This is a humbling post to write.
Because, after being in recovery from anorexia for 13 years now, I’d like to be able to say that it’s been a smooth road since day one…never a bump, never a roadblock, never a detour. As much as I wish I could say that was the case, the truth is, recovery can be a bit of a rough road at times. And a humbling one at that.
But sitting here today, the strongest I’ve ever been in my recovery, where I can honestly say that my eating disorder is in the rear-view mirror, I have gained the ability to look back objectively, and evaluate my recovery journey thus far.
Because in 2021, the hindsight I have now is free from those acute emotions from long ago when wounds were still fresh, and pain was a) unprocessed and b) suppressed.
And further to that, I’m at a point now where my past no longer has a choke hold around my neck. Jesus freeded me from that guilt and shame I carried for so long. And with the freedom from that burden, comes the responsibility to share the wisdom that comes from mistakes I was simultaneously too proud and ashamed to acknowledge in the first place.
Funny how saying “I was wrong” can spark both sides of that ugly coin of self-importance.
But enough beating around the bush.
My Three Biggest Recovery Mistakes
1) Premature Release from Inpatient
*Sigh* This is so humbling to admit. For a few reasons. A) Because I thought I could “do it” on my own, and well…I proved with flying colors that I most certainly could not. And B) I was so adamant about that belief that I went against all the strong recommendations of my doctors and family to continue my treatment at a more relaxed residential facility — that would have consisted of living for another 3 months in an apartment with four other girls who were also in eating disorder recovery, where we’d still be under the watch of a treatment team, but with more independence, in a “real world”-like atmosphere.
I guess, spelling it out, it’s basically a glammed-up halfway house for girls in eating disorder recovery.
((*As a more precise clarifier: Inpatient treatment is set in a hospital (or in my case a hospital disguised as a cozy, dude ranch-like campus) – with 24/7 hospital-level monitoring/care. Residential treatment is set in a home-like atmosphere with less intense monitoring/care, but still with access to hospital services.))
Anyway…after spending three months at an inpatient hospital treatment facility – where my vitals were measured multiple times a day; I couldn’t walk because I was too much of a risk, so I had to be driven everywhere in a golf cart; and the only “safe” activities they allowed for grown women to do in our down time was either a) color or b) play cards (TV, books/magazines/smart phones were forbidden)….I was desperate to get out of there.
And if it sounds like I’m negative on my experience at inpatient, I’m really not. It saved my life, yes — but it in no way “cured” my eating disorder. That work was done through considerable effort later in my recovery, by surrendering my disease to Jesus, and only then was my anorexia truly healed.
But that’s another can of worms. As an 18 year old legal “adult,” I rejected everyone’s recommendation to continue my treatment for another three months (I still had 10 pounds to gain) — and instead I went home to Ohio. Where, after just a few short weeks, I packed up my life into boxes, and moved into a dorm room for Freshman Orientation at the College of Charleston. During that first semester, I relapsed HARD and after returning home for Christmas break at 86 pounds, I was forbidden to return, and I had to remain home until I got my eating disorder under control. (It was here at home with my parents, that my faith was truly nurtured and I was able to adopt recovery.)
So yeah — hindsight: I should have listened to my parents and the professionals and continued on to residential treatment after inpatient treatment.
2) Rejecting a Treatment Team, Post-Release
When you’re discharged from inpatient treatment, you walk out of there with two things in hand: A) a meal plan, personally created for you by the dietician. And B) appointments already on the books with your new treatment team (Therapist/Dietician/Doctor) set up for you at home.
And, guess who didn’t adhere to either of those things.
Yep…are you sensing a pattern here? As I’ve previously mentioned, pride was and is the biggest sin-trap in my life.
When I got home, for those first three weeks I was home with my parents, I adhered to the meal plans, I begrudgingly went to my appointments, but three weeks later, when I was on my own at college, I just flat out dropped the treatment team that was set up for me in Charleston. I didn’t go. I went once, and then sayonara. I didn’t want to be accountable to anyone. I was fully relapsed back into my anorexia, and I didn’t want to have to report to anyone or let anyone see that I was back to my old destructive behavior. And there is another huge mistake and regret, honestly.
Accountability is of huge importance, especially at the beginning of your recovery journey, because silencing the “Voice of ED” that is trying to infiltrate your thoughts and lure you back into the eating disorder…that’s a muscle. And every time you resist those disordered thoughts, you get stronger for the next time. But just starting out, it is so easy to be lured back into the darkness…your former comfort…your previous “safe-zone” — it’s like a drug.
I needed that treatment team, at least for the first few years. Plain and simple.
3) Not reaching out for help when I was trapped in the cycle of binge eating.
There was a very dark period of time when I first moved to New York, that I suffered through a season of binge eating. I wrote about in in-depth here. But there was just so much shame around it. I’d eat and eat and eat at night until it hurt, and then the next day I’d restrict with the same tenacity, and it was just this terrible, all-consuming, self-lothing nightmare where I was just completely out of control. I was only eating one huge meal a day…which on most days would turn into a binge. I’d wake up and hate myself, and punish myself with a grueling, Olympian-caliber workout at the gym, and friends, that is the binge-restrict cycle. And it is damn hard to break, because there is so much shame around it.
It wasn’t until my Ulcerative Colitis said “enough’s enough” and I had an 11-month long flare, where I had to move home and be on bedrest…and it was only then, where I was forced to a) give up exercise and b) eat three meals a day WITH ACCOUNTABILITY FROM MY PARENTS, that I finally broke that binge/restrict cycle and here we are.
But during that time at home on bedrest, I also gave up another bonus mistake that I see many, many, many many girls make when they adopt recovery….
4) Going Vegan
This, friends…is just another disguise that eating disorders take for those still struggling with their disease. Because it’s “socially acceptable.” And please hear me: I am not saying that everyone who is vegan has a veiled eating disorder…goodness gracious, I’m not saying that at all.
But what I am saying, is that many girls — myself included, — once in recovery, adopt a vegan lifestyle because it’s a socially acceptable way to not have to face their “fear foods.” They don’t have to eat meat, or butter, or in the case of “high carb low fat” (aka HCLF vegans): oil . (Those are the top three fear foods among those with eating disorders.) They don’t have to eat cheeseburgers, or pizza, or hotdogs. They can deny cake, ice cream, dessert…MOST FOODS….because it’s “against their veganism.”
And let me tell you….I was vegan for a long time. And it wasn’t until I started eating fish and eggs and adding oil to my diet (which is now my best friend) that I started menstruating. My body was crying out for adequate protein and sufficient FAT in my diet…and literally weeks within adding those nutritious sources of animal protein and fat into my body, I menstruated for the first time in my life, and have been consistently ever since.
Vegansim — in my opinion, in what I have seen for many recovery warriors — is just veiled orthorexia, and a way to still give the eating disorder a foothold in your life that frankly, you “can live with” for the rest of your life.
So anyway…this post has become rather long. I started writing this in the bright sun of the day, and now the street lamps below my window are on and it’s full-on nighttime.
But I will close with this:
Looking back now, yes, I can see so many pitfalls where my recovery took regrettable wrong turns, and detours that altered the course of my life in ways that frankly hurt to imagine.
But what I’m left with is the promise that Jesus has for me and for you, that God will work all things together for good. (Romans 8:28). That I may not understand the reason why all these things came to pass, but I do know that I the lessons I gleaned from each of these things have made me into the woman I am today.
And the trust that I have gives me total and complete peace, knowing that God has been, and continues to work on me, so that I may fulfill the plan He has for my life.
During all those road blocks, He never abandoned me, never rejected me, or gave up on me. But rather, had the patience of a loving Father to allow me to work through those things I needed to grow. He allowed me the grace and mercy to learn lessons — sometimes in very hard and painful ways — that have given me the faith and heart I have today.
Which just goes to show, that no situation is impossible for God. No one is “too far gone” or “unsavable” for His mighty Hand. We are never too broken. We’re never too “messed up,” or have committed mistakes that are irredeemable for His love.
My healing came when I handed those things over to Him. When I sought His forgiveness, His love, His redemption.
Standing here today, I’m living proof that God never gives up on us.
“This is what the Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.” Ez 37:5
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!Get a tube!
Be sure to check out my affiliate, Audible. Listening to audiobooks while I cook is literally my new favorite thing. And just for you, they’re offering a Free 30-Day Trial Membership. And with this free membership, you’re going to get 2 free audiobooks! Literally. Free. It is the best deal ever. And if for some reason, you decide it’s not for you, you can cancel within those 30 days and it’s zero money out of your pocket, plus, you get to keep the 2 audiobooks. Soooo…it’s pretty much a no brainer. Plus, it’s a free and easy way to support this blog! So thank you!!
@beauty.beyond.bones – Instagram
For Podcast versions of my posts, please check out Patreon! It’s only $2 a month!! You make this blog possible 🙂
And really quickly, I’ve had several questions concerning my Amazon link (amazon.com/shop/beautybeyondbones) — You do not need to buy one of my specific highlighted products on my page, in order for it to “credit” my account. Any purchases that you search or make from anywhere on Amazon, after first visiting my Amazon page, will credit this blog and help support this blog ministry. I am truly so grateful and appreciative to those of you wanting to do so! So thank you! Again, it is an absolutely free, and easy way for you to help keep this blog going!