Eating Disorder Awareness Week: Recovery, Relapse, Resilience
“Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.” ~ Marie Curie
Trigger Warning: This post talks about Eating Disorders, relapses, and recovery and may be triggering to some.
Better Late Then Never
Being one hundred percent transparent, I wrote this post over a year ago. I was going to POST it over a year ago. But I never found the time, because as we approached NEDA Week, I came down with what I now believe was COVID, despite at the time there being no known cases in my neck of the woods. Right after, my Dad got extremely, scarily sick, (not COVID, but he was hospitalized for several weeks) and I had to help my brother with the family business. Just when I felt like nothing else could go wrong, it did. Not just for me but the world as a whole, because we had officially entered a pandemic, SO by the time I remembered what blogging was, the world was completely different and it didn’t feel right to me. But I didn’t delete it.
And now a year later, as NEDA Week begins today, I am posting this now. I thought about editing it, but some of the authenticity is that I do talk about the cluster you know what that was last year, even before it became a collective cluster you know what for all of us. Heck we hadn’t even begun to realize it! I also elaborate at the end, because as much as I like to believe that I am “recovered,” there came a point at the end of 2020 that I struggled greatly. Just when you think you have a handle on it, it reminds you, you don’t. But that doesn’t make you weak. It makes you strong in knowing that and being able to pull yourself out of it.
Last Week was National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. Since I lived in New York, in years past, I was able to go to fundraisers, attended galas, and even had the honor of speaking on panels held at Columbia and NYU, sharing my story. It is a time where I reflect on my journey, which has been long, convoluted, and exhausting, but also strength building, and filled with grit and determination to heal.
I almost didn’t post this, because it is over a week late, but after the last couple weeks of hell, and being absolutely truthful, really the end of 2019 and so far what is 2020, I thought it was important to share, because eating disorders aren’t so much about thinness and looks, but coping and stress, and never being good enough. It is a quick fix to a much deeper problem.
In so many ways, being back in NoCo, I feel like my life has come full circle, but I am not the same person I was ten years ago, and certainly not nine and a half years ago, and my coping skills have completely changed. For the better.
Nine and a half years ago, I would have handled the stresses, trauma, and grief a hell of a lot differently then I am now. Hell, seven years ago I would have had the added trauma of fearing I would relapse. Something that is still prevalent, that nudges my head every so often like the proverbial devil and angel on the shoulder, but one I have come to very quickly silence with a very unlady like fuck off.
To some that would mean I am not “recovered” that I still struggle. Which I do. We all do, because life isn’t perfect. Even the fairy tales we read, are filled with tumultuous moments that lead up to and make us appreciate even more those happy “endings.” Which aren’t endings at all, but a closing of a chapter and the beginning of a new one.
In many ways I feel like this is the epilogue to what occurred nine and a half years ago, or perhaps just the second book in a long series, that ebbs and flows, disregarding society’s standards that you cannot live life if you don’t live it according to some status quo which no one knows who really created, but it is there and you are judged if you do not live life according to it. A society which in many ways promotes and embodies and enables eating disorders through the perception of perfection. Fighting uniqueness and creating a unformed identity that you are wrong if you do not follow through.
I call absolute bullshit to that, because in a world where we like to pride ourselves with being more touchy feely and in touch with our emotions more so then previous generations we still have these ideals that we need to be the same. Our experience MUST be the same. And if they are not well then how can we identify as such?
Not All Eating Disorders Are The Same
In many ways, that uniformity is applied to not just those who have an eating disorder, but to those in recovery whether just beginning that journey or those who have been in it for awhile. For so many years Experts” argued that if you were a certain weight you couldn’t have an eating disorder. If you were male or a certain ethnicity, you couldn’t have an eating disorder.
Let me tell you those experts are WRONG. Anyone can have an eating disorder. ANYONE. And it isn’t just about being thin or looking like a celebrity. It is about perfection. It is about control. Or rather the loss of it and attempting to regain it whether that is limiting food intake or binging and purging.
Like a drug it is the sweet oblivion of losing yourself when you are throwing up, the minuscule intake of food you had eaten, or comfort of weighing and chewing as you limit and savor the only meal you will have all day. Eating Disorders are a way to escape not unlike drugs and alcohol. You lose yourself in those moments because life is unbearable for whatever reason.
It is different for everyone. Recovery is different for everyone. It isn’t good, bad, worse, or better. And it doesn’t mean recovery is only attainable for some, because it isn’t. Recovery is possible for EVERYONE and it means different things to EVERYONE.
My Reasons and Recovery
My reasons for anorexia, binging and purging, bulimia, and exercise addiction ran the gamut and began at an early age, and lasted almost a decade. While initially I thought it was because I wanted to lose weight, be a better skater, be a better person in a health obsessed diet crazed family, ultimately it was about not living up to ideals and expectations whether real or ones I unfairly put on myself. It was not having the coping skills to deal with anxiety, depression, intense stress, and ultimately heart stabbing grief. My coping skills WAS my eating disorder. For almost a decade.
It took a long time and several years of therapy before I felt secure in throwing around the word “Recovery.” it took that long to rewire my brain paths, that were so comfortable in walking the path of bulimia, and not those of healing. To be able to look at food as a friend, not an enemy. To realize there were no bad foods and that the emotions that I attached to food like carbs, I could change. That I was not less then, because I didn’t go for a run, but that I was actually respecting and being compassionate to my body, because it needed to rest and heal in that moment.
I realized that how we phrase our thoughts can be so incredibly powerful, whether it is detrimental or empowering us. Life isn’t perfect. HUMANS are not perfect. AND THAT is okay. We have bad moments, and sometimes we don’t handle them well. It doesn’t mean we have failed, just like having an eaten disorder makes us less then. It also does not have to define us. Yes it is a part of us, but it isn’t who WE are. We are so much more. We are warriors.
Life ebbs and flows. It goes up and down and we can fight it or embrace it. due to the events of the last couple weeks it got me thinking of how differently I would have handled the stresses and trauma even just a few years ago. It would have been a hell of a lot differently that is for sure.
Going with the book metaphor, these chapters of my life might seem like a lot right now, but in the grand scheme of life it might only be a quarter of a book or even a series. One that did shape me in primitive years, but won’t define me. At least not as the fearful, insecure, unworthy person I thought I was.
You can look at a book and judge the front and back without ever really knowing the pages inside. The words we think, the narrative we tell ourselves, which many times is much more harsh then what the outside world sees and thinks. The world we give so much power to, when really the power lies with in ourselves. The choices and points of view matter with in OURselves. WE define who we want to be. We define our self worth. We define our happiness. WE are the one who get to choose whether we heal and recover or continue to repeat and let our traumas control us.
A Year Later
In many ways these words I have written hold even more meaning now then they did when I wrote them a year ago. It doesn’t seem possible, but the end of 2020, which decided it truly was going to go out with a bang, came with incredible stress which felt like we were carrying mountains. It was and is excruciating. And for about a week I stopped eating. It wasn’t deliberate but much like when my sister passed, it was me coping with a situation I had and have NO control over and could not fix no matter how much I wanted too.
While, I could look at my not eating as a large fail and a relapse, I don’t. Much like when I would have stomach bugs and have insane fear that my bulimia would return because I was vomiting from food poisoning or the Norovirus, stress does and can take away hunger. I am not saying it was that, and perhaps some would see me as excusing unhealthy behavioral traits, but thanks to therapy and tools I learned in recovery, I was able to utilize them in a way that I could ensure I didn’t fully relapse, and start eating and getting nutrients, even if it did taste like saw dust in my mouth.
We take the wins when and where we can, and that was a win for me during what was and still is a stressful period. As much as I would love to say you get to wave a magic wand and you are recovered, it isn’t that way. And for everyone it is different. What people deem as “Recovery” and even “Relapse” is different, even to “experts.” But irregardless of WHAT they say, recovery is ALWAYS possible. ALWAYS.
My journey isn’t perfect. No one’s is. But I am still the one in charge. I am the one who gets to write and have the say in the story. I get to choose what I want in this life. And it isn’t over, not by a LONG shot. We are all so powerful. We are strong, but most of all resilient. We truly are warriors and we can and will triumph.
Please know if you have any questions or want or need to talk, I am always here ready to listen. Sending all my love to each and every one of you. <3