I am reading through a book called the 8 keys to Recovering from an Eating Disorder, written by Carolyn Costin and Gwen Schubert Grabb, both of which are therapists and have overcome their eating disorders after years of patience and hard work. The goal of the book is to share with the reader effective therapeutic and practical recovery strategies, in combination with personal experiences and practical help. Periodically throughout the book the authors ask the reader (me) to stop and journal. My prompt today was to write about “my worst eating disorder day.” The authors emphasized that the reader does not need to over think which day was actually “the worst” but rather to reflect back on an experience to get in touch with your eating disorder & motivate you to want to fully recover. I am choosing to share this because I know there are many individuals who are in recovery that feel like they have no hope. There have been many days where I have thought that I will never be able to fully recover, ever. After 10 months in recovery and a whole lot of grace from Jesus, I am confident that there will be a day that I am completely recovered. I wanted to share this day with you all to offer hope and encouragement. In recovery (and life) we will have many days where we stumble and fall flat on our face. One thing that I have learned to do is to stop fixating on the ways that I stumble and fall, and move on to the lessons that I can learn and the ways that I can grow when my imperfections are magnified. Here is a journal entry about one of the most frustrating yet hopeful days of recovery. Hope it’s an encouragement to all who read.
The Worst Day of My Recovery
“It was a Thursday morning right before my microbiology lab. These days were often very triggering for me because I was alone, tired, and stressed about the difficulty of the lab. I was about a month into recovery and things seemed to be going alright. I was trying to eat more and not feel bad about it, and I had seen some small victories. However, I hadn’t eaten enough the day before, so by the time I woke up, I was starving. I can’t remember what exactly I had for breakfast, however, I do know that it wasn’t enough. After breakfast, I ended up eating a mini chocolate bunny that didn’t taste good, jelly beans, chips, crackers, and yogurt all in a short span of time out of compulsion. My body was responding to the physiological drive in me to “find food, and find it fast.” This is what restriction does to the mind. I felt physically sick to my stomach, worthless, hopeless, and frustrated. I called my mom really upset. She prayed for me and encouraged me to reach out to my new dietician, Reba. I didn’t really think that I was aloud to call her, especially when I didn’t have an appointment, but I was desperate for some sort of help/hope so I made the call and left her a voicemail. I then showered, tried to somewhat pull myself together, and headed to my micro lab.
I did end up eating lunch that day, which was a big victory for me at the time. However, I couldn’t stop obsessively weighing myself, and I couldn’t shake my feelings of guilt, shame, and failure. I ended up at the gym & had just finished a 3 mile run when Reba called me back. I thought to myself, “Oh my gosh should I even answer? I don’t want her to know I was running….this is so awkward. Don’t answer….wait. You can’t hide it…you need her help, answer the phone. As I answered, I tried to hide the fact that I was literally gasping for air. I will never forget the conversation that we had that day. It was God-annointed, encouraging, and filled with life and truth. Reba was gold that day; she always has been, and she always will be.
We talked about how recovery is not linear, and that setbacks can seem like steps backwards, but that they can also be a step forward if we learn from our mistakes. She pointed out to me that I wanted my recovery to be absolutely perfect, but that if it was, Jesus would have went to the cross for nothing. He would have gone through immense pain and suffering for absolutely no reason. He went to the cross so that you and I can be forgiven of every imperfection and short coming; every mistake; every regret; and every ounce of guilt and shame.
We then proceeded to talk about Romans 7. Paul writes, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but the sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not the good that I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do-this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is the sin living in me. So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ” (Romans 7:15-25).
Here we see Paul’s very real and vulnerable struggle with his sin. He loves the Lord; in his inner being, his true heart, he loves Jesus. He is a follower of Christ and he wants to please him in everything he does. He is constantly wrestling with his desire to do good and his inability to live a life without fault. No matter how much he loves Jesus, preaches the gospel, prays, and does good deeds, he still falls short of the glory of God.
Reba made the comment that she was glad that Paul didn’t specifically state what he was struggling with because it made the implications of the text all the more relatable. We talked back and forth about Paul’s struggles when she then asked me, “…so, what does Romans 8:1 say?” With a shaky voice and tears rolling down my cheek I whispered, “No condemnation.” God wasn’t mad at me for the mistakes that I made that day in recovery. He didn’t condemn me. He lovingly drew near to me and gently showed me some things that needed to change in my life. The blood of Jesus paid for it all. It was settled; it always has been and it always will be, yet we so easily forget. In Jesus, there is no condemnation for you, past, present or future. Letting that truth sink into my heart began to life the heavy burden that I had been carrying for so long.
As hard as that day was, it was a day that I will never forget. It was a whole lot of truth that my confused and broken heart needed. As I reflect on this day I remember how irrational and enslaving eating disorder thoughts can be. The pain and despair that I felt in that day pushed me to continue to recover. I thank God for speaking truth into my soul through his word, and for continuing to do so even on the hard days. Here are the biggest take aways that I got from my “Worst Day in Recovery”:
- My recovery and life will never be perfect or exactly how I want it to be, but that is why the gospel is called the “good news”. The bad news……we are all broken and imperfect people living in a broken and imperfect world. The good news…Jesus came down to the earth in the form of human flesh, lived a sin free life, and paid the price of sin for those who believe in him when he went to the cross. If you are in Christ, you are being purified, sanctified, redeemed, and perfected each day into the likeness of his image, no matter how messy it looks or feels. Each day I am learning to let go of my own expectations for my recovery and life, while also learning to follow God’s lead.
- That day revealed to me that I was not going to be able to recover with a nice, organized checklist. As much as I hated it (and still do sometimes), I knew that I was going to have to be open to a slow and gradual recovery process. I began to embrace my mistakes as learning opportunities, as terrifying and uncomfortable as it may have felt. I celebrate the small victories, push through the obstacles, and don’t give up even when my day doesn’t fit the mold of my checklist.
- I am not condemned for my eating disorder or my inability to recovery. Every eating disorder thought and behavior that I (or you) have engaged in is covered by the blood of Jesus. I am not my eating disorder, and neither are you. I am washed clean, pure, spotless, blameless, holy, perfect, loved, accepted, wanted, and chosen by God through the finished work on the cross.
If you’re feeling you’re having the worst day, week, month, or year of recovery, know that “this too shall pass”, that I am praying for you, and that I believe in you.