Friday, August 14, 2009


"To fully recover from an eating disorder a woman has to lose her conception of who she thought she was or thought she should be...She has to relinquish her effort to craft a constructed self and instead must let herself be who she is."

The author of Gaining: The Truth about Life after Eating Disorders, tells a story about recovery. She is attending a party with a friend. Not her usual environment, but going along for the ride, she feels uncomfortable and makes her way toward the door to leave. As she glances left she sees Ben, a man she had known several years before, when she was anorexic. She hadn't seen him since that time in her life. She feared that he wouldn't recognize her because he was only interested in her starving body during anorexia.

"It was almost like a panic attack, this explosion of shame at the prospect of facing someone who had last seen me at less than a hundred pounds. The thing was, I couldn't tell whether I was more ashamed for having been anorexic, or for having recovered."

AH HA! (One of many "AH HA" moments I have had while reading this book. Bear with me.)

I know that feeling. I've felt that several times over the last 3 years. As I was furiously underlining and pondering the chapter I had read, I started a list of people whom I had felt this way around. I quickly came up with 9 guys and two girls from high school, "toxic" people if you will. I don't blame them. They might not have realized what they were doing. It was my response to them that was the problem.

Oh, high school. How can people really look back and say that was the best time in their life? I'm not feeling it. I was thrilled to move past that stage in my life. Still am.

I swiftly scribbled down the 11 people in my life that I felt would be disappointed with me for recovering from anorexia because what they seemed to like most about me was what I looked like. I was terrified to see them again. What would they say? What would they think?

After returning from Cambodia a year ago and going to trauma counseling, Marsha asked me, "Why did you stay in Cambodia?"

I knew I didn't want to let the school down or let my kids down. I didn't want to up and leave part-way through the year. But mostly, I didn't want to be the SM who failed. My parents would've welcomed me back with open arms. Family friends wouldn't have batted an eye. My close friends were asking me to come home. But my pride kept me there along with a few "toxic" people that I was trying to impress, that I was trying to prove something to.

Never again will I let pride make my decisions for me. Please quote me on that.

I've never felt more beautiful then when I was starving myself. I hate saying that. I hate feeling that. But I know I am not fully recovered until I can look at these pictures and know: I was sick, I needed help, and true health and true beauty are never found in denying my body of anything.

I remember having a hard time focusing that night because I was so hungry. Afterward there was a reception which, of course, always has drinks and food. I avoided that table like a sewage plant, busying myself with taking pictures with friends and pretending to be happy. I thought I was. I was in control and I felt proud of myself for not eating. I was somehow better than them, more powerful, more something.

I've contemplated deleting the photos of my graduation from my life. I figured erasing it from memory was the best thing to do. But I believe that some day those pictures can serve as a reminder of how far I've come. Some day they'll be a testimony.

I've learned to change my response to people. I can be whatever I want to be. No longer do these people have free reign of my life. I've learned to limit my interactions with life-sapping people and to surround myself with soul-nourishing community and good people who are searching for the same things I am: balance, whole-health, mercy, and abundant life.