Thirteen years, eight months and zero days.
I have been in recovery from anorexia for 13 years and eight months. It was May 18 of 2007 when I began the most rewarding, and also most difficult journey of my life.
And reading that number, it’s easy to assume that recovery must be “old hat” by now. A walk in the park. A blip on the proverbial radar that’s such a distant memory, compared with the clear blue skies on the horizon.
Which…granted, is for the most part pretty accurate. But sometimes, life will throw you a curve ball that will really put your recovery to the test, and sometimes…we’re not as invincible as we may think…even with well over a decade of practice under our belts.
And well, friends…one of those curve balls was thrown my way this weekend. And I wish I could tell you that I hit a home run and smashed that potential trip-up to smithereens, but the fact is…I struck out in slow pitch.
Allow me to set the scene. And let me preface this by saying that the person involved meant absolutely no harm in their words, so please be respectful in the comments section, thank you.
I was at a small gathering with couple friends (COVID-precautions were taken), and my friend pulls me aside and, in a complementary tone, says, “Your bum and your thighs have gotten bigger! You’ve gained weight in your bum and thighs, haven’t you!“
And, let me pause, and say that I love this friend to bits, and she was saying this in an “excited for me” kind of way, and not at all in an offensive manner.
But when I heard, specifically the words, “gained weight,” and “thighs…” I have to be really honest, internally, it was like I was shot from a cannon, and catapulted right back into the dungeon, captive to the dark and destructive eating disorder thoughts that plagued me those 13 years ago.
And it’s wild, because, candidly, I have been trying to “fill out” with a more womanly shape recently, if you know what I mean. I’ve cut back my running, been eating more protein and healthy fats, and truthfully, I have been seeing some exciting “results.” For the first time, I’m beginning to lose my 12-year-old boy silhouette, and develop a some curves. And I’ve been loving it – I’ve bought some new clothes and items that accentuate my new womanly features, and it’s been really exciting to feel beautiful. (All sans-scale, I might add.)
But even with that welcoming attitude of the curves, as soon as I heard the words, “bigger thighs” and “gained weight,” all that went out the window, and I really really had to fight that voice of “ED” (aka Eating Disorder) for the rest of the night. We were out to dinner, and for the first time in 13 years, I became aware of what I was eating compared to the other girls. Well, they’re taking half of their meals home in a doggie bag, and you cleaned your plate…what a fat a**.
And I became aware of how my clothes were fitting, and yadda yadda yadda. You get it. The red lights were blinking in the cockpit, and it was a mayday situation.
By the time I went to bed that night, I had put it behind me, chalked it up to a bad episode, something to move forward and grow from, and continue on in my quest for curves.
But waking up the next morning, it was still on my mind. I was meeting my boyfriend for lunch, and during which, I confided in him what had happened, appologizing if I had seemed “off” or “in my head” the night before, and just told him everything.
And I’ve gotta tell ya, I am just so blessed. He looked me in my eyes and said, “I think you’re beautiful.”
OK – I won’t get gushy, but he is just the best.
Anyway. The reason I’m sharing this tonight, is that, looking back now, a couple days out, emotionally removed from the situation, I’m actually pretty surprised that that comment got to me so much.
I would have hoped I was more bullet proof than that, but I guess when you have a history of starving yourself down to a life-threatening 78 pounds in pursuit of a thigh gap, hearing that you’ve gained weight in your thighs, specifically, I’ve got to give myself a little grace.
I am not invincible. I am not bullet proof, and truthfully, no recovery is.
There will always be that one trigger that will make you fight like hell to cling on for dear life to your recovery, until it passes.
Here’s what really helped me, during this episode.
A) Having supportive people around me. My boyfriend, my parents (who I also called and got the sense talked into me) – they were able to speak truth into me, and reaffirm the Caralyn I am, not the Caralyn I once was.
B) I had the tools to draw from from 13 years of practice – I could feel myself slipping into the “red zone” of listening to that voice of the eating disorder, but I chose to let my actions fight back, and I still cleaned my plate (and ordered extra avocado!) as a way to combat that toxic darkness. (AKA…it did not win!)
C) I was open about my struggle. Before, I would have bottled it up. But I was open with those supportive people, and with God, and welcomed their words of affirmation into my heart.
Finally, and most importantly, I had my eyes wide open for the lesson.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in these 13 years, 8 months and zero days, it’s that God never allows you to experience a struggle, without giving you a pearl of wisdom afterwards…you just have to look for it.
And I definitely got it.
This morning, when I woke up, I was making my usual breakfast, and to be honest, I had to fight back thoughts about the “gained weight” as I cracked my two eggs into the bowl. But I powered through. I may have been rattled, but I would not be derailed.
But after breakfast, I was getting ready for the day, and what do you know….but I had received my “monthly visitor.” (Sorry guys, for the TMI!)
Yes, “Aunt Flo” arrived for the week.
And there it was. That was God reminding me of the absolute greatest gift of recovery: my fertility. For, if you have followed my blog for a while, then you know that it was only in the last year or so, that I have actually menstruated.
Having been at such a dangerously low weight for a drastically sustained period of time, my body did everything it could just to keep me alive. And so it shut off my reproductive system, as is common in severe cases of anorexia, women lose their periods.
But mine had not come back. It took almost 12 years for my body to finally heal enough to be able to support life. And praise God that it did. It is truly a miracle.
But that is what I was reminded of: that incredible miracle of a second chance. That God has healed my body enough to be able to one day, God willing, bring children into this world. And the body can only do that, when it is properly and consistently fed a calorically sound diet….that includes fat and adequate protein. (Two things I was not getting on a vegan diet.)
But that’s a story for a different day.
I think sometimes, a little bit of a feather ruffle is a good thing. It reminds us of the preciousness and sacredness of that which we may have begun to take for granted.
But to my recovery warriors out there, know that you can overcome a trip up, too. You have the power to choose which thoughts you listen to — and even more, how you respond to those thoughts.
Because, yes – even after 13.8 years, those thoughts can still weasel their way into your mind. But you have the tools to fight back. And giving yourself the grace and patience when it happens, is such a gift.
Recovery is a long and winding journey, but in the long run, struggle only strengthens you, and fortifies your suit of armor. Because yes, it’s a fight. And you will win.
“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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