What do you want in life?
One of the things that helped motivate me during the difficult days was thinking about what I wanted in life. By taking the time to look at the bigger picture, it helped take my mind off the overwhelming struggle I was facing in that moment and it put things in perspective. Most importantly, it helped me realize how much the e.d. would take away if I did not fight back with everything inside me.
Now, before I continue let me just say that I understand that this is easier said than done. A lot of times, when people with eating disorders are asked what else they want in life, they have a hard time coming up with an answer. The illness has tried to take away their identity for so long and has made it seem almost impossible for them to imagine a life without the eating disorder. They might want freedom, but envisioning what that looks like is a very different story. When initially asked what they like, what they want or what they enjoy, these individuals often struggle to provide a genuine response. They have grown so accustomed to only hearing the messages of the eating disorder that they have managed to lose their own voice in the process. They may believe that freedom is impossible; therefore, they don’t want to take the time to dream about a life free from the e.d. only to have that dream crushed by reality.
When asked what the illness will take away from their life, another response that I often hear from people is that they don’t feel like the illness is really taking that much from them. For now, they feel like life is still continuing on without much damage and the e.d. behaviors are just a “normal” part of their routine.
If you fall in either one of those categories or somewhere in between, I want to encourage you to really take the time to be honest with yourself. Look at your life. Maybe right now you’re not seeing too many negative effects of the illness and you are convinced that the physical side effects won’t apply to you, but I promise you that the continuous wear and tear on your body will absolutely catch up with you. Maybe you don’t think it’s affecting your relationships right now, but it most certainly will in time (and it probably is already hurting your relationships more than you realize). Maybe you are just afraid of hoping for more and thinking about a life without the e.d., but I guarantee you that freedom from this illness can be yours. So wherever you are in this journey, stop and think about the ways it is affecting your current life. Stop and think about what you want your future to look like. Don’t be afraid to dream big.
Do you want a healthy marriage? Kids? A stable career? Healthy friendships? The physical ability to maintain an active lifestyle? A life free from hospitalization, tubes, dialysis, teeth that crumble before you turn 30, a heart attack in your 20s, osteoporosis, and premature death? What are your dreams? What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind for your kids and grandkids?
It might not sound that profound to some of you, but taking the time to think about my answers to these questions really did make a difference in my recovery. Although the eating disorder tried to convince me that I could have both worlds, I came to the realization that I could not.
If I stayed in my e.d., I would not be able to have the incredible marriage that I have today. Why? I would not be able to fully accept my husband’s love for me because I would constantly be refuting his words of affirmation by telling myself what a horrible person I am. This would create a barrier between us that no amount of effort on his part could overcome. I would not be able to communicate with him in a healthy way because I would suppress all of my emotions. In turn, this would keep him from being able to get genuinely close to me and would prevent us from resolving conflict, which would further drive a wedge between us. I would not be able to fully devote myself to him because I would be spending so much time in e.d. behaviors. I wouldn’t be able to enjoy cooking a romantic meal with him because I would be trapped in a cage of fear. I wouldn’t be able to sit with him at the end of a long day and hear about what’s going on his life while we share a meal together because I’d be too consumed with thoughts about the plate in front of me. I wouldn’t be able to continue going on adventures with him because I would be too sick to be active. I wouldn’t be able to enjoy working out with him because I would be consumed with thoughts about calories and weight…the list goes on and on…
How about kids? I have always longed to be a mother, ever since I was a kid myself. If I stayed in my e.d., would I be able to be a healthy mom to my future kids? Not completely. For one, the chances of me being able to even have biological kids of my own would decrease significantly. But if by some miracle I did become pregnant or was able to adopt, I would not be able to be fully present for my kids. Even if I constantly spoke words of affirmation to them, they would see the way I treated myself (and we all know actions speak louder than words). They would pick up on my insecurities, my self-hatred, my shame about my body, my eating habits, my unhealthy weight, etc…and they would begin holding themselves to those same standards. They would sense my anxiety at meal times and begin feeling anxious themselves. They would learn to suppress their emotions and ignore the beautiful voices God gave them, just as they’d see me do every day. I would not be able to teach them to hold their head high with confidence because I would be unable to do that myself. Sure, I could try to put on an act. But kids are much more intuitive than people often realize. They pick up on the subtle cues that parents think they’re hiding. As hard as I might try to act like I’m fine, they would see through that charade and would absolutely be affected.
Would I be able to have a healthy social life? No. When friends were getting together, the eating disorder would tell me to isolate. When people wanted to get to know the real me, I’d put up a wall and keep them from getting too close. I would be caught in a trap of constant comparison, programmed to make a mental list of all the ways I don’t measure up to those around me…again the list goes on…
Like it or not, every area of my life would be negatively affected if I remained in the eating disorder. Rather than boring you all with that never-ending list, I will leave you to think about your own life. Let yourself think about what you really want in life, write down those goals and let that motivate you to keep on fighting through the hard times.
Much love to you all!