Monthly Archives: August 2013

Dealing with Shame & Embarrassment Post-Recovery

Background

One of the things that prevented me from seeking help for so long was my fear of how people would respond when they found out I had an eating disorder. This fear of what other people would think held me back and kept me locked inside a world of shame, embarrassment, and constant struggling.

In order to get the help I needed and to fully break free from the bondage of the eating disorder, I had to address this fear dead on. I had to let go of my fear of what other people would think and I had to let go of my feelings of embarrassment and shame. Although it might sound easy, that process was extremely difficult for me and took years. But eventually I got there and reached the healthy place I’m at today.

However, I would be lying if I said there weren’t moments when those feelings of shame, embarrassment and fear didn’t come flooding back. The truth is, after years of being recovered, I still have moments where I feel weighted down by shame and embarrassment about my past. Those moments are few and far between. But they still have a way of popping up occasionally and catching me off guard. Yesterday was one of those moments.

After finding out that I’m pregnant, my husband and I started looking into life insurance plans so that we would be able to provide for our child in the event of a tragedy. With my medical history, I figured it was probably a long shot that the insurance company would accept my application. Sure enough, we found out yesterday that my application had been denied. The reason they stated for turning me down was my past struggle with depression and anorexia. Even though I had somewhat expected this outcome, I was surprised at the emotions I felt when I received the news. I felt ashamed and embarrassed.

You see, in many ways, I feel so far removed from that part of my life. Apart from reflecting on my past struggles to help mentor and encourage other people, I don’t spend a great deal of time thinking about that chapter of my life. So when situations come up where I am still looked at differently because of my past, it catches me a bit off guard and it can be difficult to not feel embarrassed and ashamed.

Sometimes these emotions sweep over me after dealing with insurance complications. Sometimes they weigh down on me when I try to build new relationships and people learn about my story. Sometimes these emotions result from listening to people in my life make insensitive comments about my past or about other people who struggle with addictions or mental health. Sometimes I’m faced with these emotions when I publish a blog post to encourage others (because I have to accept that people who never knew my story might still find out and think less of me). The list goes on.

It’s in moments like these when, despite having made it through to other side of my battles, I still have a tendency to feel like a disappointment, like someone who let everyone down, like a girl who screwed up and who will never be totally looked at the same as everyone else. Questions start racing through my mind and that old fear about what other people think or that old sense of shame begins to shake my confidence.

But here’s the deal. Here’s the raw and honest truth that I’ve had to remind myself today:

I am not perfect. I am loved anyways. I have stumbled many times. I am loved anyways. I hated myself. I am loved anyways. I starved myself for years. I am loved anyways. I forced my body to throw up after countless meals. I am loved anyways. I exercised relentlessly in a desperate attempt to lose weight. I am loved anyways. I used self-harm to relieve emotional pain. I am loved anyways. I lied to cover up my struggles. I am loved anyways. My recovery cost my family thousands of dollars. I am loved anyways. My insurance complications remain a financial burden for my family because of my medical history. I am loved anyways. I will never be perfect. I am loved anyways.

Yes, I am loved by my family & friends and I cannot imagine my life without them. But people come and go, and I am not guaranteed to have any of them tomorrow. What I am guaranteed to have, however, is a God who loves me unconditionally, who sees my imperfections but still calls me beloved, and who welcomes me into his arms no matter how far I have fallen.

What I Don’t Have to Do

Because God chose to love me in the midst of my brokenness, I don’t have to live a life weighted down by shame and embarrassment. Because he chose to walk through the muck with me, I don’t have to worry if others choose to flee. Because he chose to call me daughter, I don’t have to be afraid of being abandoned. Because he chose to forgive me, my shame has been washed away and I no longer have to carry its weight on my shoulders.

What I Will Do

Because I am loved by my Heavenly Father no matter where I’ve been and no matter what I’ve done, I will choose to hold my head high today. Because he delivered me from death’s doorstep, I will continue telling my story. Because he sent help my way when I needed it most, I will continue sharing my experience with others and walking alongside them on their road to recovery.

If insurance companies deny me coverage or expect me to pay unachievable premiums, I will choose to use that as inspiration for spreading mental health awareness, rather than choosing to let shame and embarrassment send me cowering into a hole.

If people think less of me because they hear my story, I have to be willing to let that go. I won’t hold grudges against these people but will offer them grace and space as they struggle to accept people for who they are — broken and imperfect but loveable just the same.

My hope in sharing this part of my journey with you is this:

If you are struggling with feelings of shame and embarrassment about your own story (whatever that story might be), I hope you will be reminded that you are loved exactly as you are—beautifully imperfect. When you feel ashamed or embarrassed about your story, I hope you will let go of that weight on your shoulders and rest in the love God has for you. Consider writing out a list similar to the one I wrote above (I have ___. I am loved anyways). Fill in the blanks with pieces of your own story and remember… you are loved anyways.

Perhaps you are reading this post but, instead of beating yourself up about your own imperfections, you have a tendency to brush people off or look at them differently when you find out they have struggles. If this is true for you, I hope you will realize that your words and actions have a profound impact on their attempts at breaking free. Also, remember that not one of us is perfect, not even you. God chose to love each of us, including you, despite our brokenness and imperfections. So who are you to judge someone else for their struggles and flaws? Lastly, if the topic of eating disorders or other struggles and addictions makes you uneasy, I would encourage you to research the subject and gain knowledge about what those people go through, rather than being quick to judge and run away.

Final Thoughts

I ran across this quote the other day that was posted on a friend’s Facebook status. I don’t know for sure who the quote is by, but I love the message:

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” – by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (according to Google)

You are beautiful. Never.Give.Up.

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Filed under Parents & Loved Ones, Reflections on Recovery