One year ago today, my life took a dramatic turn. In case you’re new to my blog, I’ll give a bit of a recap: Over the course of last Fall semester, I lost about 15 pounds that I didn’t really have to loose. I felt exited early on (who wouldn’t?) but became nervous when the weight kept coming off and I became underweight. About a month before I came home for Christmas break, I had a chat with a friend, who helped me see that there was more to me loosing weight than just what it seemed on the surface. Her concern? She feared I was surrending to an eating disorder. Even though I didn’t want to admit it…she was right. And I needed help. I made an appointment with my doctor for the day I arrived home for Christmas break. Coincidentally, I got sick (and I mean SICK) on the train ride home, which made me look even less healthy than I actually was.
It didn’t take much for the doctor to take action. Between my lack of weight, blunt explanation, and ghostly pallor, he shipped me off to the hospital for testing. Stat. I’ll spare you the details 🙂
I honestly can’t believe it’s been a year. But then again, I think it’s been closer to 40.
In the past few weeks, I spoke with my counselor a lot about what it would be like coming home for break this year; remembering the things that happened, accepting them, dealing with them, how I felt about them…things like that. During counseling sessions, wave upon wave of memories flooded over me. Some were funny (like how the tech who wheeled me to my CT scan happened to be a classmate). But others – most of these memories – were much more meaningful, if not uncomfortable or even painful. I’m going to share one with you now: *as a warning…it isn’t pretty.
I arrived at my doctor’s office weak, pale, puking, weak, dehydrated and did I mention weak? I wore baggy sweats and a huge coat, but couldn’t get warm. Mom and I met my friend (who I talked with before Christmas break) in the parking lot, and then headed to check in. Fast forward to me telling the doctor why I thought I lost weight. He furrowed his brow in concern as he stood up, grabbed his stethoscope and approached me to take a listen. He couldn’t hear through my sweatshirt, so he lifted it up halfway. And mom and my friend gasped. My sweatshirt did a great job of hiding the extent my not-so-secret secret. You couldn’t count every rib, but they were probably more visible than ever before. I looked at my mom and friend…mom had tears in her eyes, and my friend looked worried. Reality, reflected to me in their eyes, was hitting us all at the same time. Bam.
As I told this story to my counselor, I began to feel upset at the memory of it all. When she asked “Do I see shame on your face?” I couldn’t speak through the tears blocking my throat. She was exactly right. I am guilty of hanging on to shame from that moment of truth without even realizing it.
And then I got angry. Through the tears, I began to talk, to reflect on how I felt right then. She asked me what I caused me to feel shame. I paused…and realized it came to this: How did I let myself go this far? How did this get so out of control? What made me think that neglecting my basic needs could ever be acceptable or result in anything good!??! I had no answer except a cocktail of anger and frustration, mixed with a splash of heartbreak.
“Too long have I lived in the shadows of shame, believing that there was no way I could change, but the one who is making everything new, doesn’t see me the way that I do…”
My counselor asked me to do to two things that day:
#1. Love and accept myself, and in so doing, accept and acknowledge the feelings of shame, then let them go. How? Embrace this sentence: “This is who I am”. This is who I am on December 21st, 2009. This is who I am on December 21st, 2010. Not the same person. But still me.
And then she asked the unthinkable.
#2. She asked, “Can you love the eating disorder?” What? Are you freaking KIDDING me? Love my “bad friend”? Love my lying, deceiving enemy? Are you crazy?!?! I HATE it so much! And then I stopped. My counselor didn’t say a word. But Someone else did. In that moment of silence, I heard “love those you hate” or, “…love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you,” (Luke 6:27-28). Ouch. I had nothing else to say. Except that I would try.
There is no doubt that my life has changed in this year. I still struggle with anorexia. Think of it like a war; days are like battles. Sometimes I win. Sometimes I don’t. But overall, there’s improvement:
I am a more confident person.
I ate a burger at a restaurant.
I speak up (sometimes).
I assert myself (sometimes).
I ate a great Thanksgiving dinner with pie AND ice cream, sans worry.
I cry more – hurt more for the people I love.
I’ve gained friendships I never imagined.
My friends step up and keep me “in check” more faithfully than I would have dreamed, and I love it.
And most importantly, I’m getting closer to recovery one step at a time; one bite at a time.
And I’m trying to embrace that this is who I am.
And now, for your viewing enjoyment 🙂