Are you suffering from an eating disorder (ED), but thinking about getting out of it? Maybe it’s the first time you’re considering that in fact you have that illness, because you used to believe you were in control or it was a lifestyle. And no you see that’s false… but the prospect of quitting it frightens you. Keep calm. I was in that limbo for more than 4 months, after 11 years of total denial. Now I’ve been 1 year and 8 months into recovery, and I can tell you that it is without a doubt the best decision. The hardest, but the only one that’s worth it.
1. Read recovery stories
One of the things that helped me most was reading the stories of girls that had gone through the same but had recovered and now talked about it from another perspective (you can read mine here). The thing that surprised me the most was seeing how they used to think very similar things as me, they had the same beliefs and fears, but with recovery their mindset had completely changed, they’d realized all of that was a lie, and not one of their fears had come true.
That forced me to reconsider my own convictions… would it be the same in my case? It also helped me to dismiss some stereotypes I had about recovery:
- That it was for weak people who “deserted”: these girls were total warriors who had struggled terribly in order to get to where they were.
- That reaching a healthy weight = being fat: in fact, in the transformation photos, there was no doubt that the “after” was much better.
Of course, there’s a bit of everything. Look for people who inspire you. You’ll find some others you’re not going to like, but you have to know you’ll end up like those who are the best for you. I’m sure that in the job you have or want to have there’s people you like more and less… and you don’t think you’re going to become like the latter!
I’ll always remember these words I read in Hannah Durbin’s blog: “I was told to leap from the cliff and embrace the free fall. I was promised that recovery would be on the other side. I didn’t believe them, but I jumped anyway. And here I am today, on the other side, telling you to jump”.
Here I am today too, almost reaching the other side and realizing that the darkness I saw from my cliff isn’t such, but a bright gem. Had I seen what I see today, I’d have jumped without thinking twice. But in fact I’d seen it, just through the eyes of whose who had preceded me in this way. What happens is that I couldn’t totally believe it, although it was enough to start. Believe me. It’s worth it. Jump.
Most of these people will be so glad if you write them to talk and ask questions (I’d certainly be. You can contact me here). Tell your story and ask for advice, especially for taking the first steps. Approach them with an open mind and willing to learn: nobody is going to tell you that it will be easy, or that you can just half recover and keep some parts of the ED (such as a low weight). But you’ll be able to notice the support and joy for seeing that someone else is about to come into the light!
If you’re considering a total life change and choosing recovery, your brain is probably at boiling point: thousands of contradictory thoughts screaming, so many things to think about, fears, perhaps sparkles of excitement… In the middle of so much chaos, reflecting is hard.
Grab pen and paper, and write all that’s going on in your mind in this moment. Don’t be shy, don’t try to order it or make it look nice, don’t leave out the embarrassing stuff. Being able to see it all at once and at the same level will help you ponder it in a more rational way. And you’ll realize that many things that sounded convincing in your head… make no sense at all.
Come before God, open your heart to Him, confess to Him that you’re scared and confused, and invite Him to guide and enlighten you. He won’t turn down your petition. Mind you, all your thoughts will try to convince you that they’re His answer. Learn to listen to His voice: look for peace, look for something that frees and raises your spirit. Not in a superficial way, not something that provides you with a fleeting satisfaction or high, or that quiets down your fears; but the flame that burns in the depths of your soul and that attracts you mysteriously. Something that, although maybe you can’t explain it to yourself since it doesn’t concur with what you’ve done or thought up until now, brings you joy and consolation when you believe it’s possible.
5. Offer your fears up
Tell your fears to God and say from the heart that you offer them up to Him, even if you can’t totally let go of them and your trust isn’t complete; wanting to want is enough, and He’ll supply what’s lacking. But you can go a step beyond. I always believe that gestures with a tangible component are more effective than merely spiritual ones. So I recommend the following exercise to you:
Write all your fears on a paper or on little scraps of paper, one by one, of all kinds: physical (get fat) and intimate (losing control), general (losing the meaning of your life) and specific (not fitting into x jeans)… all of them, even the ones you find it hard to admit you have. Put them in a box or envelope. And place them at the feet of an image of Jesus you have at home, depositing them as a true offering. He’ll accept them. In fact, He’s actually already done it: He has carried them on His shoulders in the way to the Cross.
You’re never going to be totally sure of this. Not even after months in recovery are you going to reach absolute certainty, at least not every day. So don’t try to wait to have that certitude to start, because that’s an oxymoron: you’ll only gain it little by little along the way.
Most steps are going to be small, baby steps: one day you’ll tell other person, another one you’ll go eat out and not order a green salad, another one you’ll sit instead of stand in the bus… But what doesn’t count is taking those steps without a clear end, sometimes yes and sometimes not, flirting with the ED. Recovery requires a radical choice. I understand you need time to think. But if you’re considering it it’s because at some point you’ve been able to see it, even if then your thoughts have overwhelmed you. So choose life.
7. Find someone
You’ll be able to move forward in a much more accurate and faster way if you look for someone who meets all of these traits:
- You trust them enough to tell them everything. Even the things you’d never tell others.
- They understand your soul. Maybe even better than yourself.
- They don’t judge you. They don’t look at you as if you were crazy. They don’t make you feel even worse.
- They don’t always say you’re right. They push you out of your comfort zone. They stop your self-deceiving.
- You respect them enough to follow their advice even in the previous scenario.
My recommendation is without a doubt that this person should be your spiritual director. Which doesn’t mean no one else must help you (for example, my mother’s been an invaluable support in my recovery; you must also look for the professional help you need), but that you should have someone as a reference point to guide you. I know there are people who find something somewhat similar in a good psychologist or therapist; but in any case it’s usually just one person.
Trust God, that person, the doctors, your loved ones and your true self. It’s not like the rest of them are against you, but rather you’re all together against the ED. He’s the only one you can’t trust, because he wants to trick you into thinking he’s your savior, but he just wants your destruction.
You’ll think you’re losing your “you”, but you’ll actually be finding it, it’s just that the process of separation is painful because the ED has is very trapped. That’s why you need to trust blindly and let things be done to you, admitting your thoughts are lies and be humble to accept that others are right. And don’t be afraid either of being unable to face challenges in the future, because now it’s normal that you feel that way since you don’t have the grace for them yet; but when they come you’ll be given more than enough.
Start to implement this advice today. Start to swim to the surface today. I hope all of these steps give you peace and reaffirmation, but, above all, that you jump!
Remember I’ll be encouraging you and praying for you and, if you want, helping you personally.
Undertake today the conquest of your ED and reclaim your life, your freedom and your happiness.