What It’s Like to Be Recovered

I have recovered. I’m at my happy weight, where my body naturally lands when I generally eat healthy and exercise but don’t think about it too much. I choose my food in terms of deliciousness and energy-giving rather than how it will hit my hips. I don’t purge, binge, starve, cut, weigh myself, or count calories. I don’t even think much about eating disorders unless I run across an article or overhear someone talking about the caloric content of their salad.

But recovery isn’t what I thought it would be. I’m not a glowing goddess of health and happiness. I’m just me, dealing with the bumps and bruises of life as best I can. And sometimes my best sucks.

Like, I don’t know about you, but sometimes I ping-pong back and forth between work and netflix so fast I have no space for actual human relationships. Sometimes I create crises like not paying my taxes on time or not vacuuming my room for three months or not doing laundry until the underwear situation is dire. And sometimes I drink coffee right before bed just for the hell of it.

In fact, I made a whole angsty list about why recovery isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Why Recovery Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up To Be

  1. An eating disorder is a small world with clear rules and clear punishments and clear rewards. The real world is very big and very confusing.
  2. I’m behind. Everyone seems to know what music they like and what they do for fun and where they lean politically, but I spent my growing up worrying about my food, not my life.
  3. I don’t remember much of my teen years, and what I do remember isn’t fun to retell. People swap stories about their wild youths, and I’m just like, “There was this one time I ate a whole cake.”
  4. Cooking healthy meals is a lot of work.
  5. So is remembering to take my vitamins.
  6. So is doing taxes.
  7. Sometimes recovery is really boring. I just – live. Work, eat, sleep, hang out with friends. There’s no crisis. No labyrinths of deception. No looming suicidal thoughts. Just life.
  8. Other times things get really shitty and I have to feel it all.
  9. When I was bulimic, I didn’t expect anything from myself except to continue being bulimic. It was a great excuse. “I’d finish college, but I’m crazy. I’d pay my bills, but I’m crazy. I’d get a job, but I’m crazy.” Now I have goals. Expectations. Desires. All of those things are stressful and require me to pause netflix and put on pants.
  10. When I failed, I used to blame bulimia. Now I’m scared I’ll try hard things and find out that I really can’t do them. Not because I’m crazy, but because I’m just mediocre.

This is the part of the post where I should probably stop telling you all the reasons recovery is hard and tell you why it’s worth it. But I think you already know that it is. Otherwise you’d be googling thinspiration instead of reading this.

If you’re recovering and like me are finding out it’s not all about exuding health and finding love, know you’re not alone. Life is hard. In some ways, complete meltdown is easier. But even if life is harder and more painful without bulimia, I’ll still take it. And I bet you would too.

Why Self-Esteem Isn’t the Answer

An eating disorder is a pride problem.

What? We spend hours every day raging over our shortcomings, we haunt mirrors in disgust, we pinch our fat, we write pages and pages of self-deprecating nonsense, we hate to go places for fear of being seen, we can never empty our heads of biting chatterchatterchatter- and that’s a pride problem?

C.S. Lewis wrote: “Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” So pride isn’t thinking more of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself more. Pride is about who’s on the screen in your head. Who are you watching? Who are you listening to? Who are you thinking about? It doesn’t matter if you hate yourself. If you’re obsessed with yourself – whether your weight, your brain, or your feelings –  the problem is pride.

If pride is the problem, then high self-esteem, for all its positive affirmations and cheery promises, can never solve it. High self-esteem changes how you look on that screen, but it can’t change the channel.

Pride is self-consumption – we’re eating ourselves (remember that line: “it’s not what you’re eating, it’s what’s eating you?“). We munch ourselves into nothingness, like Shel Silverstein’s Hungry Mungry, until we’re just teeth snapping on air. We might love ourselves, or we might hate ourselves, but either way we’re going to run out.

We were created to feast on Jesus, to drink His blood and eat His flesh. (If that sounds weird, that’s okay, when Jesus said it scores of followers left him and his disciples berated him for bad marketing).  Trying to live on ourselves instead of Jesus is like trying to live on grass. We just can’t digest it. We’re eating, but we’re starving. Instead, we can nourish ourselves on His word, on His love, on His promises. Our souls respond to Him with fullness and delight, like a marvelous, guilt-free Thanksgiving. We turn from being self-centered to being God-centered, from pride to humility.

Humility, not high self-esteem, is the cure for your eating disorder. Recovery isn’t about feeling great about yourself, or knowing you’re thin and pretty enough, or realizing that you have so much inner beauty that you should stop worrying about the outside – it’s about Jesus. It’s about turning off that screen and following Him out into the sunshine.

How can you get humility? You ask for it. Get on your knees. Confess your pride. And just ask.

Wondering how to quit the self-esteem game? Read this!

Isaiah 35

The desert and the parched land will be glad;
the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Like the crocus,  it will burst into bloom;
it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.

The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the Lord,
the splendor of our God.

Strengthen the feeble hands,
steady the knees that give way;
say to those with fearful hearts,
“Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come,
he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution
he will come to save you.”

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
Then will the lame leap like a deer,
and the mute tongue shout for joy.
Water will gush forth in the wilderness
and streams in the desert.
The burning sand will become a pool,
the thirsty ground bubbling springs.
In the haunts where jackals once lay,
grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.

 And a highway will be there;
it will be called the Way of Holiness;
it will be for those who walk on that Way.
The unclean will not journey on it;
wicked fools will not go about on it.
No lion will be there,
nor any ravenous beast;
they will not be found there.
But only the redeemed will walk there,

They will enter Zion with singing;
everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

Delight

The Lord your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.

– Zephaniah 3:7

The Lord delights in you. He delights in your you-ness, in both those things that make you you like nobody else and those things that make you human like everyone else. He delights in your passions, your skills, your loves.  Even when you are crouched and broken and ugly, even when you are stuck in disorderland and worshiping your thigh gap or a chicken sandwich, even when you have nothing but numbers in your head and nothing but acid in your stomach, He loves you so deeply that He sent His Son to be crucified to renew you. You starved yourself to death, but you didn’t die. He died for you. And then He came back to life, bringing you with Him.

Man does not live on bread alone, He whispers, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. (Matthew 4:4)

I will beautify the humble with salvation. (Psalm 149:4)

I delight in you. He sings it soft as a lullaby, then as fiercely as a war cry. I delight in you. (Zephaniah 3:7)

What is the proper response to a love like that? Not to hide our faces, not to cry that we do not deserve it – because of course we don’t – but to turn that delight back to Him.

Delight yourself the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4).

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. (Philippians 4:4).

May all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you! May those who love your salvation say evermore, ‘God is great!’” (Psalm 70:4)

God delights in our delighting in Him. (Check out this article by John Piper if you’re intrigued by that idea). A relationship with God is a dance of delight. He delights in us, so we delight in Him, and He delights in our delighting in Him, and we delight in His delighting in our delight in Him… It’s beautiful. And it’s beautifying.

It’s hard to feel delighted in when you are stuck in addiction. But look out the windows. Disorderland is just a cramped dark room, there are universes of suns outside the door. Even better than that: there is the Son. And He doesn’t just hand you a get-out-of-hell-free card and leave you standing over the scale, He begins to heal you, to grow you, and to increase your capacity for delight.

Why You Should Quit Purging Before You Quit Bingeing

I’ll quit purging as soon as I stop bingeing. 

Bingeing is my real problem.

I would never purge if I didn’t binge.

If you’ve caught yourself thinking like that, you’ve fallen for another ED lie designed to keep you trapped in the b/p cycle for the rest of your life.

When you purge after a binge, you allow the binge.  If you had a child who tore apart his room every day, knocking over his bookshelves and shaking out his clothes drawers, but you came in every night and cleaned it up for him, do you think the behavior would stop? Even if you yelled at him, as long as your behavior didn’t change, neither would your child’s behavior. You have removed the consequences.

So even if you hate yourself for bingeing, if you “remove” the consequences by purging, you will never stop. What you have to do – and this may be the scariest thing you do in your entire life – is stop purging after bingeing. You have to hold yourself to your behavior. You can’t give yourself a way out. You have to feel the binge all the way through – what it does to your body, how it hurts, how it makes you feel the next day. That is the only way you will stop. And you know you need to stop.

You will feel bloated. You will feel fat. You will feel thirsty. You will feel angry, depressed, and betrayed. You will have a food hangover. It will suck.

But you will have victoriously defeated another recovery roadblock, and you will be that much closer to a big, fat, juicy life.

He is.

I exist. I exist in the world of buttered toast, home-brewed coffee, blustery sundays, and flamenco music. I exist and take up space, I influence and am influenced by a universe of gravity and rainstorms and people; I exist and make noise, my breath rushing in and out of my body, my footsteps hitting concrete sidewalks.

First I was not, now i am, sung into being by the great I Am, sung into an earth of cinnamon and tamarinds and circuses. This birth is my greatest gift, because through this sudden burst of senses, I have tumbled into awareness that He exists.

He exists. The moment His earth-song began, He sparked a yearning for New Years celebrations with dragons and fireworks, for from the beginning we have felt the value of beginnings, and for funerals with long caravans of numb traffic, for from the beginning we have felt the wrongness of endings. He has written His holy law on our hearts. He has written of His beauty in the skies. He has touched our hands and faces by wearing hands and a face Himself. This is all we know of Him, this wild earth, this Great Story unfolding through the ages, this Great Conversation spoken through history, but it is enough that we can have no excuse. He exists. He is here. He is.

This is my heartbeat, Sylvia Plath, a heartbeat that joins the song of the ages. He is. He is. He is. 

How to Quit Pro Ana

Most people who are addicted to the world of pro-ana and pro-mia aren’t there because they believe eating disorders are lifestyles. They’re there because they’re hungry for understanding, for community, and for someone to make them believe that they aren’t crazy.

But there comes a point when we realize that pro-ana isn’t giving us what we came for. At that point, we’re so stuck in the world that it seems impossible to pull out.

Here’s five choices that helped me quit ana:

  1. Quit thinspo. Thinspiration is ana porn, leading you to objectify people, searching strangers for butterfly collarbones, and to have unrealistic expectations for yourself.
  2. Delete. Delete all documents, secret pinterest boards, blogs, tumblrs, memberships, and email accounts associated with your pro ana network. Unfollow pro ana blogs, bid adieu to ana buddies. Keep nothing.
  3. Resist the urge to lurk. Surfing the pro ana world without participating still affects you. Notice how you feel after wading through ana/mia propaganda for an hour. Empowered? Encouraged? Probably not.
  4. Distinguish fake love from real love. “Stay strong, lovelies” is the song of the day, and you do feel a sort of love for fellow ana and mias, but it is a selfish love. We are promoting potentially fatal choices. That’s not love. It’s a fondling hatred.
  5. Fight the fantasy. Transformation is the pro ana’s god, but if you visit the community again after five years, everyone will still be wrestling the same demons. Nobody will have transformed into a skeletal angel. There is no transformation, there is only an eternity of ABC diet challenges and reblogged waifs. And that’s no way to live.

I wish you the best for your fight.

Have you fallen for some pro-ana myths? Find out here: Pro Ana: Mythbusting Questions.

Pro Ana: Mythbusting Questions

I’m not pro-ana or pro-mia, but I used to be. Here are some answers to questions that I’ve heard bouncing around recoveryland.
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  • Does anyone who calls herself pro-ana or pro-mia have a real eating disorder?  Many people involved with the pro-ED community are just searching for companionship in a disorder they aren’t willing to give up yet.
  • Then why do pro-EDs call eating disorders a “lifestyle?” Personally, when I was involved with the community, it was comforting to believe that bulimia was an easy choice like vegetarianism or minimalism. I was already the queen of self-deception – “It’s not exactly lying to throw my pancakes under my little brothers’ chairs” and “stealing food doesn’t count if I purge it” – swallowing that lie was easy.
  • But aren’t there fakers that think anorexia is a diet? Of course. But how long do you think someone would last on an anorexic diet without either a) becoming anorexic or b) eating a pizza and moving on with their lives? (I wish recovery worked like that). Also, many “fakers” are just people trying to switch disorders, often Binge Eating Disorder for anorexia. They say they’ve already got the hell, so why not the body?
  • So are you saying we should allow pro ana and pro mia? No! Pro ana is wrong. It encourages people, often very young girls, to starve themselves to death or commit suicide trying. All I’m asking you to do is to soften your eyes when you look toward the world of ana/mia.

Above all, be compassionate. Look at the people, not just the problem.

Any more questions? Just ask!

Are you stuck in the world of pro ana or pro mia?  Check out How to Quit Pro Ana  or talk to me.

The Outrageous Child

God has invited me on a different adventure than the American Dream.  His hand is warm around mine, tugging me free from the Games of life. I get to follow Him into unfathomable uncharted waters, unprotected by the structure of college or even a career, I am free, I am young, I am an eternal soul cherished by my Creator. Success glitters like forbidden fruit among the trees, as sweet as apricots, as heady as wine, but success is worthless. All the Great Things in the world are useless without my beautiful wild fearsome compassionate Jesus.

I am willing to be His fool. To do the most useless, career-wreaking, silly things just to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. To be the nutcase dancing to music no one else can hear.

Today a friend was trying to remember a word for “one that doesn’t match” (english is his second language), and he stumbled upon the phrase, “the outrageous child.” In lemons, apples, and moonlight, moonlight is the outrageous child.

Maybe I was called to be an outrageous child.

And maybe that is beautiful.

Don’t fool yourself. Don’t think that you can be wise merely by being up-to-date with the times. Be God’s fool—that’s the path to true wisdom. What the world calls smart, God calls stupid.

– 1 Cor. 3:18-20