I have the most amazing news! I've been wanting to share it for some time now, but I can't seem to string my words together in a way that I find does it justice. Each time I try to write about it, the combination of words I come up with completely miscarry the magnitude of it all. But after several weeks of keeping this all in, the excitement has become tainted with guilt from a sin of omission. I have—as we all do—unique experiences that position me to help others. There are many ways we can each use our experiences to support, lift, and inspire others and I believe that writing is one of my ways. So at the risk of devaluing my greatest accomplishment with inadequate words, I'm going to share it with the world in hopes that someone can find inspiration.
First, a little background:
I've been a prisoner of bulimia for the past 6 years.
I checked into a rehab center for 4 months in 2013 in hopes of obtaining sovereignty from the prison I call ED (eating disorder).
After I was discharged from rehab I thought I was healed, but to my disappointment (and the disappointment of all those who love me) I relapsed immediately. You see, rehab was a forced recovery. I was under 24 hour supervision and didn't have the option of indulging in bulimia. I had to eat every morsel of food given to me during the 3 meals and 3 snacks. If I failed to consume all the food I was given, I was "Boost"-ed (this is rehab slang for: forced to drink a meal replacement shake that contained the same amount of calories I refused to eat). After every meal, I was not allowed to use the restroom for at least 30 minutes, and anytime I did use the restroom I had to leave the door cracked open while one of the Care Technicians stood just outside. But wait, it gets worse. After I was done using the restroom, I wasn't allowed to flush my own toilet, so the lady standing outside of the door had to come in and flush it for me. Talk about embarrassment. I even had restrictions on burning calories. I wasn't allowed to exercise any more or any less than they permitted. Oh, and if I was ever caught shaking my foot back and forth while I was sitting, I was asked to stop because they knew exactly what my motive was: I was trying to burn extra calories. I also couldn't get away with exercising in my room at night because they checked on me every 15 minutes. Even through the absurdities, I was able to realize that this unconventional way of life was—at that time—for my best interest. But once I was released to go home, stripped of the rigid rules and returned the freedom to make my own decisions, I reverted back to my old harmful behaviors.
I spent the next two and a half years trying to get a grip on my life and rip it from the locked jaw of my eating disorder. Every time I gave into ED, I promised myself it was the last time. However, my resolve always seemed to disintegrate within just a few hours and I would end up face to face with the toilet bowl pledging to the same promise: Taylor, this is the last time. But as time went by, my fight grew weak. I began to imagine what living the rest my life in the clutches of my addiction would be like and, in all honesty, it seemed more bearable than living under the cloak of shame that came with trying to recover and failing. every. damn. time. The shame I put on myself when I lost the fight to ED—on a daily, sometimes hourly basis—was harrowing. Wanting something so badly and then giving it all my energy and effort only to watch it fall and shatter even worse than it did last time is painful. So I stopped. I stopped fighting. I gave up. I surrendered. And as the wave of acquiescence crashed on top of me, I packed recovery away in a box just like I did my stuffed animals from childhood. A box kept for sentimental purposes but a box that I never really intended to open again.
So there I was, fully capitulated to my addiction. I guess you could say we were in a monogamist relationship; I had no time or desire for anything or anyone else. I was living in a one-dimensional world that revolved around satisfying my eating disorder. I gave into every urge without hesitation. My eating disorder took on the normalcy and priority of taking shower—it's just something I had to make time for in my day. What I couldn't seem to find time for was my family, my friends, my hobbies, self-care, my education or anything else that brought joy and meaning to my life. And even when I was with my family or friends, I was never present. My mind was always fixated on the food that was in the room and whether or not I was going to completely refrain from eating anything, or stealthily binge on all of it. And if I chose to binge, then my next preoccupation was how am I going to get away from everyone so that I could throw it all up. ED stole all of my time, energy, and thoughts.
After several months of willingly traveling through life shackled to the ball and chain of my eating disorder, I started to panic. Sure, I thought life was currently going just fine for me. I had a job that supplied me with money to support myself (and ED, that has costed me more than I'm willing to admit). I had top-of-the-line family and friends (none of which I saw much because ED was so demanding of my time). And I was healthy (though my doctor said it was only a matter of time before ED started taking an permanent toll on my life). Okay so maybe life wasn't going that well... and do you want to know what really had me worried? My future family. What kind of wife would I be with ED as my constant companion? My husband wouldn't just be marrying me, he would be marrying me and ED—a love triangle that no one should have to be a part of. What about my children? What kind mother would I be with a disorder that requires more attention than a newborn? If I had already become content with missing family gatherings and other important events just so I could appease ED, I can only imagine how easy it would be to miss my daughters' science fair or my son's piano performance. Or worst of all...what if I couldn't even keep my body healthy enough to create any children of my own?
So...remember that box? You know, the one that I stuffed my hopes of recovery in? Along with my grit, fortitude and self-respect? Yes, that one. Well, I decided to go find and unpack the box. So with the unconditional love and help from family, friends, my boyfriend, doctors, therapists, God, and myself, I was able to revive my recovery. Not only has the box been opened, but its contents have been ever-present in my life for the past 144 days.
I'm going to say it again.
I HAVE BEEN FREE FROM THE EATING DISORDER FOR 144 DAYS!
Just to give you perspective—prior to this, the longest I was ever able to go without giving into my disorder was 12 days. And it happened only twice in the 6 years I struggled. So I never thought I would live to see recovery day 13 let alone recovery day 144!
It feels SO good. For the past 6 years I've merely been existing just for the purpose of existing, and now I'm relearning what it feels like to actually live. With ED at bay, I have found time to do things that give me back a feeling of purpose and pride. Instead of spending lonely, dark nights with ED, I've become acquainted with John Steinbeck and Maya Angelou. I've deepened my relationship with the people I care about most. I have reframed my life and have taken risks ED formerly robbed me of the confidence and time to take. I've never been so proud of myself. And yes, I'm bragging. But part of why I wanted to share this with all of you is because I want to offer my story as a source of hope to those who may be struggling with an addiction or problem of their own. If that's you, I'm here to say DON'T GIVE UP THE FIGHT. I know it's exhausting. I know how many times you've said "this is the last time." I know you've failed more times than you can count. I know you're enveloped in shame and defeat. I know the deafening loneliness that comes from silent struggle. And I know you may want to (or already have) raise the white flag and surrender to whatever is trying to drag you down. But do you want to know what else I know? I know you have more strength within you than you can ever imagine. It may be buried deep under the shame and frustration, but it is there. It doesn't matter how "screwed up" you are or how long you've been struggling. The strength and resilience we inherit as humans beings is vast and powerful. It's just a matter of finding it.
In my next few posts, I am going to expound the tools and concepts that helped me and continue to guide me through recovery. And if you know someone struggling through an addiction please share this with them!
fight the good fight,