For the past few months I have hemmed and hawed about what my first blog post should be about. Do I start with my story? Do I simply introduce myself? Should it be funny? Should it be serious? Should it be educational? Finally I decided to just start with where I am at. What is currently going on? I’ll eventually share my story, what re-feeding was like, my deepest hurts and best coping skills, but today I’ll simply start with today.
I am currently about fifteen months into treatment/recovery for anorexia and exercise bulimia. It’s a weird place to be. I have changed in many aspects and have a long way to go in others. It’s this strange place of being far from where I use to be, but not even close to where I’m going. I’m using all my tricks in my toolbox, I’m eating enough and a variety. I am doing my best to practice “radical acceptance” (which by the way is THE WORST) and continue on my forward, yet glacial, journey to freedom. I'm in a wonderful and terrible limbo. I’m in waiting.
I don’t like waiting. It’s not fun. It’s stressful. It gives me anxiety. What’s worse is I’m not even 100% sure of how long I’m going to be waiting. I read recently that it can take anywhere between 11 and 72 months to recover.(1) WHAT?!?! That is a five year difference in waiting time. I get annoyed waiting for longer then five minutes let alone five years! I’ve already zoomed past the 11 month mark…so if I consider the worst case scenario that leaves me with 57 months to go…who wants to make that count down paper chain for me?
So what is it that I’m waiting for exactly? (If I list everything we would be reading late into the night, but I’ll stick to the big ones.)
If I’m being honest, the biggest thing I’m waiting for is for my body to heal. I’ve put my trust in my team, my amazingly designed body and God that my body will do it’s thing, fully heal and return to a healthy body. That my consistent nutrition and balanced diet will allow it to return to a normal set point weight for me. Right now I’m the heaviest I have ever been. It's not because I smashed whole pizzas and laid on the couch for a year netflixing. It's because I wrecked my metabolism and my body has decided to hoard everything while it heals and save up in case there is another famine. It is uncomfortable. It at times is embarrassing and I simply just don’t feel like myself. I’m waiting for my body to heal the damage of 7 years of restriction and pounding pavement. I’m waiting for it to say, hey, I’m cool now, I’m safe, we can let go of the protective suit of fat and let her get back to being her.
I’m waiting for all of these coping skills, thought logs and therapy sessions to work. Not just a little, but in a way that is immediate and helpful and wins.
I’m waiting for my brain to decide that it’s automatic thought shouldn't’ be that food is bad, I just burned off breakfast or how many calories are in that? Instead there will be a time where I will confidently feel when I’m hungry and respond to it. I will stop when I’m full and be satisfied, not scared. That I will enjoy fun foods as well as nutrient dense foods. I will not judge myself for eating a freaking donut, or even two (CRAZY!!!). A time when I will not live in a life of should and should nots when it comes to food and feel bad over its imaginary moral value.
I’m waiting for the time that I see a photo of myself and no matter what I look like I see a confident woman. A woman who’s identity is in Christ. A woman who is BOLD and smart and loving and loyal to those she is close with. That my talent and character shines through and my body is just a vessel to help me fill my greater purpose.
I’m waiting for my core values to matter more then surface level opinions. That societies obsession with shakes and diets and bikini bods becomes ineffective to my mind because I know life is more then these things and what I value is more then if I have a thigh gap or not. That I will never again reduce myself to such a superficial and surface level of identity.
I’ve accepted the fact that I have to wait for these things. That it is not fun. That I have no idea when it will be over, and that I have no control over how long it will take for my body to fully heal and my mind to be free. So how in the H. E. double hockey sticks do I deal with this and not live in constant anxiety, depression, stress or worse relapse.
Well for starters I had to learn that acceptance doesn’t mean I like it. It simply means I accept it and I’m doing what I can at this moment to bring about the change I desire. I don’t like the fact that I don’t fit into most clothing at stores because this current recovering body is lopsided, heavier then I’ve ever been and quiet frankly, in my mind, resembles the shape of a telletubbie. However, I accept it. It’s not forever. It’s right now. So I go buy a dress and move on. (In reality, I go, try on a dress, shed multiple tears, accept the situation...and then move on.)
I can concentrate on the good and what IS happening rather then what is not happening. I am FINALLY in the gym and working out in a moderate and normal way. I am getting stronger. I have used my situation to help others. I am growing closer with God and strengthening my faith. I am able to use my coping skills instead of laying in bed crying. I am able to enjoy sandwiches! I actually am starting to like myself again! I can walk without heart pain and I can eat without my body going into fits of reflux and pain! The list goes on…if I keep my mind on what is good and lovely and true it makes another day of waiting go by with ease instead of agony.
I can continue to put in the work. I’m not just going to one day wake up and BOOM, healed. I mean anything is possible with God, but possible doesn’t mean probable. I need to put in the work. I need to use coping skills every time my E. D. smacks me upside the head. I need to practice mindfulness every time my emotions flood and I feel like I can’t deal healthily with an outside trigger. I need to constantly challenge every ugly and negative thought that my E.D. throws my way. Over time this will change, but it won’t if I don’t put the work in while I’m waiting.
I can practice self care. What I’m going through is long and hard. At times it is literally painful, overly emotional and always mentally draining. I can’t fight an eating disorder if I don’t have any energy. I need to take care of myself. This can range from taking a walk outside and breathing in nature, to getting a pedicure or jamming out to my favorite DMB song. I need to take care of myself or I’ll be so tired and defeated that this time of waiting will feel like trudging through mud on my hands and knees.
I can ask for and seek out support. We are not meant to go through life trials alone. I am blessed with an amazing treatment team, support group, friends and family. When I am stuck in a cycle of shame and defeat, sometimes reaching out is the thing that pulls me out of the dark and into the light. I’ve learned instead of going at it alone, I just need to call up my sister in law and say, “Today has been rough, want to grab a glass of wine?” and get out of my isolating cry fest.
I can give up control and trust the process. WHAT?! I can't believe I just wrote that! Anorexia thrives in control, yet I have to give it up. My body will not heal when I want it to, it will heal at the pace it decides. If I starve myself again, I die. If I over-exercise again, I ruin all the work I've done up until now. This is clearly not going to happen in "Sara's time", so I need to let go and trust the process.
Most importantly I can remember who my God is. I am a self proclaimed music enthusiast. Music MOVES me. Recently my sister (also a music enthusiast) sent me a song. The song is by Bethel Music and it’s called “Take Courage.” It reminds me that God will renew me, heal me and that he is close to me. He's in the waiting. His plan is bigger then mine. It’s better then mine. He isn’t failing. I can turn to him for joy, strength and hope. I can have courage through this process, stay steadfast throughout my journey to freedom and know that with these skills, great support, self care and God my triumph over this horrible Eating Disorder WILL happen in his timing, not mine, but hopefully sometime in the next 1 to 57 months :)
1- Olwyn, Gwyneth (2012, November 23) Phases of Recovery From An Eating Disorder Part 3. www.edinstitute.org
2- Bethel Music, Kristene Dimarco, (2017, April 7) Take Courage