Last week could have been devastating to recovery, but it wasn't. What I thought would be a week wrought with food panic was a week covered by the grace of God. I did not one time panic about the food I was eating! Let me repeat that because as many of you know it is indeed HUGE. I did not one time panic about the food I was eating!
I have had several people notice the ribbon in the wing of my butterfly tattoo. One asked if it was a fish, I said no it's an awareness ribbon. She asked if it was for breast cancer.
After a quick pause I answered, "It's actually for Eating Disorder Awareness." Her response was interesting to me. "Do you have an eating disorder?"
"I'm recovering from one."
"Wow, so that explains how you lost all that weight so quickly this past summer. I wanted to be like you and then I decided you were maybe a getting a little too thin."
"Oh. Um, so you noticed that too?"
"Yeah, how could we not notice?"
In thinking about it, I find it to be funny the difference in men and women. Women around me noticed. Men did not (or if they did, they pretended not to.) My pastor was surprised, his wife nodded and said, "Yeah, you are looking a bit thin, Missy." My husband noticed, of course, but that is not a fair call because he sees me naked so of course he would notice! Many of the women around me were concerned. I got comments like, "You're not eating with us?" more than once.
I thought I was being discreet. I mean really, how could it be obvious to others? It wasn't obvious to me until I went to the hospital. Isn't it funny what ED does to your brain? I would easily notice it in someone else and yet I expected no one to notice it in me. I didn't see it in the mirror (remember Why does the mirror lie?) so it seemed unreal that others would see it. In looking back though, I don't know why I thought my disease was invisible.
I guess because I felt invisible, I felt that my disease was also invisible. If they can't see me, then surely they can't see my hurt both physical and emotional. I know that triggers are always a breath away. I am so grateful for the online support I have found with others who struggle.
Here is what I have learned about eating disorders (especially anorexia). Way too many people suffer from ED. Many more people are committed to recovery than I had ever realized. Many more people are afraid of recovery than I wish to mention. We all suffer differently and yet the same. While one is doing in-patient care for months, another is finding support groups nearby. One trusts God, another trusts self. We all hurt. Some look the part of the emaciated little girl, some look normal and healthy while slowly dying. Some were smaller than me some were bigger than me and yet we all felt like we were not small enough. It is not age confined. I have talked to young girls, teenagers, college students, newlyweds and even other 30 something moms like me. While the media may give an age range that is more likely to struggle with ED, it is not something that ends when the stress of grad school ends or the days of up all night with the baby end. It is not confined to the poor or the rich. It crosses every socioeconomic barrier, every age barrier, every religion barrier, every time zone.
Recovery is harder than the hardest work. It is harder than giving birth, harder than surgery, harder than any physical condition I have ever had to overcome. Recovery is harder than giving in to the addiction, it is harder than meeting a deadline, it is harder than the most daunting tasks I have ever undertaken. It is harder than parenting and harder than loving. Recovery opens up a part of you that you never want to be seen and then you have to keep it open in order to allow healing.
Recovery to me means I have to keep letting people in, even when all I want to do is shut them out. It means believing my husband when he says I'm beautiful. It means knowing that I really do want to be around for my kids and my hubby even when I think I don't want to live. It means not looking at calories or sugar grams when I indulge. It means giving to others even when I am afraid that I have nothing worth offering. It means trusting that God has a plan and a purpose for my life, even when I can't see it. It means being willing to let go of my hurt rather than let it control me. It means being happy for every baby step I make. It means rejoicing when I have a week that I didn't panic once about food. It means telling people I am a recovering anorexic, not that I am anorexic (big and difficult distinction there!). It means finding ways to cope with fear, pain, anxiety and stress in healthy ways not destructive ways. It means not allowing myself the euphoria that I experience when I restrict.
I'm not foolish enough to think that one great week means no more bad weeks, but I am happy to know that I have finally reached a point where I can have a great week not just a great day!