“Progress not perfection.”
“Secrets keep you sick.”
“Don’t be ashamed of your story; it will inspire others.”
These cliche eating disorder recovery quotations are what come to mind as I sit down to write this post. I’ve been struggling with shame lately, as I receive messages from people speaking about how my story and recovery are inspirational. In the last few weeks I’ve felt as if I am living a lie. My mind and recovery have been shrouded in shame as I face the truth about myself: I’ve been living in a full-blown relapse; not just a slip, or a small lapse, but an all-encompassing, all-consuming relapse.
My recovery is not perfect, despite my desire for it to often appear as such. In fact, my recovery has twists and turns just like everyone else. I am perfectly imperfect.
(Yes, another cliche quotation)
That once small eating disorder voice started to come back to life in June when the financial stresses of my husband’s job loss were really beating down on us. From that point it grew into what it is today–the loud, obnoxious, controlling, and hellish voice it is. I could no longer drown it out so I began to follow its demands for me to restrict my food intake and increase my exercise. The lies and cover ups for my behavior quickly followed. I went so far as to tell my priest’s wife nothing was going on, when she asked me after church one Sunday because she had noticed a change in my behavior around food at our bible study. (For anyone who is wondering, I attend and Anglican church and our priests can be married.)
I told myself I could handle this on my own, no one would need to know I signed a deal with the devil and picked up old habits. My “fate” for truly entering this relapse was sealed when I picked a number and set it as my target for weight loss over the next few months. Of course, I needed a way to measure and quantify this target so I broke my number one rule for recovery: do not step on a scale. I didn’t just step on a scale, I went to Walmart and bought one. For two weeks I carried the scale around in my backpack like a secret weight of shame on my shoulders and weighed myself almost daily. Watching the number decrease, as a result of my starvation, increased the eating disordered part of my brain.
Throughout this downfall I documented the tailspin in a series of notes on my phone. I could see the path down which I was heading and did not try to stop it; instead, I embraced it.
Last weekend I “came clean” to my priest’s wife while my daughter happily watched Moana. I realized I was in over my head and needed more support than I could give myself. So, I did one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do in a long time and reached out for help. You see, in South Carolina I lack the amazing support network I had in Ohio; not because I don’t know anyone, but because I haven’t truly let anyone in. I no longer have my therapist, dietician, doctor, friends, or support group at the treatment center. I came to the realization that I don’t have a solid support system here that knows how my eating disorder operates and, in order to regain strength, and focus once again on recovery, I need to build a support system.
Surrounding myself with people who will check in and support me when every bite seems difficult is what will be key to getting back on the right track. Rather than spending a ton of time in “talk therapy” when I already know what I need to do, I plan to build a new method of recovery. One where God is truly the center of it. My faith has always been an integral part of my path but it has never been the center; that spot was reserved for the professionals on my treatment team. I will not deny they gave me the tools and knowledge I have right now, but it is time to focus on the bigger picture for long-term recovery.
My recovery looks a lot like a puzzle, and with one piece out of place the whole thing falls apart. One piece at a time my recovery was disassembled, and one painstaking piece at a time it will be replaced; this time with God at the center.
Rather than cliche eating disorder recovery quotations, this will be the quotation on which I will place my focus; remembering God has the power to change me and heal my thought patterns. I’ve always been afraid to speak much on my faith, for fear of judgement and ridicule that I must not be faithful enough; otherwise, I wouldn’t have an eating disorder anymore. God knows my heart and wants to work through me for the benefit of others. In order for His works to be done, I must be in a place to receive what He has for me, and it all begins with getting back into recovery.
With Body Love (working on it again),
P.S. For my South Carolina friends, be prepared, I’m going to be asking for your help a lot more for the time being.