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A 'Pep Talk' From an Eating Disorder Survivor

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I often get asked the question:

“How do you find recovery?” or

“How do you finally reach a place of safe rest and reflection?”

As Jenni Schaefer would say, “Recovery is like a jigsaw puzzle. The pieces are different for everyone.”

While the pieces of the puzzle do vary for each individual circumstance, the bottom line is you have to want it. Strong recovery is a choice which occurs deeply and internally, and stable living cannot be attained through force alone. It has to be a personal decision as a result of a new perspective, mental breakthroughs, and personal emotional commitment and maturity. It isn’t a smooth road either… yet each stumbling block has the potential of creating an even stronger soldier.

There may be fear of losing that control — that security blanket of meticulously counting, measuring, recording and obsessing. We get so trapped and convinced that we cannot exist without it — we will always be different and have to be alert so the evil voice won’t creep back in. In a way, we let this feed us. Deep down we want an escape, but for so long this has been “comfortable” — a sense of grip over our constant climb while trying to keep up in this world.

If you want to gain the trust and respect and self-control over your own life again you have to be adamant about true recovery and may have to outwardly show your serious effort to change to regain your friends’ and family’s trust. Even with my respectful degree in Exercise Science, my family probably feared I would use this new knowledge in the wrong ways. Despite popular belief, this knowledge assisted in extensive intellectual understanding about what exactly was taking place inside my frail body and everything else associated with the illness from a physiological standpoint. Today, I use this knowledge to my own health advantage, seeking opportunities to apply the practical information to myself and to others. And I’m still learning. But that is the glory of becoming one with yourself… it makes you feel so alive. 

With that said, I’d like to offer a little pep talk. (The inner coach in me can’t help herself.) Below is a message directed to anyone who feels this sense of trapped identity and confusion. May this huddle empower you to take a stand on behalf of yourself or on behalf of a life you care about:

Instead of viewing this step towards healing as relinquishing the sense of control that you have idolized for so long, redirect your perspective to a control gained. By surrendering your old strangling ways and obsessive habits, you gain a brand new freedom and a brand new peace. Break free of the shackles of restriction and lies of stagnancy. You were born a free spirit with influencing outside circumstances. Everyone deals with the same stressors differently, which determines the prognosis of our unique journeys.

Your identity does not lie within your eating disorder. Yes, it is a part of who you are and contributes to your story but only to reveal just how far you’ve come with your newly acquired strength. In the beginning, self-discipline and desire for control simply got out of hand. Take back your life with this same discipline and desire. Don’t let this disease control you. By remaining enslaved to the familiar behaviors, you are simply fueling the fire for disaster.

You have to forgive yourself to love yourself. You must stop trying to convince yourself that you were meant to suffer and that you don’t deserve to be well. You must preach to yourself the truth that your suppressed spirit knows so well… while trapped behind your ED voice, you are not truly well.
Once you admit you do want to get better, you then have to allow yourself to get better. You must be patient with yourself and allow your body to figure itself out piece by piece.

You must conceptually come to terms with the fact that it is “OK to be OK”… it is OK for you to be healthy and it is OK for you to be happy. No more feeling guilty about the past and no more feeling guilty when you give your body the quality care it needs to survive. Enough of this “But I’m different” business — everyone is unique in their needs, including you — but this doesn’t mean a life of deprivation, isolation, and slavery. I believe God envisioned you in your best version when He formed you in his hands.

The truth is, you are already forgiven, my friend. Live with the knowledge of this truth. The past is written, but the next pages are clean. It’s time to forgive yourself. It’s time to free yourself. It’s time to love yourself and to love yourself without feeling selfish about it.

Consider for a moment who or what it is you worship. Don’t grant evil rules and fretful lies more attention than they deserve. Instead, direct your attention to the one sustaining source of life, who has stuck it out through it all. It’s time to get better… truly better, selflessly better, holistically better. It’s time to draw near, reach inside and march out victoriously while lifting up your roughly-beaten soul. It’s time to reverse the curse, grab the reins, and believe in a better tomorrow. Though scars may be lingering, nestled within them lie badges of courage. The fears of change are minuscule compared to the joys of recovery. I promise…

Your identity is not tied to the strings of your past. In untying your knots to the present, hope can be set free. Reciprocating through the doors of faith, new life can return.

Imagine a meal with no regrets. A family dinner without fighting. An evening run with powerful strides, a smile that reflects a healthy glow. Laughing with pure joy… engaging with real intention… living in harmonic peace. A freedom which surpasses all understanding, and a new chapter to your survivor  story.

Together, we are strong. Together, we are survivor strong.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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Thinkstock photo by IBushuev

Originally published: February 10, 2017
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