Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.

How I Did It


I was asked a rather thought provoking question on Facebook today in the middle of a discussion of how once you are in recovery, the issues seem to multiply, not go away.  And let’s be honest, who out there didn’t think life would automatically be better once we kicked the eating disorder to the curb?  I know that’s what I expected.  The eating disorder was making my life hell, so obviously the only way to go was up, right? (sarcasm fully present)  And life did get better without the eating disorder, but it wasn’t great, and I for one was surprised at all the issues that suddenly reared their ugly heads.

So someone asked me how I did it.  How I became aware of the issues and faced them without falling back into the eating disorder behaviors.

First off, let me just say that I wasn’t immune to the temptation of relapse, and it wasn’t a smooth ride.  I had my moments of relying on the old behaviors; I was not perfect.  No one is.  And that’s okay.  Don’t beat yourself up for an off day; acknowledge it for what it was and know that tomorrow you have a chance to make it a different kind of day.

Secondly, remember that this is how I did it.  This is not the one and only way to work through recovery, but this is what worked for me. Do not feel that this is how you have to go about things.  This is just one option, one path among many.

So.  How did I do it?   Because there were a couple of times when I left treatment on kind of solid ground only to be slammed by these issues that seemingly came out of nowhere and then I relapsed and went through the whole cycle again.  And again.  The important thing to note about those times in treatment is that I was never fully committed to recovery.  I wanted the hell to end, but I wasn’t yet ready to let go of the eating disorder because I couldn’t imagine life without it.  The very first thing that happened when I began recovery was I had to realize that I wasn’t living.  I was existing.  No more, no less.  I was in graduate school and everyone else around me was living full, fulfilling lives.  I was showing up to class and trying to stay awake and trying to convince people I was fine.  The day I realized the extent of my lack of life, I confided in a teacher and because I was afraid to do it on my own, called a treatment center from her office.  I hung up the phone and was shaking and she told me that choosing life was the most terrifying thing you could do.  And I started crying for the first time in months.  Then I packed my bags and went to treatment.  Except this time, I was determined to make it work.  I still went through all the normal struggles and I did my fair share of resisting, but the underlying motivation was different.

The second thing that happened was that I discovered a reason for living free of the eating disorder.  That happened when my nephew came to visit me on Christmas day, all 18 months of his little cuteness.  And I realized I didn’t want him to grow up visiting me in hospitals, and I hoped–and still hope–that he doesn’t remember that day.  And I didn’t want him to grow up thinking of me as “the sick aunt.”  So in the beginning, I ate for him.  I stopped exercising for him.  I stopped using pills for him.  Eventually, I was able to do these things for me.

The issues that reared their ugly heads?  Yeah, they came up.  But my therapist and I put them on the back burner while I concentrated on controlling my behaviors and getting through normal day-to-day stressors (and there are a lot of them in graduate school!) without relying on any eating disorder behaviors.  I practiced using healthy coping skills.  Once I had confidence in my ability to handle normal stress in a healthy way, using these healthy coping skills, my therapist and I began looking at the underlying issues, the ones I had kept buried through the eating disorder.  We started with the smaller issues first, working our way up to the deeper, more painful ones.  If things started getting too overwhelming and I was having a difficult time not relying on eating disorder behaviors, we backed off and focused on strengthening my healthy coping skills.

Right now, I am working with a Dialectical Behavioral Therapy therapist, and one of the main goals of DBT is to “create a life worth living.”  For me, that has been crucial in maintaining my recovery.  It’s been a slow process, and there has been some give and take at certain points, and I’m not finished.  My life has changed a lot due to medical reasons in the previous two years, and that has meant rearranging the things that make my life worth living.  At one point, I kept a list in my journal to help remind me of why I was fighting to stay in recovery on the days when things were particularly difficult.  I’ve had to reevaluate things recently due to some medical news, and that list has made another appearance.  I’m learning that this is life.  Sometimes–a lot of the time–we can’t control what gets thrown our way.  We adjust the best we can.  And sometimes the road will be bumpy.

So I guess my overall advice, based on what worked for me, is to first get to a point where you are physically strong enough to handle intense emotions and stress and then to make sure that you have a good amount of healthy coping skills that you can rely on.  The best time to practice these skills is when you aren’t overwhelmed, and then they will eventually become second nature and a natural resource during times of stress.

Above all, I recommend working with your treatment team and being honest with them.  Part of recovery involves trusting other people and learning to let other people help you.

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May 23, 2011 - Posted by | coping, depression, Eating Disorders, recovery | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

71 Comments »

  1. Hi – I really enjoyed reading your story and I think it’s really brave to share your story in such a public venue. I’d like to bump it to Freshly Pressed (I work for WordPress.com) but only if you’re comfortable with the added traffic that might bring. You may be able to help a lot of people with your words. Send me a message if you think that might be ok.

    Comment by Sara Rosso | May 24, 2011 | Reply

    • that would be fine with me.

      Comment by surfacingaftersilence | May 25, 2011 | Reply

    • cool, and a great story, but why put it up as “posts about facebook”

      Comment by panovision101 | May 25, 2011 | Reply

      • the “facebook” tag was because this post was based on a FB conversation I had.

        Comment by surfacingaftersilence | May 25, 2011

  2. You are a brave woman to share your story. The above commenter is correct in saying you may be able to help others. Wishing you all the best life has to offer. Congrats on Freshly Pressed.

    Comment by Jennifer Avventura | May 25, 2011 | Reply

  3. Thank you very much for sharing your story. I like your blog very much. I am in recovery of another kind, and can relate on many levels. Thanks too for sharing about your cats! I have not shared my love and healing from my cats on my blog yet–I am inspired!!

    Comment by runningoutofplaceandtime | May 25, 2011 | Reply

  4. You said that treatment didn’t work because you weren’t fully committed to recovery–I think this is key to freedom to anything in life! I’m glad you shared your story and I know that other people will find inspiration through your words!

    Comment by Lakia Gordon | May 25, 2011 | Reply

  5. Thanks for coming forward – you are going to be helping a lot of people by sharing your story – I just know it.

    Continue being well,
    Sincerely,
    M.L.

    Comment by wordsweneversaid | May 25, 2011 | Reply

  6. Firstly, your blog is so neat and clean and easy and a pleasure to read. Secondly, congrats on FP. And lastly, thank you for your story.

    You have amazing strength and you are incredibly brave. I can’t even imagine how hard it was and just hearing about it was helpful to me. My very good friend suffered from anorexia for a long time and I felt like I needed to be strong, but watching her made me weak. She, like you, conquered the hardest battle and chose life and thank G-d made it. Still, she fights it every day.

    I wish you so much success in all that you do. Your story will help many others. Thank you again for sharing it with us.

    Comment by The Logophile | May 25, 2011 | Reply

  7. I am finding your story very interesting and honest. Especially how you began to eat and therefore “live” for your nephew when you couldn’t do it for yourself. In psychology terms, he became a “transitional object” that helped you get through your difficult times when you couldn’t do it for yourself. When I was young and challenged by many fears, was teased and bullied at school, and then developed social anxiety and panic attacks, strangely enough, singer Tom Jones saved my life (this is the point where most people role their eyes, but it is true) through his voice, music, and accessibility. He became a transitional object that enabled me to navigate the dark corners of my own life until I was strong enough to face them on my own. Transitional objects are life-changing and transformational — I’m grateful you found yours.

    Comment by SingerSavedMe | May 25, 2011 | Reply

  8. Interesting blog come visit mine on wordpress
    sometime.

    Comment by thor27 | May 25, 2011 | Reply

    • thanks for the comment–leave me your blog address and I will come check out your blog

      Comment by surfacingaftersilence | May 25, 2011 | Reply

  9. It’s amazing that all disorders seem to fool us into believing that once the disorder is conquered, life will be difficulty-free. I remember thinking when I was in my very early 20’s and in therapy, “When I know what the problems are I’ll be fine.” I was at a point where I couldn’t even identify the problems — I was very confused. After therapy it dawned on me that just knowing what the problems are is the START of figuring out how to deal with them. I felt tricked!

    There’s a lifelong journey in dealing with your issues. Every disorder has at its root issues that caused the disorder to emerge in the first place. The disorder is really only a masking and coping technique. Moving past the addiction or disorder’s behavior lands you in a place where you can start to sift through the underlying causes and begin working on them.

    Good for you that you’ve moved into a place of finding and understanding and dealing with the causes that created your eating disorders. It’s a lifelong journey and now that you have committed to living you have a chance to keep uncovering what led you to the disorder in the first place — and hopefully will come to terms in a loving way with what makes you tick.

    I’ve realized after living on this planet for more than 50 years that the issues never really go away — they tend to become more subtle — so you’ll have lots to work on throughout your lifetime if you’re anything like me!

    Comment by Julee Celeste | May 25, 2011 | Reply

  10. all very interesting…i’ll be pondering a few things.

    Comment by Eva McCane | May 25, 2011 | Reply

  11. This one really hit home for me. Just like your moment with your 18 month old nephew, my moment was the moment I found out I was pregnant. I vowed to be healthy for my child and to teach my child to not let food control him. While the urges are still there, especially at stressful times, I have began to live a life worth living. Thank you for sharing

    Comment by Finally Fast | May 25, 2011 | Reply

  12. With all of the crazy media attention on bodies, I think many of us grow up a hair’s breadth away from eating disorders. Two of my best friends were hospitalized from eating disorder complications when I was a teenager. I escaped, but only just.
    Sharing your recovery journey sheds light on so many things, and I’m sure it will certainly help those who live under the thumb of these disorders.

    Comment by Deanna | May 25, 2011 | Reply

  13. I liked the fact you emphasized the path you took worked for you and not necessarily how someone else would deal with the same issue. I think that is so important. Everyone has to find what works best for them, but without stories shared like yours most often don’t get the encouragement necessary to finally take action.

    Comment by Bruce Alan Burns | May 25, 2011 | Reply

  14. That’s great that you are working through this. I know it’s not easy but the first part is MAKING THE DECISION to have a better life. Once you fully commit to the decision, I feel you are capable of overcoming any obstical. GREAT JOB!

    Comment by ournote2self | May 25, 2011 | Reply

  15. Some great insight into the problem of eating disorders. You have helped me understand my own issues a bit more.

    Comment by Grumpa Joe | May 25, 2011 | Reply

  16. This one really hit home for me. Just like your moment with your 18 month old nephew, my moment was the moment I found out I was pregnant. I vowed to be healthy for my child and to teach my child to not let food control him. While the urges are still there, especially at stressful times, I have began to live a life worth living. Thank you for sharing

    Comment by ทัวร์ฮ่องกง,ทัวร์ปักกิ่ง,ทัวร์เวียดนาม, | May 25, 2011 | Reply

  17. It’s amazing how your insights about eating disordees can apply to so many different kinds of situations. I’m going through a terrible break-up, and I have just realized it must be a “recovery” in it’s own right because so many of your words of wisdom can be applied to my situation as well. Thank you for your post, and stay strong!

    Comment by Lindsay | May 25, 2011 | Reply

  18. Love this post. Thank you for sharing it.

    Comment by Leah Dotten | May 25, 2011 | Reply

  19. Great post. What an inspiration you are- there is so much good you do because of what you went through and this is just the beginning!

    Comment by Louise Smithers | May 25, 2011 | Reply

  20. Congrats! You’re lucky to have the strength to recover.

    Comment by realanonymousgirl2011 | May 25, 2011 | Reply

  21. Great post. A truth in all aspects of life. Thank you 😀

    Comment by crystaleve | May 25, 2011 | Reply

  22. Nice one…

    Comment by richannkur | May 25, 2011 | Reply

  23. Good Post Informative
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    Comment by hammadabbasi420 | May 25, 2011 | Reply

  24. Thanks Mun. The rooster is only needed to fertilize the eggs – the hens will produce them whether he’s around or not. This just means no babies, so when my girls get old I will need to buy new chicks.

    Comment by แพ็คเกจทัวร์,ทัวร์จีน,ทัวร์เกาหลี | May 25, 2011 | Reply

  25. Well done, I admire your courage. The blog flows great too.

    Comment by purechiqi | May 26, 2011 | Reply

  26. Congrats – on being freshly pressed, and primarily, on finding the strength, courage and desire to live without anorexia. Your honesty is a healer, not only to yourself, but also to your readers.

    Comment by Natalia | May 26, 2011 | Reply

  27. “Sometimes–a lot of the time–we can’t control what gets thrown our way. We adjust the best we can. And sometimes the road will be bumpy.”

    And sometimes the road will be smooth and lovely. This is life. You are very insightful and I wish you well.

    Comment by Walter | May 26, 2011 | Reply

  28. Thanks so much for posting this! Really.

    I’m going through DBT as well (I’m only in week five), and it’s nice to know that I’m not the only one out there who has to actually deal with all of the issues that pop up once you begin recovering.

    Good luck with grad school and with everything else of course.

    Comment by Christina | May 26, 2011 | Reply

  29. First of all, wonderful write. I’ve read a lot of blogs written by individuals that have been through something. They can come off in a different light. After everything, you seem so humbled by your experience.

    I have no idea what you have been/are going through. Through high school my best friend struggled with this. It wasn’t until college that she was motivated by her first love to seek treatment. However, when that relationship broke, so did she.

    I think you hit it on the head when you said that you began doing it for yourself. I honestly believe that that’s the key. You have to want it for yourself.

    Anyway…great post. Keep writing!

    Comment by ameliabadelia | May 26, 2011 | Reply

  30. That’s quite a mountain to climb — you have my admiration. The only way you can get over an obstacle like that is if you’re bigger than it, which makes you pretty damn big. Good on ya. 🙂

    Comment by fireandair | May 26, 2011 | Reply

  31. Thanks for sharing your story. It helps me….A Lot. I was just browsing around and stumble upon your blog. I didn’t know why I click on it. It’s just I feel it was calling me. And it really hit me, coz I also need to do something for my situation. Like you, I’m always tempted and relapsed, I need to curb it and start again and again and again.

    Like they said, it doesn’t matter how many times you fall what matters is you pick yourself up and start again.

    It’s the starting that’s HARD. Once you stop, it’s hard to climb that mountain again…

    Thank You, you inspired me. 😀

    Comment by Jaclyn | May 26, 2011 | Reply

  32. Thank you for your honesty, and also for your courage in talking about this. I also nearly died from Anorexia, while at University. 2 years after I officially started to ‘recover’, I’m still recovering. I know exactly what you mean when you describe how recovering brings up a whole range of other dilemmas. It’s not ‘safe’, but it is a whole lot more exciting than Anorexia – well, I’m trying to think positively about it. 🙂 Anyway, it’s nice to know I’m not alone in that, so thanks again. You’ve done really well. I bet you’ll agree it feels good to walk down the street and not have people glaring at you for being painfully thin, at least. 🙂 The little things make a big difference.

    Comment by Kerry Bonnie | May 26, 2011 | Reply

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    Comment by Нема Такова | May 26, 2011 | Reply

  34. Interesting Blog News. I hope you are doing well…
    I find lots of humor gets me through life’s struggles.

    spread the humor:charlywalker.wordpress.com

    Comment by charlywalker | May 26, 2011 | Reply

  35. Thank you for sharing your story! I hope you are doing well!

    Comment by anewday54 | May 26, 2011 | Reply

  36. Wow really brave and beautifully written post!

    http://atopicofinterest.wordpress.com/

    Comment by atopicofinterest | May 26, 2011 | Reply

  37. be strong; thanks for sharing

    Comment by Katherine: Unemployed | May 26, 2011 | Reply

  38. Thanks for sharing your story and mentioning DBT! Best wishes creating your life worth living!

    Comment by JJ | May 26, 2011 | Reply

  39. Well, if you followed the Karen Carpenter story, you understand that much more went into her eating disorder than just wanting to stay thin. When you have an issue like that, it’s just an effect. In order to fully get rid of it, you have to address the issue that’s underlying. I am glad that you got over it and are so willing to share your story. Stay strong, and if you need any advice, counseling, or just an shoulder to lean on, feel free to reach out to me. I’m more than willing to help in any way I can. Have a great day!

    Comment by norrismac | May 26, 2011 | Reply

  40. Thank you for sharing your story! I have no doubts that it will inspire many!

    Comment by DrAnthonysBlog | May 26, 2011 | Reply

  41. Thank you for posting this personal story. I am in a stage of recovery of another sort, but the battle lives on. Mine concerns depression.

    Comment by Jackie Paulson Author | May 26, 2011 | Reply

  42. great post ,thanks alot for the great write

    Comment by asrclub | May 26, 2011 | Reply

  43. It really takes courage to share the worst experienced you had from the past. I salute you for that. You can be an inspiration to a lot of people for sharing your story.

    Comment by April @ Private Money Utah | May 26, 2011 | Reply

  44. What a great motavational story. Highlight for me was about not living life but just existing. I feellike days i am living life but then others i am just existing due to my weight. Hopefully i can stay motivated. Thanks

    Comment by appsrme | May 26, 2011 | Reply

  45. Hi dear,
    Its not easy to give advice to someone as brave as you. I have understood an amazing phenomena and that is we do manage to tap into a source bigger than us that ultimately protects us. Who knows why we do some of the things we do …and the sad part is we need to understand that the primary reason is because we don’t love ourselves …and so we punish ourselves and most times the reasons for doing so are imaginary i.e. in our heads and not a part of our reality. It is the result of an overactive imagination. Do read my book MasterMind and heal yourself. Life is too short to waste time in such futile habits. Redirect your energy to reading…only you yourself can help yourself and you are a strong person who wanted to eliminate all that was wrong with your life and that is why you wrote about it. Your words will act as a catharsis in healing you
    leave them all behind on the paper and begin again anew. by book link is right here so do make MasterMind your guide and friend.God Bless.
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    Comment by newauthoronamazon | May 26, 2011 | Reply

  46. Your post was awe-inspiring…I am a weight conscious person and envy people who are wafer thin! After reading your post, I understand the criticality of Anorexia…

    I wish you amazing success in everything you do and here’s a tight hug for being so brave. I am sure this too shall pass and you will continue to inspire many lives!

    Comment by priasai | May 26, 2011 | Reply

  47. this is a nice attempt.wish you all the luck

    Comment by abhidworx | May 27, 2011 | Reply

  48. Thanks for sharing this great post. Wishing you best luck!

    Comment by Siddiqur Rahman | May 27, 2011 | Reply

  49. Congratulations on being able to fight through your issues. You are quite brave to discuss them here, and hopefully it will help someone else who is struggling with the same problem.

    God Bless…

    http://ginzotalk.wordpress.com/

    Comment by It's just a web site man! | May 27, 2011 | Reply

  50. What a great story. Addiction is addiction… if only people can see what is worth living for. I have a family member who is an alcoholic… we can see the things worth living for in his life, but he can’t. I am glad you were able to see what was most important in your life… finally… it is you. Your nephew gave you the start, but in the end if you don’t love you the most, you can’t live for others. Glad you are loving you! Thank you for sharing for all those to hopefully learn from you.

    Comment by agirlajeepandahouse | May 27, 2011 | Reply

  51. You seem like a lady with lots of great stories. keep it up 🙂

    Comment by Carl | May 27, 2011 | Reply

  52. Thanks for sharing your story here – I’m glad I stumbled upon your blog today. Blogging about issues is a form of therapy in itself. It sounds like you’ve been through a hell of a lot, and have much to teach the world. Good luck!

    Cheers!
    D
    http://sociosound.wordpress.com

    Comment by D.A. | May 28, 2011 | Reply

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  54. Your post was very inspirative and very well written !! I will continue to come back to your blog to see what articles you have in the future !!Great graphics that kept my attention. Well done! Thanks for sharing!

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  56. This is a beautiful personal narrative with a hopeful message. As a teacher, I have had many bullemic and anorexic students over the years – and, amazingly, I have watched them grow up and (with help) alter the behaviors whch were once so habitual for them.

    It is my understanding, however, that some of the feelings never really ever go away. It’s about managing the thoughts and – as you said – pushing forward and remembering you HAVE to eat because of others who love you. That is definitely a good place to start. Best of luck to you.

    If you feel like visiting me at Lessons From Teachers and Twits, I’d love to read your words there. 😉

    Congrats again on being Freshly Pressed. 😉

    Comment by Renée A. Schuls-Jacobson | May 31, 2011 | Reply

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