- Sara Mann
This past week I reached the two year mark of treatment. I started the recovery process December 7th of 2015. I don’t know why, but this year, instead of celebrating, I felt this intense feeling of disappointment, frustration, depression and defeat. If I’m being honest, I’m weary.
The first year of the recovery process has a LOT of milestones and I was basically just trying to get my health back on track. AKA not dying. It’s a time of re-feeding and nutrition. It’s a time of intense education about food, nutrition, coping skills, recognizing ED’s voice and fighting against it. In the first year it had only been a year. I was fighting the good fight and feeling hopeful and expectant.
The second year however has now turned more into a fight not to relapse instead of a fight toward freedom. Here I am at year two and its a complete 180. I feel weary and hopeless. Milestones come less and less. I feel stuck somewhere between not on my death bed, but not even close to free. Year two has brought an entirely new set of challenges. I NEVER thought I would struggle with wanting to relapse or such deep negative and scary thoughts. Yet here I am, wondering if I should have even started this whole thing to begin with. Almost daily I’m smacked with the thought that life was better Anorexic. Why? Because recovery is HARD. I mean it. Anyone I know that has recovered has said it is THE single hardest thing they ever had to do in their life. That includes people who have had and raised children, lost parents, gone through a divorce, you get the gist.
Why is recovery so hard? I think it’s because there is a complete loss of identity that has happened. Then there is the healing and changing body to deal with. It’s having to eat when I don’t feel like eating. It’s trusting a process and professionals that tell me things that are completely different then everything society and media have taught me about health and diet. It’s going through something hard surrounded by social media, constant photo taking and life pressures. Then there is the reality that I have completely forgotten how to eat normally. Our societies, and my own, intense fear of having fat on the body and constant love of dieting doesn’t help. There is also a lot of healing and science going on. For example, my body is not making as much dopamine because the “high” I got from starvation and exercise is now gone, and nothing else fills that void, so the body is literally chemically off leaving me feeling very little joy or happiness. But none of that, NONE OF THAT, is anything compared to the nasty and all out war that is going on in my head. It’s fighting for worth when your mind is telling you that you have none. It’s fighting for identity when ED is screaming it’s better with him. It’s searching for safety in something other then the control that an eating disorder brings. It’s coping with all the B.S. that maintains the eating disorder, without using the eating disorder to deal with it. It’s realizing that I’m doing my best, literally, and that still doesn’t seem good enough.
I’m doing everything my doctor, therapist and dietician tell me to and yet not much is visibly changing and alas, I’m left with the understanding that this just takes a long time. You don’t undo almost a decade of starvation and abuse to the body in a minute! When I reached out to a friend for support she reminded me of how fast I broke my ankle, yet how long it took to heal. UGH! It’s so true! When I entered treatment they told me it would at LEAST take three years. The average time it takes to recover is seven. I just need to keep on going….
This past week I got to such a dark place that I realized that something has got to give. I can’t continue to every day feel this looming darkness of hopelessness and this ugly hatred towards myself and my body. So how exactly am I going to keep on the path to recovery when it is so depressing and hard, knowing that I have at least a year or two, maybe even more, left? Do I start taking meds? That’s an option. It’s a fact that antidepressants often help people in recovery get through this valley. It lessens the all encompassing feeling to give up and relapse. So there is that, but since meds scare the heck out of me (1) I’m going to try one other things first.
I am in a B.S.F. (Bible Study Fellowship) bible study on Monday nights. We are currently studying Romans! This past week I read a scripture that completely describes what I’m going through…
“I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
I have discovered this principle of life - that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes ma a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?
Thank God! The answer in in Jesus Christ our Lord!”
OK…….if this doesn’t describe the torture of living with an eating disorder and trying to recover from it I don’t know what does. It’s like I don’t understand myself! It’s like there are two things going on. ED, who is nasty and makes me do things I don’t want to do, and the healthy me that is driven to recover! It is a battle. I know whats right, I know what is healthy, I know what I have to do, but dang it if I find myself restricting, or crying or giving in to all of ED’s evil and ugly thoughts. It’s like I KNOW that restricting won’t fix my problem, so why the heck do I keep wanting to do it?! I KNOW having my “perfect” body back doesn’t make life sunshine and rainbows, so why do I keep chasing that like it’s going to fix all my problems? It’s because there is this sin inside of me. This ED that satan uses to keep me from living the fulfilling and wonderful life that God has promised me.
So what do I do?? It’s cool because a few verses later in Romans it says…
Romans 8:1-2 & 5-6
“So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death……
Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.”
Now I know to some people this probably sounds so cookoo, so I just want to break this down to how it applies to my life. Basically it is saying, because I believe in my Savior Jesus Christ, I am no longer a slave to this sin and I am not condemned by me eating disorder. I have the POWER of the Holy Spirit to help me get through this trial. I have a new nature. Not an ED nature. This means that with the help of the Holy Spirit I am able to keep trying to overcome this and mess up and try again and do what’s good and right, and not be held eternally accountable for my B.S.
Now does this mean I don’t sin or don't’ struggle…nope. Obviously I’m still struggling with my eating disorder and idolizing my body and following EDS thoughts rather then my own good ones….but later in the scripture is where it becomes practical. It talks about how if I’m dominated by sinful nature (my eating disorder) then I think about sinful things (ED things, restriction, purging through exercise, how bad my body is, how I have no worth), but if I am controlled by the Holy Spirit I think about things that please the spirit and it leads me to LIFE AND PEACE!!!! People, this is good new because dang it if I couldn’t use some LIFE AND PEACE instead of this dreary darkness and hopelessness.
So I decided to look up what things my mind would be seeking if I am letting the Holy Spirit and Jesus guide my life and here are a few things I found….
Philippians 4:8 - “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things.”
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 “Therefore we do not lose heart. Thought outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentlest and self control.”
So here is my new goal for my third year in treatment/recovery…..I’m going to try my hardest, with the help of big man, to set my mind on those things. When I find myself insecure and embarrassed by my recovery weight, I’m going to remember what is good…that I’m recovering. When I feel overwhelmed and defeated by the process, I’m going to put my mind on what is admirable….that every small step in recovery is a step forward and God is with me each one of those steps. When I think ugly thoughts because I’m comparing myself….I’m going to fix my mind on loving the other person and myself instead. When I feel the desire to control my calories or go on a diet instead of being free and healthy, I’m going to take my mind off my temporary body and instead fix it onto what is achieving eternal things like loving others, sharing my faith and testimony and living in peace. If my mind is on these things how can I continue to live in such darkness and defeat?
Last year when I looked back at my first year of treatment I made a list of praises. There were a lot since it was the beginning and there were a lot of changes! Since one of the things my mind should be on is “whatever is praiseworthy,” I’m going to make a list of 20 praises that the second year of treatment has brought….they might not be as grandiose as last years, but recovery is about a lot of little small steps forward that overtime turn into freedom…so…here it goes!
1. I made it through the last year without relapsing! To put this in perceptive, I contemplate relapsing every single day.
2. I broke my ankle last December and while it is not 100% yet, I am walking just fine on it and it is mostly healed.
3. I have been allowed to start exercising more again. This has been a bit heartbreaking and hard but I’m grateful I can move.
4) I’ve gotten into hiking! I went from being sedentary to doing a six mile hike!
5) I’ve met THE most wonderful woman at my support group. I am SO SO beyond thankful for them and their support. Without them I would be isolated and lost.
6) I unfortunately am still having swelling issues, but I “think” its a little less. Progress?
7) I’ve started working again! It has been pretty hard, but it feels good to be out there making some cashola and using my camera to capture beautiful moments.
8. I started a blog to share my journey through recovery! It has actually been such a blessing. I’ve talked to so many people around the world that are either recovered or recovering. God has been using this blog to not only give me an outlet and share with others, but also to receive support and wisdom and friendship from others. I know for a fact that one girl decided to enter treatment after reading one of my blogs…if that single girl recovers, then I view this blog as a success!
9. I told my story in front of a LOT of people at a fundraiser in D.C. in order to help raise money for the non-profit that runs my support group! I was embarrassed and so anxious, but I did it anyway and they raised what they needed and more!
10. Although ED is trying to hold on for dear life, mentally I’ve changed a lot. My anxiety is down, my coping skills are being mastered. I’m a more relaxed person in general. Even though I struggle with insecurity still, I’m more at peace with my values and just being me.
11. A big prayer last year was that my hormones would start do figure themselves out. I’ll get into this in another blog, but while my body isn’t fully great yet I can tell it’s trying to figure itself out!
12. I have a new dietician who is AMAZING! She is pushing me to keep going and was exactly what I needed at a time that I felt stuck.
13. Although recovery is more like one step forward, two steps back, three steps forward, one step back….I’m learning to enjoy food again. In fact, I ordered out a pizza for delivery for the first time in ten years! Sounds crazy, but that was huge for me!
14. I’m learning how to eat again. The first year I followed a food plan and was told what to eat. Now I’m re-learning what hunger feels like and what foods are satiating and whether I like something regardless of the calorie count or label of good or bad.
15. I went on a missions trip to Guatemala with our church youth group, my husband, brother and parents! This was hard because I was very swollen and had no energy, but God new he could use me no matter what. It renewed my spirit that I’m more then my eating disorder and recovery process.
16. I had SO many health issues at the beginning of the year. I won’t go into detail because the internet doesn’t forget….but many of them have been resolved.
17. According to my husband I have come SO far with food hang ups. I mentioned ordering out pizza above but it’s even more then that. I can go to a restaurant without looking at the menu ahead of time. I can go to someones house and eat whatever they made. I won’t only order a salad and I places that were 100% off limits I’m willing to try.
18. Im starting to get out more. I’ve pretty much isolated myself because, if I’m being honest, I’m tired. Recovery is exhausting and draining and I just don’t have the energy to go out. Lately I’ve been trying to hang out with friends a little more and challenging myself to get up and be social again.
19. I see how God is using this process to refine me and use me.
20. I’ve fallen down 1,457 times and I’ve gotten back up 1,458! I use to be triggered by things all the time. I STILL am triggered by things all the time. The difference between now and a year ago is that they don’t last as long. If I see a photo of myself, I use to cry, restrict, work out, and have a meltdown for like a week, and not be in another photo for months. Now, I’m able to work through it and move on with my day. I still don’t feel great, but it isn’t as debilitating as it was before.
This is just a small list of praises, and I’m sure if I sat down for another hour to think of more I could, but like I said, year two was hard. It had a lot more lows then highs, but despite the hardship, I’m still hanging in there and moving forward even if it is at a glacial pace.
I’m hoping and praying that year three brings about more healing, both mentally and physically. I’m praying it is a year of hope and joy! I know that no matter what happens on the outside, I’m still being inwardly renewed each and every day. I’m going to be fixing my mind on all those good things, the best I can and I hope next year at this time I can report back that year three brought LIFE AND PEACE!
- Sara -
1- I just wanted to take a minute and clarify that I don't think anti-depressants or meds are bad in any way. They truly help a lot of people. I will eventually blog about my struggle with deciding whether to try them or not during this process :)