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Alright: onto tonight’s post!
I was watching a really interesting video yesterday on YouTube. And I’m embarrassed to share the title, because…it’s pretty mortifying.
Suffice it to say, it was about dating and relationships.
Hey – I’m not above a little free advice from quasi-questionable sources on the internet.
But during this video, the “penny dropped,” as my late acting teacher would have said.
It was talking about how the number one thing that makes people ready for relationships, is being emotionally available.
More than looks, more than personality — a person’s emotional availability is one of the most important attractive qualities a person can possess.
And it really made me think. Because let’s be honest…for a long time…I haven’t been emotionally available.
Until recently, I have been completely shut off to letting anyone even remotely near my heart. Emotional access = denied.
And in that moment, I realized that this is something that doesn’t ever get talked about in recovery circles, when it comes to eating disorders or other forms of trauma.
Especially with anorexia recovery, there’s this preconceived notion that as soon as the weight gets put back on, that everything should resume to “normal,” with no traces of disordered thinking ever present again.
Like, *BAM* you’re fixed!
That couldn’t be further from the truth. And it is especially evident in relationships.
I’ve been in this recovery space for almost 10 years now — yikes. BeautyBeyondBones has been named one of the Top Three Eating Disorder Recovery Blogs on the web, the past three years running. And not only that…I’m living it.
So, although I don’t have PhD or “title” to back me up, I feel I have a bit of authority when I say, that there’s a gaping hole in information about the effects of recovery on relationships. And more specifically, one’s emotional availability.
Allow me to open up for just a moment.
Dating has always been a very difficult area of my life. Not for lack of options, but rather, for keeping men at arm’s length.
In terms of recovery timelines, this is the absolute last area to be healed, because in order to be fully open, honest, and vulnerable with another person, you have to first make peace with those things within yourself.
In other words – you can’t be open about something you haven’t personally come to terms with, first.
Which is precisely why, in my past dating life, as soon as a guy would get really serious, and we’d get to that point where we’re sharing our history, and tearing down those emotional walls — I’d always hit that one specific impenetrable wall – the one that exposes my history of anorexia, and the accompanying baggage that goes with that – and all of a sudden, I’d run, and end things with great men who, frankly to this day, don’t know what they did “wrong.”
(Hint: Nothing. In this case, it really “wasn’t you, but me.”)
But I wish there would have been a handbook out there — a resource — that would have clued me into how difficult, and frankly, emotionally devastating that aspect of recovery would be.
And how emotional vulnerability is something that needs specific attention and work, along with patience, grace and time.
All of that to say — if there is one thing that I would tell myself, back in 2007, when I was starting recovery, it is this:
You are not damaged goods.
Recovering from anorexia — which, at least in my case, could also be called lethal perfectionism — left me with so much shame about my past.
So much guilt for the pain I inflicted on my loved ones. So much shame for the choices I made that destroyed my body, my future, my relationships, my health, my life.
I carried that shame, well into recovery — believing that the anorexia was a permanent stain, not just on my medical record, but on me, Caralyn…as a person.
And so I did what I learned to rely on in my disease: being emotionally unavailable.
Hide that part of my past from absolutely everyone.
If only I knew, that brokenness, is what made me truly loveable.
Because that brokenness, is precisely the access point where Jesus was able to capture my heart.
And it is that brokenness that made me who I am today.
It’s not a “stain.” Sure, it was a difficult season with immense suffering and pain – but to allow that to completely derail my relationships, my future, my present — that, would be the real tragedy.
I just think back, at the scared, recovering young girl, who was petrified of anyone finding out the imperfect past I kept hidden away.
Remembering how emotionally exhausted I’d be, suppressing the real me – “stains” and all.
I am not damaged goods. And neither are you.
Emotional availability. That’s what I’m personally praying for for myself, and for you. Because, as I’m currently finding out, life is so much better when you let people in, and share the real, imperfect you.
“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
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