside from that period of absolute hell, I had an amazing childhood. I had the most blessed upbringing in a place that brought me so much joy – so much life, so much love and enrichment. Those precious memories are cherished in my heart and I’m literally in tears thinking about how beautiful my formative years were.
But the fact is, the people that I love most in the entire world live in this place that not only broke me once before, but continues to just suffocate me with shame, as it transports me back to that bleak and absolute worst time in my life.
What did I do about it? Well – I moved to New York City before I even graduated college if that tells you anything, and have lived here for almost 9 years.
But I’ll tell you what: not a day goes by that the pull of home doesn’t tug mercilessly on my heart, as I miss my family to my absolute break point every day.
Here’s where this post turns around, because – yeah, it’s been a little, shall we say, bleak.
The key to my recovery, was finding a place where I could truly come into my own. I had to find a place where I could be free of all of those stimgas and shadows of shame — and guilt — that plagued me and haunted me.
I needed a clean slate. I needed a fresh start. Somewhere that I could introduce myself as Caralyn, and have that first impression be of the healed and whole young woman standing in front of them, not the dying girl they remember me as.
That renewed sense of worth, sense of autonomy, sense of redemption — I can barely express how instrumental it was to my healing – and continued wellbeing.
And more than that, it allows me to let the people into that part of my past who I deem worthy. I can choose to share that most intimate part of who I am, with the people I can fully entrust it with.
Because, as I’ve been learning over this season of my life — my past is nothing to be ashamed of. I’m embracing the beautifully broken road that made me who I am today. And I’m accepting the fact that my past has made me strong. Resilient. And I have learned to be grateful for the lessons I had to learn the hard way.
I haven’t given up on Ohio — not in the slightest. I think I needed this season to heal – to come into my own and rediscover the essence of who I am — the light that was snuffed out by the eating disorder.
I know this is getting long, but I want to just close with this:
During inpatient, I was given the assignment to create an art project that shows how the anorexia impacted me. And I made out of construction paper, a black coffin. And inside, I put a bunch of confetti — all different colors of paper, with different textures, and glitter. All to show that the eating disorder killed my colors. It suffocated my vibrant spirit, and completely wiped out the goofy, fun loving, joyful, happy-go-lucky personality that I was known for.
And instead left me hollow. Void of life. Isolated and cold.
I needed to find a place where my colors could return. And being in an environment that not only had written me off as the later — but prohibited me from sloughing off that colorless existence — it completely impeded my healing.
Now, living in vibrant color – returning home is becoming easier and easier. I no longer am pressed down with shame or haunted by past memories, and I can fully live in the joy of the present moment with my family. And I’m excited to one day share that with the man God brings into my life to spend forever with.
I guess that’s part of the healing journey too: letting my past dictate my present is another way the eating disorder “wins.” And that, in itself, is an obstacle to overcome, too.
Which just goes to show — the recovery road is never finished. I alluded to it before, but it is a lifelong commitment. Another aspect of recovery that they don’t often highlight: but recovery is for the rest of your life.
It is this beautiful, complicated, and intricate evolution of self. And I guess that’s no surprise, because with God as the source of my recovery — He is constantly shaping me into the woman He created me to be.
Looks like I’m in good Hands.
“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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Here was yesterday’s video! https://youtu.be/8pmp4ZI968A
MAGIC TOOTHPASTE? Yes! I am in love with this superior whitening toothpaste. It keeps my smile sparkling, without sensitivity or bleach! I made a website where you can directly order this miracle product! So if you want to give it a try, you can go ahead and grab a tube for yourself. I promise, your smile will thank you!
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