The Moment I Made Peace With My Bones

Every so often, I experience a moment that drops me into a space of clear, pure and complete trust that recovery is mine for the taking. My recent relapse threatened to eat me alive, and so my work the past 18 months has been as much of a therapeutic deep dive as it has a coup against my biological drive to starve myself. Like addiction, anorexia and other types of eating disorders have a genetic component. So many of us who endure these diseases do so in part out of genetic predisposition.

Yoga has been a source of steadiness in my recovery process, and has led me to teach as well as train to become a yoga therapist. I recently took an immersion course in anatomy. The weekend started with a palpation exercise. I was paired up with a classmate, and by following the instructor’s lead, we took turns palpating — or examining by touch — each other’s skeleton. We started at the feet and worked our way to the head.

Because of my eating disorder, I’ve been driven to wear my bones. Strangely and surprisingly, as my partner palpated my skeleton, I was not preoccupied with concerns over whether my hipbones jut out, if my ribs could be sensed just under the surface of skin or whether my collarbones were abnormally pronounced. The very moment I realized my mind was calm and my body was receptive to the educational objectives of the exercise, I experienced a moment of blissful clarity.

In that moment, I recognized my bones not as an outward sign of my illness, but as an inward system that supports life — my life. I understood my skeleton as the origin of movement, stability, rotation and flexion. As the force from which I flow through sun salutations and expand gloriously in backbends. As the force that allows me to hold my daughters and husband close, and embrace those who are special to me.

In that powerful moment, I made peace with my bones and the layers of my humanity that cover them. I also made peace with my biology. I accepted my illness as one part of my life experience rather than the entirety of my identity.

Since that moment of clarity at the anatomy immersion course, I’ve experienced a subtle but profound shift in my recovery. Lately, I don’t look in the mirror for my bones. I don’t palpate my own skeleton at random times during the day, frantically searching for reassurance that my body is in check, that I have not been greedy, that I am safe in my hunger.

Disentangling hunger from a sense of safety continues to be my work. Yet, this unique and intimate experience with my bones has gifted me with a new perspective on my recovery. As a yoga therapist in training, I’m learning we experience suffering when our beliefs and patterns do not match reality. It’s true my eating disorder beliefs are incongruent with reality. Now more than ever, I’m acutely aware of this fact. My newfound relationship with my bones is proof that, despite my biology, there’s a great force within me — a life force — that can rewire those beliefs that enforce suffering and self-destruction. If today I can live with myself at the level of my bones, my conviction is that in time, my entire self will be whole and free.

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