Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.

The Big Choice


choices choices choices

I’m in the mood for citrus fruit and open my fridge and am confronted by two different kinds: Do I want an orange or a grapefruit?  Most of the time, the decision comes down to the time of day: Grapefruit were typically breakfast items in my house growing up, and I’ve sort of stuck with that tradition.

There are some other choices that aren’t as easy to make.

I did not choose to inherit the Bipolar gene that runs through our family like, well, like mad. (Pun fully intended this time.)  But I do choose to take the medications that help control the illness. Nor did I choose to inherit ARVD, the heart disease that caused a sudden cardiac arrest and countless trips to the ER because of arrhythmias. But I did choose to have a defibrillator inserted, and I choose every day to follow the doctor’s recommendations of no aerobic exercise and I limit my caffeine and sugar because both seem to aggravate my heart.

And some choices are more difficult than taking a pill or not going for a run.

I did not choose to develop an eating disorder.  I didn’t wake up one morning and think to myself, “Gee, I think I’ll stop eating so that I can worry the hell out of my family and friends, go to the ER for potassium drips, and be hospitalized multiple times so someone could make sure I eat and gain weight.  It’ll be fun to isolate myself from my friends and it’ll be fun to be on a first name basis with emergency room staff and it’ll be fun to be forced to take time off of school and get behind in my studies.”   Ummm. . . . not.

But it was and is a choice to recover.  I say was because I consider myself fully recovered.  I say is because it is still easy when I am depressed or physically sick to slip back into not eating without realizing I am doing so.  I have to remind myself that not eating will only make the depression worse and will impede physical recovery.

This choice to recover, to give up the eating disorder, was not as easy as opening a bottle of anti-depressants and anti-arrhythmia medication.  I knew the eating disorder was slowly killing me.  I watched it kill several friends from treatment.  But it still wasn’t an easy decision.  It meant giving up a lifestyle.  It meant giving up what I considered to be a close friend.  In my twisted ED-mind, I could always count on the eating disorder.  And, quite frankly, life scared the living shit out of me.  This is why people telling me to “just eat” was ineffective.  Recovering from an eating disorder involves more than “just eating.”  It involves giving up a very familiar way of living and choosing something new and, therefore, terrifying.

People have asked me what it took for me to make that choice.  I was at a conference with a friend, a friend who was a father figure and a constant source of support and encouragement.  A friend whose daughter had died from her eating disorder.  After dinner, we were having drinks in his hotel room with a couple of other friends and deciding where we wanted to go that night when my heart started beating extremely fast and quite erratically.  I had problems taking in a breath and felt weak.  He called the ambulance and off to the ER I went, with him by my side.  And all I kept thinking was, “He watched his daughter die from this.  I cannot make him go through that again.”  I got home from that conference and began seeking more intensive treatment.  It was not a magical turn-around.  I would end up seeking more intensive treatment again further on down the road.  I would have ups and downs–many of them–before I considered myself recovered.  And even though I consider myself recovered, I know that I still have to be on guard, for there are situations–namely change–that trigger that desire to retreat back to the eating disorder.

No one else can make this choice for you.  If that were true, I would have recovered years before I actually did.  And it may very well be the hardest choice you will ever make.  And once you make that choice, things don’t get easier.  A) Recovery involves some of the hardest work you will ever undertake.  B) Life is still out there, with all of its challenges and all of its painful moments.

I can’t guarantee that you will take X amount of months in treatment to recover, or even that you will take X number of times in treatment.  But I can guarantee that, even with the pain life is going throw in your direction, recovery is worth it.  You’ll be stronger and more resilient.  If you think of life as a dueling match, you’ll be able to spar with energy and strength that you didn’t know you had in you, because the eating disorder steals that strength and energy.  Recovery gives it back.  Recovery means your relationships will be more honest and free.  Recovery means going to class and thinking about what the teacher is lecturing about rather than what you aren’t going to eat at lunch time and what lie you’ll use to convince your friends that you already ate.  Recovery means watching spring bloom and taking joy in the beauty of it all and not obsessing about what lies you’ll use to explain why you’re wearing jeans and long sleeves to hide your body.  Recovery means the ability to experience joy and love and peace, all things the eating disorder likes to steal.

Again, recovering from an eating disorder involves some of the hardest work you will ever undertake.  But recovery also means freedom to experience the fullness of life and love.  Recovery means that your relationships will no longer be based on the other person’s worry for your safety, but on equality.  Recovery means the ability to grow and experience joy.

But it is a choice.  A damned hard choice, but still a choice, and it is a choice that will have to be made more than once.  But remember, that once you make that choice, you do not have to stand alone.  There are support groups, pro-recovery groups on facebook, and friends who will encourage you and support you in your quest for health.  They will celebrate the emergence of your true self, the self that got buried underneath the eating disorder, the self that is longing for a chance to grow and blossom and flourish.

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March 19, 2011 - Posted by | Body Image, depression, Eating Disorders, health, recovery | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. Amazing post- recovery is a choice, and though It may be the hardest one I’ve ever made, I know it will be worth it.

    Comment by Laura | March 19, 2011 | Reply

  2. “… I could always count on the eating disorder. And, quite frankly, life scared the living shit out of me. This is why people telling me to “just eat” was ineffective. Recovering from an eating disorder involves more than “just eating.” It involves giving up a very familiar way of living and choosing something new and, therefore, terrifying.
    Recovery means your relationships will be more honest and free. Recovery means going to class and thinking about what the teacher is lecturing about rather than what you aren’t going to eat at lunch time and what lie you’ll use to convince your friends that you already ate. Recovery means watching spring bloom and taking joy in the beauty of it all and not obsessing about what lies you’ll use to explain why you’re wearing jeans and long sleeves to hide your body. Recovery means the ability to experience joy and love and peace, all things the eating disorder likes to steal…”

    this really resonated with me..

    Comment by Janie | March 28, 2011 | Reply


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