When I left Remuda two years ago, I was fighting a constant battle in my head with my eating disorder. It was exhausting. On the outside, I maintained the facade of the dutiful girl in recovery. But inside, I was thinking of ways to eat less, burn calories and not gain weight....without letting anyone know that I was still struggling. I would eat my meals and drink (most of) my Ensures, but I hated every minute of it. I hated going to the dietitian and getting weighed. I hated my doctor telling me that I wasn't gaining weight the way I should; but I hated it more when she told me that I was.
In the months following my departure from Remuda, I thought almost constantly about recovery. And when I wasn't thinking about recovery, I was thinking about my eating disorder. I wanted to be recovered and not have to deal with all the thoughts and behaviors that did nothing but exhaust me, but I was so afraid of losing control that giving up my eating disorder terrified me. I dreamed of going back to Remuda; where I was understood and I didn't have to think about anything. Everything was done for me. I sat down to the table and ate the meals and the snacks that were prepared for me. I trusted that the treatment team there would take care of me. But at home, I had to take care of myself. And I didn't trust myself enough to be able to do that. Every meal and every snack became an ordeal in measuring and counting and writing down everything that came in contact with my mouth. And, heaven forbid, we would go to a restaurant! That was more than enough to cause me to lunge for the bottle of Atarax.
For months, I went back and forth between wanting my recovery more and wanting my eating disorder more. Even after moving back to Wisconsin (only 6 months after leaving treatment), I was still in love with my eating disorder. I found a new treatment team and tried my hardest to convince them that I wanted to be healthy. I don't know to what degree they actually believed me. I don't even know to what degree I believed me.
The problem is that you can't really live in both worlds. And, in September of 2008, eight months after leaving Remuda, I made a decision. I was going to 'quit' my eating disorder. I have never been really good at doing things halfway. When I was hanging on to my eating disorder and still trying to be in recovery, I wasn't really doing either one very well. (As if you would want to do an eating disorder well) So, from that day on, I just quit. I didn't have an eating disorder anymore.
I wish I could say that I recovered the same time I made that decision. However, as with most things in life, it just wasn't that easy. I still hated the idea of gaining weight. But I hated feeling weak and queasy all the time. I hated the way my clothes fit as I (healthily) gained weight. But I hated being tired all the time and not being able to concentrate. I hated having to sit down to a meal and eat all of it. But I hated coming up with new ways to avoid food.
In the depths of my eating disorder, my relationship with friends and family weren't the only ones that suffered. I wasn't really on speaking terms with God, either. I tried to avoid going to church and other activities with our church family. At one point, I even avoided taking communion because all I saw were calories! It appalls me now to think back on that. I was avoiding the act of communing with God, celebrating my Savior's sacrifice for my sins, because I was afraid that a little wafer and cup of juice were going to make me fat.
Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. John 6:35
It has now been 14 months since 'quitting' my eating disorder. I have reached my ideal body weight. Ironically, I got to that weight exactly a year after I left Remuda. I don't know what my weight is right now, but I know that my doctor will tell me if I have anything to be worried about. I know that I am within my ideal weight range. But more importantly, I have accomplished so much since leaving the eating disorder behind.
I went back to school and graduated from the Medical Assistant program. I have started the EMT program, and I'm on the waiting list for the nursing program. I have run eight 5Ks in the past few months and I'm now training for a half marathon. I am involved in my church and looking forward to serving in more ways. And, I am starting to develop (and renew) some authentic friendships. And I can do this regardless of whether or not there will be food around. It is so freeing!
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2
I wish that I could say my eating disorder is a chapter of my life that is completely behind me. Regardless of all that I have accomplished and all the progress I have made, there are still days when I struggle. I will still get a little anxious if I overeat, but I know that one meal is not going to make me obese. I have days when I want to restrict, but I know that I won't be able to be active and run and do the things that I enjoy if I don't fuel my body.
So, am I recovered? I don't think so. But, whereas I used to believe that I would always be in recovery from my eating disorder, I know now that a full recovery is possible. There will come a day when the voices won't haunt me anymore. When food won't control me. When life will be so full of living that there won't be any room for anything else.
I don't know if my story is special or unique in any way. I wish that I could take credit for pushing my way through these challenges. But everything that I have done, has been done by Christ through me.
I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13I couldn't have persevered through the dark times without the love of God and those around me who shined with His love and forgiveness. I have received so much grace and mercy and those are the things that I will always remember when I think about this chapter of my life.
But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all ... might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion's mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen. 2 Timothy 4:17-18