You have to have a reason to fight ED. You need to be able to answer why you want to fully recover. You need to know why you are moving forward when every step toward recovery screams, “Stop!” The reason cannot be “to make my family happy”. It can’t be “to get my therapist off my back”. Saying “so I don’t have to get sent away” isn’t going to cut it. The reason to fight ED has to go beyond the external. It’s not about gaining weight or eating “normal” food or not exercising for two hours a day. Recovery is all heart, soul, mind, and strength. Recovery is knowing in the deepest corner of your being that life is about more, that you were created for more than this, that you are on this earth for a purpose beyond yourself. Recovery is about life.
ED is all about death. The death of relationships. The death of hope. The death of freedom. The death of joy. The death of light. But it’s a slow death. ED doesn’t take these things all at once. He takes them so slowly and so quietly, that you don’t know they are gone until you have nothing left. You find yourself standing alone, paralyzed by fear of people, fear of eating, fear of gaining weight, fear of failure, fear of being discovered, fear of losing control, fear of being alone, fear of the leftovers in the fridge, fear of the weather stopping you from exercising, fear of people seeing past your excuses, fear of your husband touching you and feeling your bones sticking out, fear of being afraid. Fear of death. It’s a slow death. And ED whispers in your ear the entire way down, making sure you know that you need him, that he’s there for you when no one else understands, that he will make everything all right, just so long as you follow his rules. ED lies while he’s killing you. And the sad thing is, you believe him. You believe him and hold onto his lies with a white-knuckled grip. Everything else in your life may be falling apart, but this is one thing you can control.
Don’t tell me how much to eat. Don’t tell me I can’t exercise. Don’t question my eating habits. Don’t ask me questions I don’t want to answer. Don’t invite me out for lunch when that’s against ED’s rules. Don’t look at me like I’m crazy when I tell you I don’t like meat, or cheese, or butter, or mayo, or cream sauce, or fried food, or oil, or french fries. Don’t see me when ED gives me permission to eat those cookies and ice cream and slice of pie and chips and M&Ms all at once. Don’t be my friend because I don’t need friends. I have ED. But I don’t want ED. But ED wants me. And ED has an iron grip on my heart, and his grip squeezes shut all the doors and windows into my heart. I will pretend for you that I lead a normal life. You can tell me I’m too skinny. Point for ED. You can tell me you’re amazed by my will power. Point for ED. You can tell me you wish you had my dedication. Point for ED. ED is winning. ED is winning until . . .
You have to have a reason to fight ED.
I remember that time when my boys were little and I got mad at them for coming inside from playing in the snow because I had to stop my exercise video to help them get their snow stuff off.
I remember the time we were at play group and I told the boys we couldn’t stay to have pizza with everyone else because ED’s rule was no pizza for lunch so we had to go home.
I remember when Benj would tell me that running was more important to me than he was, and I would argue with him, knowing deep down that I would always choose running over him if he made the ultimatum.
I remember so many times asking Benj why I didn’t feel like I had any close friends, why I used to be the life of the party in high school and college and now all I wanted to do was stay home.
I remember the runs when I just wanted to stop, but I hadn’t reached my time quota and so I had to keep going, around the block, just one more corner, one more turn.
I remember the mornings when I screamed at the boys to get going, to stop making us late, to move, blaming them for what my decision to run just 5 more minutes caused.
I remember the dinners out with friends when I knew exactly what everyone else was eating so that I could make sure I had chosen the most healthy meal with the least amount of calories.
I remember all the times I felt left out and friendless amongst a faculty that laughed and joked around with each other over birthday treats or cheese and crackers, never realizing that the reason I was left out was because I was scared that someone would ask me if I wanted a piece of cake, so I never went into the lounge.
I remember when my friends all trained for a 5K together, but they didn’t ask me if I wanted to do it too because they knew that a 5K just wasn’t far enough for me.
I remember all the trips to Sioux Falls, the medication, the ultrasounds, the stress, the jealousy towards friends who could have children the “normal” way while we had to spend all our money on in vitro because I had messed up my cycle so badly that it didn’t work on its own anymore.
I remember the meals I made hamburger for Benj and the boys, but fish for me. When I’d fill my plate with vegetables and set the ketchup bottle in front of it so Benj couldn’t see that that was all I was eating.
I remember trying to figure out how I could fit devotions into my day when I left no time for God in the mornings and fell asleep too early at night because I was exhausted by 7 at night.
I remember going camping with friends and shutting down before the campfire even got going, wanting to go to bed when everyone else was laughing and telling stories because I had to get up at 5 am to get my run in before everyone else woke up.
I remember putting on all my jeans and realizing that every one of them hung off my hips and sagged in the butt because I had lost more weight this time than I had realized, and I knew I didn’t look good in any of them, but ED patted me on the back for my good work.
I remember the Super Bowl party when ED rewarded me for my extra exercise by allowing me to stuff myself with so much food that I made myself sick. And I remember, I still remember, that last bar I ate when I already felt like throwing up. And I remember the guilt of all that miserable food in my stomach, and all the running I had to do to make up for it.
I remember when I lied to Benj about how much exercise I had done that day because I knew how mad he would have gotten. And that other day I lied. And that other day.
I remember feeling isolated from everyone on vacation because while they were hanging out on the beach together, ED told me I hadn’t exercised enough that day to justify laying around all afternoon, so I went for a walk instead.
I remember wondering why I couldn’t connect to my students, why I couldn’t form relationships with them like I had with my first students in Nicaragua, when teaching was my passion and ED wasn’t.
I remember the moment the doctor at Melrose told me my heart rate was 40 beats per minute, and if it had been 39 beats per minute, they would have had no choice but to admit me to the hospital to be hooked up to a heart monitor to make sure that my heart wouldn’t stop beating in the middle of the night.
I remember watching my husband walk to his pickup, knowing that he was crying just like I was as I felt the most alone and scared as I have ever felt in my entire life, sitting on my bed in my room at Melrose.
I remember ED. I still know ED. But everyday he fades. I won’t lie; ED may come back. But he won’t stay. ED will fade until he’s gone because I have so so many reasons to fight him. ED can’t control me like he did for 15 years because I won’t let him. Because all of his rules, his isolation, his lies, his manipulating, all of it is what I remember with clarity in truth. When God flips the switch and light floods the darkness, the darkness has nowhere to hide. The key to recovery, the reason to fight, is all the Light that makes the darkness flee. I don’t want ED anymore. Yes, ED made me feel special. He gave me his undivided attention and made me different from everyone else. He made me skinnier than . . . , he made me run farther than . . . , he made me more disciplined than . . . ED made me his top priority. But than the Light came and I can see exactly where skinnier and farther and more disciplined got me. They got me more alone and scared than I’ve ever felt in my entire life, sitting on a bed at Melrose, watching my husband walk away in tears. And then God came flooding in. And recovery began . . .