Punished to Empowered: Part II

Turning Points in My Recovery

image courtesy of hoka one one // photographer matt trappe

*Trigger warning: this post discusses eating disorders and body dysmorphia. If you or someone you know is suffering, please contact the NEDA helpline or chat for anonymous support, resources and treatment options.*

My journey to finding recovery included several major events that became turning points in my life.  That’s not to say my recovery didn’t start a long time ago, it just took these moments forcing me to step back and realize my battle with food and body image must come to an end.  Life is too damn short to live in pain and miss out on all of the joy it has to offer.

Seeking help should always be the first step in recovery.  I tearfully admitted to my mom in high school that I had an eating disorder and she was my confidant.  She guided me to the right psychologist and from there I started taking the steps toward freedom.  It was a long and winding road, lots of speed bumps and some flat tires, but it was worth it.

I want to take this moment to explain that having someone in your life that you can confide in and who can hold you accountable is critical.  Whether is a parent, sibling, friend, sponsor or therapist – you don’t have to do this alone.  Seeking professional help is the best place to start.  Someone trained in the treatment of disordered eating can help you understand the root of the issue, how to treat it and provide you tools for recovery.  If you or a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder and aren’t sure where to turn, please reach out National Eating Disorder Associate (NEDA) hotline for assistance: (800) 931-2237.  They are an invaluable resource that can guide you, provide resources and discuss treatment options.

As I mentioned before, after taking the initial steps of seeking help from a loved one and a professional I started down the road to recovery.  Long story short, there were many ups and downs.  I relapsed time and time again, would make strides and then fall back.  I think it was because I didn’t truly believe I deserved love from myself and therefore, others.  I didn’t address the battle going on inside before trying to fix the exterior.  Here is what finally shook me awake and convinced me that I am worthy.

I started my blog in 2016 as a creative outlet to connect with other women my size.  What I didn’t know is that blogging would ultimately shape how I viewed myself and grow my self-confidence.  I’ll explain more about this in a future blog post, but for now know that it was a major player in finally finding recovery and it operated in the background of the events below.

In August 2017 my mother’s partner, Pete, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  Remember that my mother had already lost one husband, my father, to cancer.  It was like history repeating itself and the pain was one I cannot describe.  Pete was a beautiful soul, generous, kind and the companion my mother had been looking for.  Unfortunately, he lost his battle with cancer that November.  The pain is complex and hard to describe.  While I still have trouble coming to peace with why his life was taken, I will always remember what Pete taught me: life can be unpredictable and short, don’t waste it worrying about what will be or what could have been – do what brings you joy and know that you are worthy of love right now, just as you are.  Life isn’t about how many hours you put in at the office, the amount of money you make or climbing the corporate ladder – it’s about everything outside of that.  It’s about unconditional love, friendship, self-expression, adventure and experiences.

Pete’s passing made me realize it was time to break up with my career in retail – but I didn’t know how to do it and I was too scared to make the jump.  What would I do?  Where would I turn?  I had worked in the fashion industry my entire adulthood.  I knew nothing else.  Fear and grief would continue to hold me back until the choice was made for me.

About six months after Pete’s death I was laid off from my corporate job in retail.  It was the universe severing ties with a toxic relationship I couldn’t quite shake on my own.  I loved it so much to the point of self-destruction and, in combination with my perfectionist tendencies and the content I felt when immersed in work, it unknowingly became a major detriment to my mental, physical and emotional health.  After I recovered from the blow of the layoff, I realized how powerful of a negative force it had been in my life. 

It just so happened we had scheduled a beach trip that same week and I remember sitting in the sun, listening to the ocean, holding Trent’s hand and thinking “this is what it’s all about.”  Life is too short to live in misery.  I wanted nothing more than to bottle up that moment and hold onto it forever.  The freedom I felt was unlike anything else and I was determined to never go back to that dark place, to put myself first, refuse to delay joy and finally chase the dreams I had been holding onto for so long.  That included choosing to love and celebrate my body, exactly as it showed up that day and each day after that.

While now I stand before you confident in my conquer of bulimia and body dysmorphia, I know that unfortunately they can still try to come back at the darkest of times. They reared their ugly heads during times of high anxiety, grief and depression.  When I was at my lowest, they tried to sneak back in.  I am not perfect.  I still have days, sometimes even weeks, where my resilience and strength are tested.  There have certainly been times in the past where I took the easy (and damaging) way out.  Now I know better.

The important thing is how you choose to react in those moments.  Recognize the trigger, understand the source and actively choose a positive outlet instead of falling prey to something detrimental. When you’re at a weak moment in life, feeling depleted and desperate for anything to relieve you of your burdens, this can be tough.  But it’s not impossible.  In fact, with practice it gets easier and easier.  This means making the choice to love yourself above all else and utilizing the tools before you.  With darkness comes light and that light is obtainable!  Take the steps, put in the work each day and be willing to make the changes.

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