Well, today marks the 15th year of my recovery from anorexia.
Fifteen years ago today, my trembling, scared, belligerent self was checked into an inpatient facility in Arizona, and from that moment on, my life would never be the same.
And I’m going to be honest, although a “15 year anniversary” sounds like something that is super impressive, and a milestone that I’ve been counting up towards, truthfully, I only realized this last week when I was flipping through my inpatient journal on a whim.
I decided I wanted to “do the math,” and sure enough, May 19 was the day I checked into inpatient 15 years ago back in 2007.
I can remember the day like it was yesterday. It was all happened in a whirlwind, because a bed had just opened up at the facility. My mother had me on a waiting list — unbeknownst to me — and since I was technically a legal adult, they couldn’t force me to go…and I was adamant that A) I didn’t have an eating disorder, and B) I sure as H-E-double-hockey-sticks wasn’t going to miss my high school graduation to go to rehab for three months.
So my parents staged an intervention. It was all very dramatic, much like you’ve seen on TV…the yelling, the slamming doors, the tears, the pleading, the begging, ((all done by me)) and then finally, the begrudging acceptance to go.
My plane ticket was booked for the very next morning, and my parents and I flew across the country, to drop me off at the top Christian eating disorder inpatient recovery center in the world.
I’m shocked that I remember everything so vividly, given that I was 78 pounds and was in a constant state of brain fog. But I just remember I brought a bag full of dry Kashi cereal and other snacks on the plane. And the whole flight I was just eating and eating. My messed up head thought that if I weighed more when I got there, that my “sentence” would be shorter, and I’d be able to get the heck out of there sooner.
Wrong I was.
When we arrived, even though it was 90-something degrees, I was still cold. And I just remember walking into the common room where all the girls spent their time during the day. And I say “girls,” because even though I was in the “adult” 18+ facility, everyone was so emaciated and skeletal, that they looked like old, decaying children. Like a doll you’d see in a horror film in someone’s haunted attic. And they were doing child-like things: coloring in coloring books, playing cards, reading, doing puzzles. There was no TV, and no activity that involved anything that got your heart rate up, so coloring it was.
Everyone had feeding tubes coming out of their noses, and there was just this overwhelming feeling of anxiety – like I was walking through a morgue. It was very surreal.
I was taken to my makeshift “room” where I would be staying for the first few weeks: at the nurses station. Because of the starvation I had put my body through, it was in such severe depletion that I was at risk for sudden cardiac arrest, and so they wanted to be able to monitor me through the night to make sure my heart didn’t stop. After all, that is how girls die from anorexia: because the heart is a muscle, and your body is consuming its own muscles and tissues to stay alive.
I remember that first day, being brought into the back nurses examination room for entrance processing.
They were these big, stern nurses — who, had to be that way, because every girl that is in that place is an expert liar and master of deception and manipulation.
They clanked a lunch tray down in front of me with a sandwich, apple juice, a side of pasta — I don’t remember what else, but I just remember being terrified, faced with foods I hadn’t dared to eat in a long time.
I was then handed a hospital gown with the one word instruction: strip.
They needed to check my body for any signs of self mutilation, which oftentimes accompanies girls with eating disorders.
And standing there, shivering, naked, in a backless paper hospital gown, across the country at an eating disorder treatment facility being checked for signs of self harm, I thought to myself, “Caralyn, this is it. Your life does not get any lower than this.”
That was fifteen years ago, today.
How life can change.
And more impressively, how God can take what is utterly broken beyond repair, and restore it, redeem it, and completely turn things around.
Reflecting on that episode 15 years ago, it almost seems like I’m telling the story of someone else. It is so far removed from who I am today, it’s like it’s not really me that it happened to.
And yet, if I close my eyes and think hard enough, I can go right back to that cot at the nurses station, and still hear the beeping of the machines, and the smell of that sterile room, and the set up of the place, and the rules we had to adhere to: like not being allowed to flush the toilets ourselves.
It is a phase of life – a part of my story – that really changed who I am, and my outlook on the world, and direction in life, I believe for the better. Which just goes to show that God can bring good out of even the absolute worst of any situation.
I was going through my inpatient journal and found the very first thing I wrote. I had written down two Bible verses.
The first was from Ezekiel 36: 25-26
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. And I will put a new spirit in you.
The second was Psalm 143: 3-10
May Your gracious spirit lead me forward on a firm footing. Let me hear of Your unfailing love to me in the morning, for I am trusting You.
And looking back, those were really the two things that got me through that terrifying time during those three months, and truly have sustained me every day since:
1) Clinging to the promise that He has washed away my past, my sin – making me clean, and with a new spirit.
I fully believe that eating disorders are a form of spiritual warfare, with the enemy using a spirit of darkness, a spirit of evil to control the sufferer. The eating disorder feeds her lies that make her believe that she is worthless, unlovable, and a burden to those who love her. The enemy is the liar of all liars and comes only to steal, kill and destroy, and that’s exactly what he is doing with girls and eating disorders.
The promise of a new spirit — it gave me the hope that I didn’t know I needed at that very moment.
2) The second promise I clung to was that I could trust my Father, who’s love for me is unfailing.
I could trust Him. Whatever came next. Whatever “fear food” they placed on my plate next. Whatever supplement increase I faced for the day. Whatever urge to exercise I had to overcome. Whatever accusation I faced or loneliness or fear I felt, I could trust Him. Because He loved me. He loved me despite everything that I had done that got me there. He loved me, even knowing that I had lied, and was destructive, and hurtful and disobedient, and frankly…just horrible. His love was unfailing. I could fail, but His love didn’t.
Fifteen years is a long time. And if there’s one thing I could say to myself, earlier on in my recovery journey, it would be this:
The key to all of this, is love.
Love is the secret to freedom. Freedom from ED, freedom from the toils of recovery, freedom to actually let myself be free.
It starts with Love from God. Allowing Him to love me. Accepting it into my heart, and learning to love Him back.
That grows into a love for self. Learning to love the thing I hated most: myself. But with time, I would learn to forgive myself of my past, and learn to see myself the way God sees me: as a precious daughter, worthy of love.
And lastly, is finally allowing love into my life from another person. This is the ultimate key to freedom, because it means that deep down in my heart, I truly believe that I am, in fact, am worthy of love. And all the prior steps will be in beautiful harmony: a life from love, in love, for love.
I know it seems incredibly simple when broken down like that, but for me, traversing those different “love steps” took the better part of 12 years.
They don’t say recovery is a journey for nothing.
One thing is for certain: we are never stagnant. We are always growing, always evolving. And when God is the center and source of that transformation, we can trust that that growth is always for the better, forwards, towards the person God created us to be.
Thank you for your support on Patreon!! You make this blog possible 🙂
“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
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!