I do believe that I have some humble pie to eat tonight…
Which is ironic, given the topic of tonight’s post: National Eating Disorders Awareness Week.
Spoiler alert: it’s this week.
And the theme this year is: Strength through Experience and Knowledge: It’s Time for Change.
Taken from the NEDA website: “#EDAW 2023 is an opportunity to center on lived experiences and eating disorder education, which are the essential catalysts for awareness and change.”
I read that once and I had to close my laptop, frustrated at the “woke” word salad jargon that has now made its way into Eating Disorder recovery verbiage.
You see, the whole obsession with “lived experiences” that has taken hold of our country over the last four years is absolutely infuriating. Because what it does is, in essence, allows people to make super outlandish claims that usually contradict common sense/moral norms that our country has stood for for centuries, all because of someone’s “my truth.”
But as I sat there in my annoyance, I began to have a realization: sharing my own lived experience with anorexia was the entire reason I started this blog eight years ago back in February 2015.
You see, back in 2015, there just weren’t any resources out there for those in recovery or their loved ones, other than Portia Degeneres’ incredibly triggering book: Unbearable Lightness. So I wanted to provide an unfiltered, raw and oftentimes disgracefully honest glimpse into what anorexia actually is like for those suffering, so as to offer insight for loved ones who are unable to reach their struggling daughter.
So I started my blog. And for the first 4 months or so, I wrote it like a book: Documenting how it developed, what it was like, the destructive mental tapes running through my head, inpatient treatment, recovery, relapse and finally true recovery. And yeah, a lot of it is incredibly dark. But that’s the reality of an eating disorder: is that it is allowing your disorder of despair to overtake who you are, what you believe, how you think, the way you act and who you want to become. It overtakes you: mind, body and spirit.
And realizing this, I came to the conclusion that I can’t scoff at NEDA Week’s theme this year, focusing on lived experiences, because that’s exactly what I’ve been doing all along. Hello Pot, meet Kettle.
You know, I do think that God allows us to go through things so as to help others. Not that that’s the purpose for going through trials and tribulations…but I do think that when we surrender our cross to Him to redeem, that He places an unquenchable desire in our hearts to share what He has done for us, so as to help others in the same situation.
I remember staying up until 3–4 in the morning night after night when my blog was starting, because I just couldn’t get the words out fast enough. I allowed that flood gate to open — which I had bottled up for almost eight years — and the words just flew onto the page faster than I could type.
I wanted to provide the answers that my loved ones desperately were searching for — and unable to find — when I was going through it. They would always tell me how helpless they felt, watching me waste away right in front of their eyes, yet no matter what length or what end-of-the-earth they went to to find solutions or to get through to me, they just couldn’t.
So if I could prevent that for even one family and one sufferer…then I knew that what I was doing was good.
I want to close tonight by sharing a brief memory from inpatient that I think encapsulates something very important that is never talked about in recovery circles.
Going to inpatient, while it didn’t cure my eating disorder…it did save my life. And it did open my eyes the hardest truths of eating disorder recovery:
Recovery is not a sure bet.
And reading that on an ED recovery blog is probably not what you were hoping to hear. But I’ve never been anything but honest with you. Allow me to expound upon that upsetting truth.
Inpatient was like some sort of jarring vortex. There were all these women — from me at 18 to others in their 50s and 60s — who were all in this kindergarden-like environment. We couldn’t watch TV or do anything with even the slightest hint of physical activity, and of course, no going outside. Most books and magazines were considered contraband, and so we had to find ways to occupy ourselves in this rec-room (complete with cubbies) all day. And so you had these grown women coloring in coloring books, doing arts and crafts, playing cards and other board games, reading Highlights (yes the magazine at every pediatric dentist’s office in the nineties) or reading the Bible. It was a very surreal experience.
But like I said, there were women who were there in their 50’s. And, attending group therapy sessions with everyone 3 times a week, I definitely got to hear these women’s stories and the trauma or abuse many often suffered. Many of them had been in and out of inpatient treatment facilities for their entire lives. Some battling anorexia or bulimia for over 40 years. Forty years.
So heart breaking.
And being the youngest in the clinic, they all would tell me, “You’re lucky to have ‘caught it’ early so that it doesn’t take over and ruin your life. You don’t want to be like me…”
Recovery from an eating disorder is not guaranteed.
And if I were trying to muscle it out all by myself, I’m sure my story would look a lot different.
But the fact of the matter is, you’ve got to find strength to recover from someone or something other than yourself. Because on hard days when the rubber meets the road, no “mantra” or positive self talk, no meditation practice or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) exercise is going to push you over the finish line to stick with your recovery. Not when those days hit when you’re at the end of your rope….and those days definitely happen.
The only way I have maintained my recovery is that I surrendered it to Christ.
I knew that my human weakness was no match for the eating disorder. If left to my own devices, I would have found ways to skirt the system and to sneak little pieces of my eating disorder back into my life. That’s a humbling thing to admit.
It is only through placing my entire recovery — and my entire life — into the hands of Jesus, that I have found true healing, true recovery.
Because a recovery rooted in Jesus is unshifting. It’s stable. It isn’t reliant upon my own emotions or whims or dedication or strength. It is founded upon a firm foundation: one that is rooted in THE Truth…not “my” truth. THE Truth that says I am loved. I am forgiven. I am known. I am worthy of recovery. I am redeemed. I am free.
Because on those hard days, I know that He is carrying me through them. Not me – not my strength or will power…only His. Even if I’m only hanging on by the microscopic-ist of threads…His strong, study Hand upholds me.
The fact of the matter is that every single day, I have to wake up and choose recovery. I have to choose to say, “Lord, today I choose You.” Because anything other than totally and completely choosing Him is choosing ED…choosing the enemy.
Recovery is the greatest blessing of my life.
And though this trial has taken me to the depths of the depths and nearly cost me literally everything…God has taught me some of the most important lessons I will ever learn…lessons that my salvation depends on. Namely: learning to trust and depend wholly on God.
I am nothing without Him. My recovery is non-existant without Him.
And that is what they don’t tell you at inpatient. That is why people are struggling with 40 years of strangulation by ED. Is that at the end of the day, the one and only place to find freedom is in the loving, forgiving arms of our Lord.
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