I believe my eating disorder was related to a few factors. I had been fat as a child since I was in first grade. I had been so hurt in being made fun of and felt so isolated and unloved for who I was. I came to a place in Jr. High when I couldn’t bear the hurt anymore. I decided to take control and stop eating. I was motivated to lose weight and change my appearance, at any cost. A second factor was growing up with a parent who had untreated PTSD. My father was a marine radio operator in the Vietnam war, and he had startle reaction, anger projection, and hostile feelings towards others. My father tried to love me and my siblings the best he could at the time. But I believe his experiences in the war, his memories, coupled with the pressures of family and his own hurts unresolved affected me deeply. My father was very verbal with angry words and expression and he was very dominant in our household, to the extent that I lost any capacity that existed for individual expression, self-acceptance and love, compassion, and hope. A third factor, and this is in hindsight, was that I longed for my mom to stand up to my dad, and to be what she wasn’t. I couldn’t control that, so I found something I could control, starving myself.
Like the factors that caused the disorder, the factors of recovery are not one thing. I mentioned prior that I was active in my eating disorder for 4 years, between the ages of 13 and 16. I consider the physical component of stopping the disorder one step. Ironically, applying logic and
reason (void of feeling), allowed me to take that first step. It was my dad, partly a fear of him, and his disappointment in my disorder, and partly a method of control, yet again, to turn the disorder off like a light switch. I made a decision at 16 that I would no longer binge or purge again. And, I didn’t. This was only the beginning, however, and I had no idea the extent of and the deep seeds of recovery. And, the deeper seeds of recovery didn’t happen until later in my life, after I was married and had children. Oh, if only I could go back and have a redo, I would have addressed the psychological and emotional aspects of recovery much, much sooner. But, here’s the next point I’ll make: self-love, self-compassion, and self-acceptance are the next factor of my recovery. And, because of this, I can’t be unkind to myself for what I didn’t recognize before. I am challenged to appreciate that I know this now. My greatest desire is to be able to help other people by the lessons and pain of my own journey. A third, most important component in my recovery has been a faith journey. Recognizing that there are other people who are equipped and positioned to help is a critical cog of recovery. Having faith in God, that there is a power higher than me, and also higher than others, gave me the confidence to know that God would lead me to others who could help me in my recovery. In a world full of advertisements, marketing, and messaging about the solutions for us, it has been so very beneficial to seek God’s voice in my personal recovery. Indeed, faith has led me to counseling, friendships, and positive supporters to build a network of relationships that are anchored by something larger than any of us alone.
Human life and our human spirit, as we were created to be, is worth fighting for. Since I’m an equal human being, I believe that my story has as much truth to share as the next persons story. And, it’s worth fighting so that my story finds its way to those it can most help. Using my life, and experiences, to benefit others, is solely worth fighting for.
First, you, your life, and your experiences are as valuable as anyone who walks this planet. Your life has worth beyond measure. Envision anyone you’d like, an admired person, a famous person, a family member, anyone, and know that your life has as much value, and as much to contribute, as any of them. Second, accept yourself as an imperfect person, and as a person who has struggled with an eating disorder; but don’t define or anchor yourself with it. Eating disorders can be a part of who we were, for all of the reasons we share, but they are absolutely recoverable. When you can appreciate your eating disorder for what it has revealed to you, what you’ve learned from it, and what it helps you recognize, you have taken a huge step in recovery. Third, find people who you can be totally honest with in your recovery journey, and who honor confidentiality. This could be a licensed therapist, a ministry network, a faithful friend. We need people in our lives who are both equipped to support us and who care about us as people, in our hopes, desires, successes and failures. Fourth, know that recovery is a process. Success comes one single day at a time. We can define success in a single day, and it can be anything from my goal today is to not throw up; to my goal today is to reach out to my sister, whom I haven’t spoken to in years. Our recovery is individual, and our recovery is meaningful. Start today. Define your success for today. Celebrate your success today. Build on each day, no more, no less. It is doable.
I am a 44-year-old white, married mother of 3.