What I Needed to Hear: Christmas Vs. Anorexia

Recently here, these past several weeks, I have received so many touching messages from fellow ED Recovery warriors who read my blog.

And I’ve got to say…reading their words about how my story, my blog, my book – have played a teeny tiny role in their recovery…it has been so uplifting and encouraging for me to hear. (And I promise, this isn’t just me tooting my own horn..there’s a point to this…)

Reading their words, I have been personally transported to those early days of my recovery, and also…when I was deep in the throes of my anorexia. Going back into that place in my memory, it’s a funny thing: it’s as though it was just yesterday, and yet feels eons away from where I am today.

It makes total sense that these messages came in when they did: the holidays are one of the most difficult times for people struggling with an eating disorder, because it is a time completely centered around a) food, and b) togetherness (read: you’re constantly under the microscope).

Oof, November and December were always such difficult seasons during my anorexia. Not only was my eating disorder suffocating me, but then with intense family time came scrutiny and the resulting stress – it made me feel strangled. Couple that with the overpowering guilt and shame that came with feeling completely unworthy of the gifts under the tree, and then the acute tension from just how desperately concerned everyone in my family was for my health and life….I just remember feeling like a caged animal.

I have vivid memories of just getting in my car and driving off — to the mall, to the nature preserve, just on the highway — driving anywhere just to get away. Be unseen. Be alone with my eating disorder. And away from anyone who cared about me.

I think back now, and a) I should be getting on my knees thanking God that I didn’t hurt myself or anyone else while driving on the road in such a combustive state. And b) just how terribly sad ~ and yes, guilty ~ I feel when I think of the Christmases that I ruined for my family. Time that I stole from them – and from myself – as I was caught in the death grip of anorexia.

If you would have asked me, back then, when I was deep in the throes, I would have never ever thought that the life I have now would be possible.

Not just because I was so tunnel vision on burning calories, and avoiding food situations, and sneaking exercise, and obsessively planning how to eat and not to eat…but it came to a point where I just thought – this is it for me. I was in such a dark place that I couldn’t even imagine a way out. I couldn’t fathom what a life would be where I was free – where I could accept love – where I was joyful and able to laugh and chase dreams and have passions – where I wasn’t being controlled by an oppressive darkness. I couldn’t see it. I couldn’t imagine it. I couldn’t even pause from the chaos for 10 seconds to consider it. I didn’t want to.

I believed I had a life sentence to the hell I had created for myself. And I wanted it that way.

Friends, my heart shatters for that broken young girl I was. And for every other reader who feels a gut-wrenching familiarity in my words.

I just think about how different things are now, and how grateful I am, not only to be alive, but to have escaped that hell, that I have been reminded of in the notes of my readers, trapped in that same dark place.

And so, I want to just share what I would share to myself, circa 2006, when I was actively in my anorexia, spiraling out of control, and rapidly plunging into a disordered abyss, every day becoming more and more out of reach.

I would share the hope that I so desperately needed. That floodlight power beam of Truth that I critically needed to cut through the dark and stifling perdition I had let become all too comfortable – nay, I had let define me, and become my home.

That’s the thing about darkness. You become so used to it that your eyes become adjusted and you can actually begin to see.

That is not the life that God wanted for me. Or for you, or anyone going through their own season of darkness. Which, given the current global climate — might be more common that I may think.

I would cup my 18 year old, hollowed out face in my hands, and say: “God has so much waiting for you, if you just let this go.”

There is an abundant, overflowing life that’s waiting for you, if you just hand this eating disorder over to God. This is not the life God wants for you – for His precious daughter.

This life of pain, of isolation, deception, and fear — it is not a life at all.

There are things possible that you cannot even comprehend…where food isn’t scary, where you love your body, where you openly welcome love into your life and share it with your friends and family and loved ones. There is a life of peace in your mind – where thoughts don’t race about food, but rather, focus and determination on goals and aspirations.

You have a future. God not only desperately wants that for you, but He already has it planned out. And it is beautiful. And full. And rich with love — which, I know is a foreign and painful topic for you, but you are worthy of it, and more.”

Oh how I wish I would have been able to hear and comprehend that.

Christmas, the holidays, it’s a difficult time of year for people, for a lot of reasons, especially this year in 2020.

It is my prayer that we can all remember that, though we may not be able to see it now, God has a good and abundant future for all of us. I know, especially now it may be difficult to understand just how…. — we may feel distanced right now: either out of lukewarmness of faith in these Covid times, or perhaps we’re feeling resentment or anger at our current reality, or perhaps we’re going through a season of spiritual void — we are never abandoned.

We are never alone, or left to fend for ourselves.

He is our strength. He is our Savior. He is our hope.

May we be reminded of that this Christmas season, and every day forward.

“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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58 thoughts on “What I Needed to Hear: Christmas Vs. Anorexia

  1. Your article is wonderful and has a lot of love, optimism, a story of struggle and patience in enduring world misfortunes
    I agree with you. Life has many good and bad sides.
    But when we remember that God is with us, we are happy with this thing and we are happy and we try to help and make others happy with us
    You are awesome, your article is awesome, and you have a beautiful white heart that loves life
    I pray to God Almighty to guide you to the true and clear path of truth, which is guidance. Thank you, my lady, how wonderful and beautiful you are

    1. thank you so much Abubaker, I really appreciate your kind words. Yes – God is with us! Hugs and love xox

  2. Merry Christmas, Carolyn. A great message as always. I am as proud of you as I am my own two kids (25 & 22). May you and your family have a great holiday!

    1. Thank you so much Tony. Same to you, my friend. Gosh that really means a lot!! Hugs and love xox

  3. Caralyn, I’ve told you this before; you are a hero. Not the marble statue kind, but the busted up almost human thing that made it out of a real war. It’s only those people who somehow keep going when they could have so easily given up that are heroic. No vanity. Just humility.

    Your article tonight reminded me of how I divorced my younger self into a separate person when I got to high school. The kid that was always bullied had to be another person. I even wrote a short one act in college about that other guy and trying to find a way to let him be me again. If that makes any sense.

    I’m sharing this with you – not for sympathy – to help you see that your journey isn’t done. My grade school and high school “selves” could never have imagined a guy with a loving family, a great career, and friends I am so blessed to have. Not too long ago you lamented that you might never find love. Excuse me for saying it – BUT I TOLD YOU SO!!!! I found Julie so unexpectedly just as you found someone.

    I think you’ll continue to heal and someday your heart won’t shatter for that other girl, because you’ll accept her back into you. I think that you will eventually see your life as a whole that you accept. I think that you’ll be the battle-scarred but human hero that sighs in contentment for her entire life. Offered with love and hugs…

    1. Hi Jeff! Oh my gosh, you are too kind, my friend. Thank you. Oh wow – you have a powerful story. I would absolutely love to see your one act performed one day. That’s so beautiful – you’re right, it’s never done. And hah! That’s right! You did!!! Haha isn’t God’s timing impeccable?!! Accepting her back into me…now isn’t that just a heartwarming and beautiful thought. Thank you Jeff – you always have such moving insight. Always makes me think!! I hope your week is off to a great start! Hugs and love to you and your girls! xox

      1. Truth: I showed it to Tom Hanks when I worked with him in ’79 (not famous yet). He said I have a good ear for dialogue, but he had a problem with the plot. Years later his buddy, Steven Spielberg, had a weekly series called Amazing Stories. Every week was a completely different story and cast. One week the story was mine right down to the plot devices Hanks said he didn’t like. Coincidence? I THINK NOT!!!! 🙂

  4. Every time you write about your ED you are so much stronger and more transparent about it. It is a delight to experience from over here in Crazyfornia. May God be praised!

    1. Hi Amy, gosh you’re kind to say that. Thank you. Yes! God has been so good to me!! So grateful! Hugs and love xox

    1. Thank you so much HJ, I appreciate you stopping by and taking the time to read it! Hugs and love xox

  5. Thanks for highlighting this. Going through an ED is so lonely and most people don’t understand that aspect of it unless they’ve been there.

    1. Hi Liz, thank you so much for sharing that – you’re absolutely right. It is a lonely road that sufferer and loved ones alike both endure. I appreciate you stopping by and taking the time to reread and respond. Hugs and love xox

  6. Sweet, beautiful friend, you are so inspiring. I frankly have felt a little flat lately, unlike me, and your words are such an encouragement and reminder of freedom God provides lavishly. It is my choice to embrace joy and freedom. It is the enemy’s choice to have me in the dark. I am a c h old of light and so are you. I think we have to not take for granted and keep choosing truth. Thank you, dear friend. God bless you, beautiful friend! Love you, as always. Hugs! XO😄❤

    1. Aw, Tonya, thank you so much. You are such a light! I’m sorry that you’ve been feeling flat recently. Amen – God loves and provides lavishly! I love that word. So true, my friend – let’s choose joy and freedom today and every day! love you, my sweet friend!!! Have a beautiful week! Hugs and love xox

  7. Confession: I’ve been there too. Few would guess who know me now but those years…I thought I hid it well. I didn’t. The truth is, I’m much more like an alcoholic in that I will not say that I am recovered. I may always be that thing on an emotional level. I still have that bend, guilt, desire to purge at a smidge of cush on my belly or the feeling of being over full or even eating something I know is calorie rich…..I just don’t practice it any longer…not in many years, but the feelings are still there. I cannot see myself. I can both be thin and totally fat within the same day in my own warped perspective. I cannot trust my judgement but I’ve learned to err on the side of grace for myself.
    What I could not comprehend in those years, was the impact it would have on my daughter!!! Our children! I took for grated her youth, my deception but she knew and the difficult lesson she learned so well…was self loathing.
    She was driven in an opposite direction toward a perilous point, to at the height, had reached 386 lbs!
    She now has taken back her life, all natural, nutrition and exercise, weighing 145 and bodybuilder fit!
    As a mother, I taught her a catalog of things, from standing, to hold a spoon, walk etc. But, I’ve also learned and am learning so much from her. I’m learning to love myself and the flaws that only made me human. I wrote about her and quoted her in her online (yet with discretion) outing of the impact I had on her and my public admission. I’m leaving the link for you and anyone who may need these words.

    https://alltheshoesiwear.wordpress.com/2020/11/12/love-the-fkaws-that-make-us-human/

    Always with love, Laura

    1. Hi Laura, thank you so much for sharing your story. You’re so right – recovery is a journey – and it is a constant progression, so I totally feel you when it comes to the word, “recovered” — I’m right there with you. Everyday we have to wake up and choose recovery and choose to listen to the truth! Yes!! Oh wow your daughter sounds like a warrior! What a powerful story. It sounds like the two of you are a dynamic duo. I look forward to reading your article. Thank you so much for this uplifting comment. I am inspired by you and your daughter! Lots of love and hugs xox Caralyn

  8. Wonderful message! Caralyn you shine a light of love into those dark places that many are in.
    May God continue to bless you with strength, peace and wisdom as you continue your journey. It has been so good to see your growth blog by blog and I wish you and your family a joyous Christmas

    1. thank you so much Andrew! oh my gosh, I am so touched and humbled that you would join me on my journey. You’re a great friend. Thank you. Amen – God is good! I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas too! Hugs and love xox

  9. Hi Caralyn!
    I like this part, “That’s the thing about darkness. You become so used to it that your eyes become adjusted and you can actually begin to see.”
    Fact is, I only began to learn all about anorexia from you. and I am amazed at the courage you have to speak about it, your recovery and everything. You are so blessed and you bless us all too!
    May God bless you more!
    fr. nick

    1. Hi Fr. Nick! Oh gosh, thank you so much – wow I am truly humbled by your generous words. my goodness, i am touched. God has really brought me though a lot, and I owe, literally, my life to Him. His grace is nothing short of amazing. I hope you’re having a wonderful Advent season! God bless you!!

    1. oh gosh, thank you friend, that really means a lot. me too. God is good. Hugs and love xox

    1. thank you friend. amen to that! i owe literally my life to God and His saving power in my life! Hugs and love xox

  10. Hey sunshine hope all is well with you I’ve been away for a while saw you had stop by bring the warmth of your smile which is always welcome, let Gods light pave your way, blessing you everyday. Sandyman

    1. Hi Sandyman! aw, thank you so much 🙂 amen to that – His light is the best guide for life! Hugs and love xox

  11. The darkness and beginning to see is universal. The lies we tell ourselves are maddening. I’m glad you made it through to the other side. Hopes and prayers that others still struggling will get there too.

    1. Hi J-Dub, thank you so much for your kind words and prayers. Yes – it is my deepest prayer that those struggling will find freedom in Him! Hugs and love xox

    1. Thank you Tilly – you’re right about that – I am grateful for God having save me from such depths. Hugs and love xox

  12. Excellent article…my wife, Cute Judy Lee, was in John Hopkins in 1954 for anorexia before it was even known as that at the time. It’s been a long and winding road to recovery.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing that. YOu’re so right – it is a long and winding road. How blessed is your wife to have you by her side during it! sending so much love! xox

  13. Beautifully done! You offer a perspective that only one who has lived through hell can bring. May your precious words aid and comfort many who are where you were those many years ago. Blessings to you and your family!

    1. Thank you Sandman. Your words are kind and generous. Yes – definitely have been to the depths. God is so good and I’m grateful to Him for rescuing me!! Hugs and love xox

  14. This line, “This life of pain, of isolation, deception, and fear — it is not a life at all” Really got me in the heart. I am so glad that I am now in therapy to get help with my anxiety, depression, BDD and eating disorder. There is hope. Hope with the help of my therapist and Jesus I can live an amazing life.

    1. Hi Amanda, thank you so much for sharing your heart. I’m so glad this resonated with you, and that you’ve embraced therapy! cheering for you! yes. there. is!! hope is real!!!! Hugs and love xox

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