Before this year, I was certain the only way I could run out of my eating disorder was by running off the ends of the earth.
And maybe this sounds really cliché but I think, before this year, I spent my life trying to do just that- wished my hands into things that would hurdle me over bridges, wished my body into a house on fire.
On October 23rd of 2017, I was admitted to a residential facility for the treatment of my eating disorder- Anorexia Nervosa. This day, however, did not come without its own obstacles. In the days leading up to this particular date, I remember I had a dietician appointment. It was a Friday, I believe, and on that morning, I remember needing to call out of work as I could hardly even stand up in my shower long enough to get my hair wet. I remember shutting the water off and sitting in the corner of my bathtub- somehow, both above water and beneath it. I didn’t make it to work that day, however, I did still make it to my appointment. I remember her room, I remember her lights, I remember something about my heart. I remember the emergency room. And it was that emergency room visit along with a series of interventions that followed that finally led me to seek a higher level of care.
I think, sometimes, I still get scared. Sometimes, I’m still afraid of falling asleep out of fear that I may wake up forgetting why I’m choosing to do the hard things. Sometimes, that fear of being swallowed whole again keeps me up until sun rise.
But I think the difference between now and then is that I’m now far more interested in protecting my spirit- in filling myself with a kind of love that serves me better, nourishes me better; a kind of love that does not leave me feeling hungry. As I explore my truth more in this new beginning, I feel a yearning to share more love, do less harm, step fully and deeply into myself- into my center. I now feel far more capable of allowing myself to utilize my body as a vessel to catapult me into the light I’ve spent my entire life wishing I could live in. I am soul, not body- I am soul, not body. This is now my truth.
Written By: Alexis O.
It may sound cliché, but I’m truly a believer that recovery is a journey, not a destination. For more than 10 years I suffered from various forms of eating disorders and spent a significant amount of time in treatment facilities. At most during those 10 years I was surviving……and it was miserable.
After my last in-patient stay I found an amazing therapist to work with out-patient. My body had been restored but my mind was still hopeless and very sick. This therapist was not deterred by my long history of treatment. She encouraged to me to learn to live rather than just survive. She taught me to celebrate my victories no matter how small they may seem.
In the beginning my daily goal was to get out of bed and move to my living room. That might not sound like much, but it was all I could muster some days. She worked with me slowly to build my strength and my victories became bigger. This certainly does not mean there were not challenges along the way. In fact, I still face challenges today, but I know I can handle them. More importantly, I have tasted the sweet taste of recovery and I refuse to give up all I’ve gained in return for the misery that the eating disorder brought me. I am amazed how fulfilling my life is today. In the midst of my eating disorder and depression I could not imagine a joyful life, but recovery has given me unending joy.
Written By: Lyndsey Clewell Hansen
I am a generally cheerful person. I look on the bright side. I have faith that things will work out. I am also independent. I work through things on my own. I have confidence in my abilities. To some degree these are part of my natural personality, and I am grateful. But in the context of my early life, these assets also became liabilities. I learned to minimize my experiences of pain, both emotional and physical, in order to minimize my need to rely on anyone else for help. This has resulted in lifelong experiences of going to the emergency room because I ignored physical pain until it was severe, and complicated grief due to denial of the significance of loss.
Related to my eating disorder, this tendency surfaces in thoughts like, “I didn’t have a ‘real’ eating disorder,” or “It couldn’t have been that bad because I got over it.”
With counseling and lots of inner work I have learned to be cognizant of and to honor all of my feelings, physical and emotional, including those that cannot be “solved.” I recognize the value in my own lived experiences, even if my experience or memories are different from others. I have a partner who accepts my interpretation of events, even if he perceives them differently. And I have learned that the time to take headache medicine is when I think I am getting a migraine, not when I am lying in the fetal position in the closet.
But I don’t completely trust myself when it comes to memories of my eating disorder. In addition to the anosognosia factor in play at the time (the inability to recognize your own severity), I was hiding my behaviors. I have no contemporary corroboration from family and friends, because no one knew what I was doing in secret. Anything that was observable was admired, like strict dieting and exercise, nothing that would have raised red flags at the time. And in the early part of my career, dietitians in recovery was not a concept. I didn’t lie about my experience, I just didn’t bring it up. Since no one knew what had happened, it became easier to forget.
Eventually I told my story in a public local forum, and then in a national magazine. I felt so free and powerful owning my experience and not being ashamed. Then minimization took the stage: Am I exaggerating what really happened? I felt scared, like I couldn’t trust my own memory. So I opened my journals from that time and there was the truth. The horrible truth behind the fear: If I had a problem worth writing about in a magazine, then I had a problem worth getting help for. And I didn’t. And I suffered. Alone. And scared. And that is what my defense mechanism had been trying to protect me from.
The good news is that I don’t need that protection any more. I am confident that my experience was real regardless of what anyone else observed or thinks. Most importantly it was mine. I have used my experience to propel me in life. To determine to be real, and honest, with others and myself. To help individuals who are struggling and get them the support that I needed and didn’t receive. To assure them that their story is real, and important, and that there is hope.
Written By: Jessica Setnick, Registered Dietitian, Survivor and Encourager
Emily Estes lives in Lincoln, Nebraska with her Goldendoodle pup, Miss Adley Mae. Recovery from her own struggle with an eating disorder, anxiety, and depression has led Emily to create community and resources to empower others on the journey. Emily owns Sage Nutrition, LLC where she serves as a Registered Dietitian. Her work revolves around her motto that "food is meant to nourish our bodies, not nurture us."