This is the 46th post of my Weekend ED Series. It’s also probably my last.
I’m not entirely sure. There may have been things that I’ve missed. After all, there’s always more story to tell. I might one day have a sudden inspiration and decide to add another post to the series, but for now, this is the last of a consistent weekly write-up.
I’ve actually quite liked writing the series, and I really did appreciate and enjoy reading the different (and sometimes differing) responses and stories from readers. As much as I find it interesting to learn about different experiences, I’m also constantly surprised and chilled by how similar eating disorder symptoms are.
Before I started sinking into this mental and spiritual disease, I had never read up on eating disorders. I first heard about it from my dad, who told me about this crazy illness that makes emaciated girls think they’re fat. I only half-believed him. Then I started watching it in the media, and it sounded like a privileged disease for rich and spoiled girls wanting attention. I caught headlines about so-and-so anorexic celebrity and so-and-so bulimic singer, and then the disease seemed rather glamorous, like a new trend for jutting bones.
I never for once imagined I would be victim to such a disease. And then I realized all the stereotypes, while having bits and bites of truth to them, were inaccurate.
Struggling with an eating disorder is absolute HELL. It’s one of the most humiliating, painful and destructive thing that can happen to a person and his or her loved ones. It can also just about happen to anyone. I don’t believe in having an exact “criteria” for eating disorders. In this society, at this age, anyone can develop an eating disorder. Anything can be a trigger; an innocent diet can lead to binges and bulimic practices. A slight comment can lead to anorexic obsessions. A random period of boredom and upset situations can lead to various forms of EDNOS. Or perhaps you’re already living in a breeding ground for eating disorder due to culture, personality traits or genetics.
Yes, it’s scary. But at the same time, struggling with this have given me tremendous blessings. Without suffering, I don’t think I could have made the personal and spiritual developments I need to be a decent human being. I wouldn’t have formed a secure system for self realization and attained an absolute assurance in my self identity as a weak but beloved, blessed child of God.
Of course, I don’t think every person needs to have to go through such a disease in order to mature and grow. But everyone has their own set of problems. Battling eating disorders was mine. It was my biggest trial in my 24 years on earth, and because of it, I have stories to tell. Because of it, I have learned humility and empathy. Because of it, I understand the frailty of the human mind and will– and witnessed the awe-striking power and grace of God. Because of it, I appreciate the little things in life just a bit more.
Am I totally recovered now?
I can’t say with 100% conviction. What does “being recovered” mean anyway? That I never feel fat? That I love myself unconditionally and strut around with unwavering confidence? That I can eat two Super Size McDonald’s fries every single day like I used to in middle school?
If that’s it, then no. I still occasionally fight feelings of discomfort with my body. I still avoid the scale because I don’t want to deal with panic attacks. I’m still in the process of letting go the many, many unhealthy habits that I’ve accumulated over 4-5 years of various eating disorders. I still have many insecurities– insecurity about my looks, insecurity about my journalistic skills, insecurity about my personality, insecurity about my past, and all those other silly issues that any 24-year-old college student deals with.
But I’ve changed.
You know what’s the best thing about recovery? Even though your eating disordered periods leaves stains of hideous memories inside you, recovery helps create tons of wonderful ones to alleviate the trauma.
I remember when I first discovered new hair sprouting from my almost bald scalp.
I remember my first four-cheese white pasta, my first time using real full-fat cheese, et cetera, all the little incidents when I spit in ED’s face.
I remember lugging my baggage out of the arrival terminal at Washington Dulles International Airport after five months in Singapore. I remember spotting my dad amidst the crowd, and watching his face light up with tremendous joy when he saw how much better I looked.
I remember receiving my second acceptance letter to the University of Southern California, heart swelling with glee that finally– I can reply with certainty: YES.
And many, many more.
Recovery isn’t a state of being; it’s an active process. It doesn’t mean that you’re returning back to your previous self. Once you’ve suffered with an eating disorder, you’re transformed for life. No, recovery, I think, is a journey to an even better and wiser phase in life. You’re changed, and you continue to change and grow.
Everyone seems to have a different idea of what the attainment of “recovered” means. And honestly, you know what? I have better things to do and think about than worry whether or not I’m “recovered.”
But perhaps that’s a form of recovery. I don’t label myself as eating disordered anymore. That’s somebody else in the past. I’m me. My identity doesn’t belong to ED’s. I am my own unique person.
Where I am right now is free. I feel so incredibly, gloriously free. I’m not saying I’m galloping with unbreakable happiness, unfettered by problems. I have my own set of problems and issues, but they are not circling inside the Eating Disorder Well.
Do you know the frog in the well story? I used to feel like the frog trapped inside a well, but now I’m a frog that has discovered the limitless opportunities and connections in this world. I have dreams that are just waiting to be explored and fulfilled. They are no longer considered with wistful, hopeless longing; instead, they are anticipated with real excitement and curiosity.
I also have a full range of emotions other than fear and self-loathing. I can laugh with spirited mirth, but I can also cry and rage over things that have nothing to do with ED.
And the things I can do in a day! It’s freaking awesome to be able to care about issues and things beyond the ED scope. I can discuss and debate religion, film, music, art, cultures, history, whatever! As much as I still enjoy food, I can enjoy many other activities that aren’t necessarily involved with food (though really, food somehow is inevitable in many activities). I never freak out over a certain food anymore (unless it’s something truly disgusting like placenta or fertilized duck embryo). I can eat anything and everything; I don’t follow any diets or restrictions. And I don’t feel the desire to work out 2-3 hours each day, nor do I have the time for that, thank God.
The best thing is that I’m at the level where I can look back, pinpoint the low moments in my ED days, and thank God for that specific experience. I’m always discovering more and more understandings and realizations on why God let me go through this or that particular situation. As ugly as those days were, recovery has helped me gain more feelings of thanksgiving than bitterness.
How do I know if I’m recovered? I don’t think I can. But if I’m just at– say, 60% into recovery and already I’m receiving this much richness and freedom from life…then wow, I sure don’t mind discovering more of it!
Thoughts to Ponder:
1) How do you think one can know for sure if she or he is recovered?
2) Do you think you’re “recovered”?
3) What’s the BEST thing about recovery that you’ve experienced?