Recovery can be daunting. It can seem easier to live with an eating disorder than to face the underlying problems and to pull yourself out of it. But if there is one thing I can tell you now, it’s this: the temporary pain of recovery and the transitions your body goes through are nothing compared to the joy and blessings that will come.
Recovery is possible. I won’t tell you it isn’t difficult or lengthy, but I will tell you that it leads to something so much better.
Here are just a few things that helped me get through it all:
1. Finding role models
I mean real role models, guys. Someone who is striving to embrace themselves for every single part of their bodies, minds and hearts. Someone who knows that God’s plan for them is bigger than an eating disorder, depression, isolation and despair. Someone who is still smiling amidst deep pains, because they know that joy has already won.
One of the girls I looked up to (and still do) during this time went through things I could barely believe. Yet to me, she seemed like the most confident person. She encouraged everyone around her daily. She made recovery look possible and helped me so much. (I just wanna take a second and say: Thank you and I love you. I think you know who you are!)
2. Denying myself of selfishness, not food
Because honestly, an eating disorder completely takes away your focus. Your thoughts are consumed by your skewed perception of yourself, your body, your goal weight... Once you realize the deeper issues and confront them, your eyes will be opened to the issues around you; to the pains others are facing. The state that your heart is in will be shaken up. Because of recovery, you’ll want more recovery-for families that are hurting, for addicts that see no hope, for others in your same situation... The list goes on.
3. Letting go.
Of control, of fear, of expectations, of past pains. These things weren’t doing anything good. They were instead holding me from the beauty that was ahead.
Once I realized that the chains weren’t really confining me, but simply in my own hands, I could let go of them. Things that seemed impossible to let go of and that I thought would always haunt me and be on my mind, I no longer dwell on. This is not to say that I don’t have my fears, that I don’t try to take measures of control in certain ways that I shouldn't, or that I don’t think about my past. I just mean that I think to lesser extremes about these things and I can recognize when depression is fighting for a grip.
The hardships that you fear will last forever, really will fade with time.
4. Journaling and reading truth
I have always tried to journal, but during this time of recovery, journaling was an everyday/twice-a-day thing. It is freeing. Once you get your thoughts out on paper, you'll really see the extent of the distortion in them. When I look back to the days when my eating disorder was at its worst, I can barely believe some of the things I wrote down about myself. They were so a part of my subconscious, that I wasn’t really thinking through them. Sometimes, when I read them now, I feel like I am someone else looking at another’s handwriting, wondering how in the world someone loved and valuable could be thinking such things. I tear up, realizing just where I was and how my precious Jesus has changed the situation.
I was also spending time in the Word; Every chance I got, I spoke to Him and listened to His voice. I am lucky to have had so much time during that season of my life to really sit and listen.
Highlights of what I had learned, little prayers, dreams and hopes are scattered through the pages of that journal. It is interesting now to look back on my journal and see how the writings changed. One page would be thoughts of lies and despair, but a few pages later, a Bible verse or a prayer. As the days get further along, thankfully, I see more and more truth filling the pages as God changed my heart.
5. Seeing my eating disorder as sin
Honestly, this was probably the hardest one. How could something I felt like I couldn’t control be sin? It took me a while to realize that so many sins feel this exact way. When you are in the depths of an eating disorder, it feels impossible to escape. No matter how much you want to fight, it doesn’t feel like you can take a single step. Truth is: you can take that first step-by yourself, with your own two feet. Other people may be there to support you in your recovery, but it is ultimately up to you.
No one else can let go of that sin for you; you have to completely rid yourself of those destructive thoughts, once and for all.
Accept your body as the temple of the Holy Spirit that it is and treat it as such. You are valuable, a life filled with purpose!