Each year on July 4th, I celebrate my independence from my eating disorder once again.
It doesn’t matter how many years have passed, or how many other (and possibly even greater) challenges I may have faced since then. I still celebrate my recovery from “Ed”, as many eating disorder sufferers today term their disease, with all the gusto and force of the newly recovered, hardly believing my good fortune, scarcely comprehending the courage in what I have just achieved.
“This,” I find myself thinking to myself once again, “is worth all the hard work and effort and the years of struggle it took to get here. This is worth the time, the expense, the pain and suffering of the in-between days when I was neither as sick as I had been nor as well as I might yet be.”
In other words, each year, and yet again, I rediscover that recovery is worth it.
There are so many incredible experiences that I have had since that I could never have had while I spent my days engaged in the endless ruminations over weight, calories, numbers, sizes, shapes, portions, and reflections in a coated aluminum pane of glass that my disease required of me.
There are so many bright lights, interesting sights, fascinating people, fun hobbies, rewarding work, and loving connections that I never was able to participate in while my time was wrapped up with “Ed.”
But I can and do participate in them now.
While today, on some level, it is hard to believe that it took me as long as it did to choose to work as hard as I knew I was capable of working towards my own recovery, I liken that to the process that one goes through from denial to acceptance when they are dying, whether it be an emotional or mental, or a true physical death.
Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross writes about this process when she outlines her research into the Five Stages of Grief, which are denial, anger, bargaining, grief, and acceptance. I went through all of these stages, and sometimes out of order, and definitely multiple times, on my own path towards choosing and then achieving recovery. Some days I was very accepting of the fact that I was ill and needed to work hard and follow the advice of my treatment team in order to heal. Other days I was not as accepting, for whatever reason, whether it was because I was scared I wouldn’t know who I was without a day consumed by “Ed,” or whether it was because I didn’t feel quite as sick that day and I thought that maybe it wasn’t as serious as my team had made it out to be.
There were also many other reasons.
But whatever the reason, I grieved, erratically but in time fully, and when at last I woke up one day to discover that I had been in sustained recovery for quite some number of days, I felt the impact of the independence I had won for the very first time.
In those first moments of awareness, all the fireworks on the planet would not have been enough to express my triumph, or my joy. Every Fourth of July since then, as the fireworks explode overhead, another, identical set of fireworks explodes in my heart, and I count my blessings, and I thank myself yet again for displaying the bravery and the perseverance and the vision to pursue my recovery like my life depended on it….because it did.
Looking back, I can see that now. Even if I had managed to survive the ravages of my eating disorder and somehow settle into “maintain,” I would not have been living. I would have been existing, trapped in a cycle of endless painful application for acceptance from a part of me that would never willingly have given it, no matter how nicely I asked.
Today, I can ask for and receive my own acceptance, and all in the space of a few moments. I have learned how to extend the same kindness and compassion that I offer to others to myself as well. No longer do I find my principle source of self-esteem in what I achieve, but rather I take it genuinely from not even who I am, but from the simple fact that I am.
I am a human being. I have faced death, and not just physical death but death of all my hopes and dreams, and I have survived. Not only have I survived, but I have won my independence. Today my work and my passion is to share with others what I have discovered about the power of the human spirit to not just survive but to triumph over adversity. Through my work, through how I live my life, and most of all through how I celebrate the Fourth of July each year, I am living proof that recovery is not just possible, but real.
And I wish the same for you.
If you are struggling to overcome a significant life challenge such as an eating disorder, and you don’t want to wait until the next Fourth of July to get started towards your goal, then Southlake Counseling can help. At Southlake Counseling, we not only have more than two decades of training and expertise that supports us in our life-changing work, but each member of our staff also brings to the table their own personal experience of recovering from a significant life challenge. In other words, we get it, we have been there, we understand what it takes, and we can help you to get there too. If you are ready to say “no” to staying stuck and say “yes” to celebrating your independence, we look forward to hearing from you! Contact us at www.southlakecounseling.com for more information.