Sometimes the recovery journey can feel like a long and lonely road. But I know and believe we don't have to go it alone. So much healing can come from connecting with others, sharing our stories, and listening to others tell theirs. To that end, I have invited members of the recovery community to share a part of their story. My vision with this post, and others like it in the future, is to bring you a variety of voices and perspectives and cultivate a sense of community and connection. If you would like to participate in a future blog post, please email me. I would love to include your voice on my blog.
For this post, I asked 10 women (some chose to remain anonymous) to share about what makes them feel empowered to keep going in their recovery. Here's the very inspiring things they had to say.
I feel empowered when I say what I feel. Instead of trying to gauge what the "correct" answer is, or what someone wants to hear, I say what I really believe. When I answer truthfully, I feel like my voice is heard and it has value. Each time I successfully use my voice, I feel the eating disorder voice diminished.
I feel empowered when I reflect on how I have redefined myself over the course of my recovery. When I was completely submerged in my eating disorder, I lost who I was. I had no idea who I was, nor did other people. I feel empowered when I look at everything that I have accomplished since being in treatment. I am Devyn; I am not the girl with the eating disorder. I no longer let it define who I am.
Another thing that helps me feel empowered is staying present and feeling my feet on the ground. For me, I think that empowerment is thanking my body for carrying me through every day, even when I wasn’t treating it with respect. Empowerment is accepting who I am, where I have been, and setting goals for where I want to be. I had the hardest time accepting that I had an eating disorder. I couldn’t accept it at treatment, in therapy, with doctors, or with friends and family. Empowerment is making a decision every day to fight and accept that it’s not something easy.
Empowerment is finally deciding to come forward and admitting to people that I was sick with an eating disorder and that I am in recovery. Empowerment is not being afraid of what others may or may not think about me; I’ve always been afraid of potential judgment from others when it comes to that part of my life. I honestly don’t know why that has been the biggest factor in keeping this part of my life a secret, but looking at it now, empowerment is typing this out and admitting to myself that it’s okay and badass to share part of my story.
For so long, I was used to being in treatment, resisting help because the eating disorder voice was too strong, and then being sent to a higher level of care. However, something shifted when, four and a half years ago, I was suddenly the model patient. I had briefly seen recovery and I finally believed that it was attainable for me. I ate all of my meals, shared in groups, and received positive feedback from the other patients and staff. Some of the other patients would say how my commitment to get well was inspiring or how I was helping them in their own recovery. This was an empowerment I never, ever felt while engaging in eating disorder behaviors.
Similarly, I now feel empowered every time I don't give in to fat or diet talk and instead change the subject or find an opportunity for education when a conversation stigmatizes eating disorders or mental illness. I feel empowered every time I exercise because it feels good or when I eat dessert because I like the way it tastes. I feel empowered every time I say no to potentially triggering situations, when I remember how I used to react in situations and used food to cope, and when I choose to react differently. And, perhaps most importantly, I feel empowered every time I know I am making a positive difference in someone's life and helping them with wisdom gained from my experiences.
The main motivation that empowers me in my recovery is never wanting to go back to the miserable life that I remember was my eating disorder. It was not a happy, easy, or joyful life. Every day was work. I'd rather be heavier and happy, then skinny and miserable. I've learned through years of therapy that those days in an eating disorder were filled with unhappiness, miserable thoughts, and constant work to stay skinny. I'm now a mother of three boys and they are my passion. I don't have time to focus on what I weigh. Any time I would take to focus on my weight would take away time from focusing on my boys. And I find that to be an insane sacrifice! Plus, it wouldn't be fair to them.
I have no interest in putting any of my energy into thinking about what I eat or how much I weigh. Instead, I enjoy thinking about how much fun it is to play with my sons and watch them experience joy while they play with each other. My eating disorder took time, like a full-time job. And I don't have time for a second job right now. My job is my family, and that empowers me.
I feel most empowered as I learn to trust God that he is there and will help me one day at a time. I also am extremely empowered by movement and exercise. It helps me get back into my body and learn to feel what that feels like. I was bulimic for 38 years and completely rejected my body. Yoga has been very helpful in obtaining this feeling of being more in tune with my body and learning to give it kindness and also the stretching it needs.
My recovery process has showed me that I am extremely sensitive to others words and actions, which at times has made it difficult to stay motivated and confident. But now, because I understand that I am sensitive to certain things, I have insight into when I am having a hard time and don’t want to keep going. That self-awareness is empowering. Also, looking back at my accomplishments helps me feel motivated to keep going.
Another tool that really helps me stay empowered is listening to podcasts on positive lifestyles and confidence. I never knew how much I could get out of these recordings, but it helps me so much. Most of the time I just need the reassurance and the words of encouragement to lift my spirits and the want to keep going.
I also find that surrounding myself with others who share my same values and have a positive ora and vibration coming off of them really helps me stay empowered. Even if I was having the worst day, if I surround myself with a positive group of individuals, I instantly feel better and empowered to keep going.
Well, the right answer to what empowers me should be because I love myself. But, it’s not that easy. When I wake up most mornings, I don't even like myself. At this point, I have only halfway recovered; meaning, I still suffer from food-related issues. But I have very meaningful relationships with friends and family as well as full-time work in nursing.
Now, having no children, you may wonder, what motivates me to land my feet on the floor every morning. The answer is 5 little girls, ranging in age from 2 1/2 to 19, are what keeps me going. My five great-nieces. I also have a great-nephew on the way. He is currently "baking." He will make his appearance in February 2017. I am also a dog mom to Max. So, when I think "Why try today?," 5 faces plus Max appear in my mind, and I don't want to miss one minute of their story. To be continued...
Personally, my entire recovery has been focused around becoming empowered. Like most, my eating disorder was a way to have power over things, particularly power over the self I hated. I hated myself and I hated that I acted in the way I did. I felt powerless. Beginning my recovery journey was scaring, but I had to remind myself that there was a chance I would be happy, happy with life, self, and recovery. Holding on to the hope of happiness has helped me so much. Slowly, as I have become healthier, I've realized that I am more than my body and my identity of a girl with an eating disorder. I am an individual with a lot to offer and who constantly reminds others to smile, and I have the right to do that for myself. I am empowered by being me, and remembering to be the best me I can be, because I have only one life. The me controlled by an eating disorder doesn't live, but the me in recovery, battling the eating disorder, is the one alive, and the one in power.
I have been symptom free and weight restored for a few months now, and still every day is a fight worth fighting for. The main thing that gets me through my day is my strong faith in Christ, who saved me from death in one of my relapses in anorexia. I trust in Him daily and lean on him as well as my family, treatment team, and friends to get through my days. I also have been pursuing yoga, which has made me feel so confident in my beautiful body and has calmed my mind that is usually filled with a million thoughts. What empowers me most is my faith and my practice of yoga, without them I wouldn't be where I am today.
There is nothing easy about recovery. When we finally reach the point of being “sick and tired of being sick and tired” and make the commitment to get well – it becomes our full-time job, and our TOP priority. Although recovery presents numerous challenges, it is important to remember and take note of the little victories that we achieve along the way.
My father used to say to me “win the small battles and you will win the war.” That statement always stuck with me. Each day presents a new set of opportunities to challenge ourselves and detach from our past. When we welcome the challenge and succeed, we gain a sense of accomplishment and empowerment over our struggles.
Here are 3 things that make me feel empowered in my recovery:
- Learning to accept myself (and my recovery) in the present moment, and understanding that although I might not be exactly where I want to be just yet, I am doing everything I need to do to get closer to my goal each day.
- Letting go of the need to be perfect, knowing that perfection is a far-fetched and unrealistic goal.
- Stepping out of my comfort zone, and breaking away from my routine to challenging old behaviors.
Although these might not seem like much at the time, every step forward in recovery should be viewed as an accomplishment. Celebrating the little victories along the way, and giving ourselves credit for the small accomplishments we make throughout the day, will ultimately give us the fuel and momentum to keep moving forward toward our recovery goals.
It is easy to get comfortable with routine, finding security within the boundaries you build around your life. Yes, each day contains 24 hours, but every single hour presents a unique set of opportunities. Do not try to force-fit into yesterdays mold. Instead, open your eyes to find all that is in front of you in the present moment.
Heartfelt thanks to these amazing women for sharing their stories. If you would like to participate in a future blog post, please email me. I would be honored to include your voice on my blog.