There.

Throughout the last few years of recovery, my top priority was getting to a place where I felt comfortable in my body. No matter what shape it was in, what the scale said about it, or how it looked in any piece of clothing. I longed to feel at home.

You see, once I dove head first into learning everything I could about anorexia, I came to realize how long the seed had been germinating. It didn’t begin when I was working out six to seven days a week. It wasn’t caused by a certain situation I’d gone through or as a result of any break up. Society’s idea of beauty had absolutely no part in it whatsoever.

In reality it had begun long ago out of a desire to feel seen and accepted by my family. The symptoms would ebb and flow depending on what my current situation looked like, and I eventually spiraled out of control when I couldn’t seem to effectively handle everything going on in my life. At that point I wanted to shrink and disappear, matching how invisible I felt to everyone around me anyway.

I’ve written before about bits and pieces of my recovery journey. This time of year tends to bring it to the forefront because it was this season years ago that I was slowly wasting away. Once I’d decided to choose life, I made it my mission to find some way – any way – to feel at peace in my body.

Here I am, now nearly six years into recovery, and finally living what felt impossible for so long.

Looking back I can see the ways in which my eating disorder was still very much present in my recovery. From the desire to lose weight to calorie counting to hurting my body and using negative internal dialogue. It’s been a bumpy road for sure, and realistically I know that little voice will always be lingering. But I know I am much stronger now and capable of loving myself just as I am, just as I always wanted to.

So often getting to this moment seemed like a pipe dream. I thought I would forever be in the chase but never arriving. I would have fleeting moments of total acceptance followed by a big trip and sometimes a hard fall. It made me feel like I would never really ‘win’ against my eating disorder, and at times I felt like giving up.

Intuitively I knew better though. I knew this story in my life had a purpose beyond myself. I had some beautiful people who stuck by and believed in me and now have these two little girls who need me to be more than this. Resigning myself to suffering isn’t an option.

Over the last few months I’ve been doing some deep soul searching. My mind, body, and spirit have been opened to acknowledging, feeling, forgiving, accepting, and healing. As I sit here with the cool November air skimming across my thick bare thighs, I feel good. As simple as that.

I’m no longer concerned with how my body, my vessel, looks. I’m not afraid to take up space or be loud or weird. I do yoga, meditate, light candles, use crystals, go to spiritual cleansings, breathe deeply, eat intuitively, laugh a lot, curse, sing badly, connect with others mindfully, and I have never felt better.

I’ve learned and accepted that I am not meant to play by anyone else’s rules. No one else gets to set the bar for me or tell me who I should be or how to live my life. Only I get to determine what is best for me, what is going to light me up, and in what direction I move.

I’ve prayed. I’ve cried. I’ve written thousands upon thousands of words. I didn’t think I would see the day. But I kept at it anyway. This is who I wanted to become for so long, and I’m here living it and it’s beautiful. All of it. The ups and downs, the waves of calmness and madness. Every little detail.

This journey doesn’t have an ending. There is no stopping point or finish line. I will forever be a student of my own life, consciously walking this path, bringing everything into alignment, and doing my best to live wholly.

I’m grateful for my struggles. Honestly and truly. They may have taken me the long way but without them I’m not sure I would have made it to this point. This gloriously messy and fulfilling point.

Advertisements

Resisting.

I started doing something I promised myself many times I wouldn’t do again. How easily I forgot the tightness of its grip. How gently yet forcefully it started pushing me back down the rabbit hole.

I kept spinning the story about how far away from my eating disorder I’ve gotten. I talk about how hard the journey has been but how I now feel comfortable in the skin I’m in. And most days that’s true.

Most days I feel on top of the world. No matter how far behind myself I feel, no matter how much life knocks me down and drags me around, I still wake up with a smile in my heart, grateful for another day. Genuinely.

But then I had this idea to start calorie counting again. I’d been slowly shedding the unwanted weight so what better way to amplify my efforts, right? No. A million times no. Because no matter how much training I’ve done, how many books and articles I’ve read, and no matter how far gone I was in the past, it’s not enough to keep me from peeking behind the curtain of what once was: restricting.

Slowly I found myself dipping below normal, toeing a line, seeing how little I could get down to, and ignoring how, day by day, I was inching closer to madness. Once again I had convinced myself this was the way to do it. I had already shed the bad situation, and now I was wiling to do whatever it took to get rid of every last bit of it, every last reminder, every last pound I allowed it to stuff into my body. It wasn’t about the weight so much as it was erasing what got me into this space. I started to feel so desperate to get back to the place I was in before the world came crashing down around me.

The only way I knew how was control. Or rather, the facade of control. Soon it became about what was allowed. How much would I be allowed to consume at any given time during the day. How far would I allow my body to be pushed every day. How long would I allow myself to stare into the darkness before it would inevitably consume me.

My body soon began betraying me. In an effort to limit food consumption, I turned to increased amounts of coffee, three workouts a day, and forcing myself to go to bed hungry. How dare my body turn against me and want food. The thought stung. Why couldn’t I be obedient to my thoughts?

Mind you this all happened within the span of about two weeks. Because no matter how many years of recovery you have under your belt, there is always a little piece of you waiting to go backward. It doesn’t matter if, on a good day, you can’t imagine ever going back to that, because given a taste it is extremely hard to resist.

But then I got to a point where I couldn’t deny myself any longer. I was hungry and I was tired and I needed to wave my flag in resignation. Recovery, you win again. I will follow you peacefully.

I feel my best when I am listening to my body, not my eating disorder voice. I feel my best when I make a choice in the moment based on intuition and feeling good rather than what I hope might make me take up less space by morning. I feel my best when I sometimes eat a little extra candy or really only want a rich cup of coffee for breakfast. Because when I lie down at night, what makes me feel best is that I lived.

‘Clean Eating’ Is Not A Cure All.

Eating nothing but whole unprocessed foods does not erase years of torment over caloric content. It does not eradicate self hatred or judgment, labeling of food as “good” and “bad.” The word “cheat” still exists when eating something unhealthy.

Knowing it takes weeks and months to transform my body into a better version of itself does not omit frustration from my daily repertoire. It does not lessen my impatience.

Learning about how food-like products negatively affect every little inch of the body, inside and out, does not keep me from wanting to drown my sorrows in a bag of one thing or another. The wiring of my emotional state has not been instantly cured.

Deep down I am still that broken anorexic girl. Still searching for comfort in all the wrong things and trying desperately to heal.

I won’t discredit just how far I have come. Over the years I have spent counteless hours learning about how to take better care of myself mind, body and spirit. And to a degree I have made strides. I can eat fairly normally, especially dining out. The guilt has simmered. MY weight has steadied.

Behind all of that though still lie the negative emotions toward food. I still make judgments on myself. I still worry about eating too much and moving too little. Most days, as much as I don’t want to be, I am still consumed by a flood of thoughts and emotions surrounding my eating habits and my weight.

Following Whole30 has been a big eye opener so far. But I still have lingering negativity about what I am eating, even though it is all “clean” or “good.” Most days I under eat and on those I don’t I feel compelled to workout a little harder to compensate. It’s a constant negative reinforcement even though I am doing everything “right.”

Having completed 20 days (as I write this), I know for sure I am headed in the right direction. I have removed emotional crutches and forced myself to face everything head on instead of filling up on empty distractions. I have started to put myself first. For once. And it feels great.

For years I didn’t know what true hunger felt like. I kept myself from the joy of connecting with what was on my plate. I placed far too much emphasis on what I should or shouldn’t have and how my body should or shouldn’t look. I allowed a dark place in my mind to dictate who I was at every moment. But the buck stops here.

Learning what I have so far and knowing there is still so much more to absorb gives me hope of one day really unshackling myself from the past. While I don’t feel as defined as a recovering anorexic as I once did, I cannot deny it is – was – a part of my existence. It ruled me far beyond those days of complete suffering. It was so entwined in my recovery and where I wanted to go in life. And I feel as though I have finally set myself free.

I still have 11 more days to go until I can start reintroducing certain foods back into my diet but truthfully there are so few things I am missing. There are a slew of physical discomforts I am happy to see go and none I want to attempt to bring back into my life. My mind has felt so much clearer over these last three weeks and not only in relation to what I put into my mouth.

I have finally been able to dig in deeper and pull up the motivation I had always hoped to find. My body is being shaped into what it was meant to be by birth, not the cover of a magazine or someone else’s opinion. And I can drink black coffee with a little more ease than I used to!

I already have plans to do another Whole30 in the future, likely after the holidays, because I have gotten so much out of it already. And I am really stoked to see how I will continue to grow and move away from my tortured past and into a brighter, healthier, yummier future.

An Open Apology to My Body.

flat,800x800,070,f.u2

To my body, I am eternally sorry for all the ways in which I have mistreated you. I have bruised, battered, bloodied, abused, starved, and nearly destroyed you. I starved you in an effort to be pure again. I pushed you far beyond your limits. I broke you down.I took you for granted in the worst way.

I am sorry.

There was a time when I didn’t think I would be able to walk again. A time I believed my body would never function right again. I thought the damage was irreparable. When I could no longer lift your head I thought, “This is it. Do or die.”

And so, I did.

The last four years we have maintained a friendship running so hot and so cold. At times I believed in us. I nurtured you, fed you, touched you, softened to the idea of you. And then some days you were my worst enemy, defying every order I placed on you, not confirming to my idealistic beliefs of what a body should look like. You rebelled. I went crazy.

But the truth is I cannot walk through this life without you. I cannot do and I cannot be and I cannot rise without you. You are the only body I have been given, blessed with. We are together for life, the long or the short of it. We are a team we cannot escape.

And so dear body, I bow down to you. I raise my white flag and I choose now to honor you. Every curve, every lump, every freckle, every pound of you.

I choose to do right by you, to love you in times of darkness, to be your best friend, to encourage you to be your best and to live a life so full your heart can do no less than swell and explode.

Dear body, I have come home to you. You are mine to keep, to walk this earth with, to love with, to eat with, to laugh with, to experience all the pleasures and sorrows of life with.

I accept you. I belong to you. I love you.

Four Years.

IMG_1695

Left: Dec 2011 / Right: Feb 2016

It’s been four years. Four long, trying years of conquering, failing, rising, and failing again.

It wasn’t until I had been so far outside of the eye of my eating disorder storm that I could look back and recognize patterns that had been building over years and years. When it all came to a head I was in a panic stricken state of denial. Not me, I thought. I’m too old for this, I insisted. But I was wrong.

Dealing with an eating disorder in your mid- to late 20s is really rough. I had done so much research on the topic, and it was nearly impossible to find someone to whom I could relate. Eating disorders, and specifically anorexia, are often deemed an adolescent issue. Something born of wanting to fit in, look a certain way, gain attention, and be well thought of. All of which it is not.

My disease was exacerbated by the need for control. My outside world was in the brink of collapse. I had so much on my plate and so little know-how to handle it all. So I turned inward. I took control of the only thing I could think of, my food intake.

I was in deep denial as I whittled away, bones protruding, losing feeling in my leg, and having little energy to even breathe.

It wasn’t long after my 28th birthday when I knew it was ‘now or never.’ I either had to fight back or I had to accept that I wouldn’t be around much longer. It all happened so fast but I knew my life had to mean more than this.

And so after weeks of contemplation, I chose recovery.

A lot of people wrongly assume recovery equates to cured. It doesn’t. Recovery is such an individual experience, I’ve come to learn. Just when I think I have a grip on my own I am thrown for a major loop.

Everyday is a new day to choose recovery, and I choose it. Every single day.

I won’t say it is always ‘easy’ or comes as second nature. Some days the voice in my head is loud and torturous, and some days it is barely a whisper. But every day, with every meal, with every feeling with which I am faced, I have to make a conscious effort to choose recovery, to choose my health and my well being, to choose my life over my disorder.

I’m proud of myself. I don’t admit it often, but I am. And I acknowledge those who help keep me on track when I need it most. It isn’t easy to reach out when I need support. It isn’t easy to admit I suffer in my own little private hell most days. But I do.

This is my story. Albeit briefly.

This is who I am beneath the surface. I am learning to accept that.

And I will continue to share this story over and over again in hopes of it reaching the right person at the right time.

I will never say fighting your demons is easy but it is so important not to give up. I’ve struggled my entire life with feeling as though I wasn’t good enough – for people, for relationships, for jobs, for experiences. It is something I am still working through, four years into recovery and every single day of my life.

We all deserve to experience immense joy despite our pain.

We are all worthy.

 

If you or someone you know may be suffering from an eating disorder, please reach out. There are so many resources and so many people willing to help.
National Eating Disorders Association
Eating Disorders Hope
Nat’l Assoc of Anorexia & Associated Disorders