A number of people have asked me lately, “how are you surviving”? When they start listing the reasons I should have completely collapsed in the last year and a half, I really can’t say why I’m still standing.
- My husband lost his job, leaving us struggling for stability and financial ease. He was jobless for 6 months, part-time minimum wage for 6 months and then got a full-time contract job 6 months ago.
- I have gained about 45lbs more than I had bargained for and am medically overweight, I have watched my weight climb, all the doctors and professionals standing by with no idea why.
- I have watched my whole identity disintegrate, everything I thought I was fell apart as I conquered my eating disorder. I had to discover a new self and find a way to tolerate and even try to love her.
- My mother passed away, leaving me with a giant mess of her finances and her home – not to mention the pit of emotions of guilt, shame, loss and grief. I have spent countless hours cleaning up the house, going through her things, selling her house, finding her debts and settling her estate.
- I am in yoga teacher training and although I LOVE it, it is a LOT of work. The reading, homework, practice, teaching and group meetings take hours and are very stressful. There is so much self-inquiry and time spent asking some really deep and introspective questions. As great as it is, the emotions run rampant and are often quite triggering.
March 5, 2015 marked a year and a half of being symptom free. One and a half years, 18 months, 546 days. There was a time when I struggled to make it 2 days without purging or half a day without restricting, my longest period without symptoms until this point for the last 14 years was 3 months, and here I stand with a year and a half under my belt.
I never thought this day would come, that I would be standing strong after all these awful things happened in my life. I never thought I could survive everyday life without symptoms, forget the myriad of stress that has hit me in the last year.
All of these things provided the perfect excuse for relapse, an excuse that anyone would have understood – I think a lot of people expected me to collapse under the weight of my newfound role as bread-winner, the state of my ever-growing body, the loss of my identity, my mother’s passing and the emotions running rampant as I face the core of my being.
So, why am I still standing? Why haven’t I collapsed and given into the sweet oblivion of numbness, comfort and security of my eating disorder? Because as seductive as the disorder is, my heart knows that I want to be recovered. I want to have a family. I want to be able to laugh – to really laugh. I want to move on with my life instead of being stuck in the never-ending cycle of restricting, purging, weighing, measuring, weight loss, weight gain, self-hate, lies and guilt. Breaking through that cycle was the hardest thing I ever did, but now that I am out, I’m not going back.
How do I muster the strength to overcome the thoughts and urges that still present themselves on a regular basis? I keep my focus on the things I want in life and don’t let anything get in the way. I want to have a family, I can’t do that if my health is compromised. I want to have the ability to laugh, something I only discovered after recovery. I want to move on and have a life, something I can’t do if I am stuck in my eating disorder world. I let my belief that I will survive this be bigger than my fear that I need my symptoms to survive. I do yoga to deal with my stress and treat my body with kindness, eat regularly, take my medications, spend time with the people I love, do things that make my heart feel alive like being in nature and singing.
It sounds bizarre and hard to do but you can find your way to recovery as well. Find the things that motivate you towards recovery, create a life worth living and don’t allow the disorder to steal anymore of your life. However many years you spent committed to this disorder, it is not too late. You still have so much life to live and it has the potential to be truly wonderful. You are the only thing standing in your way with all the excuses you keep making for why you need your disorder. Truth time – you don’t need your disorder, it needs you. It has told you for so long that you can’t survive without it but you can, and I am. I’m not saying it’s easy; it’s terrifying, incredibly difficult, and at times it feels like torture but it is worth it – it is SO worth it. YOU are worth it.