This one’s to you, anorexia –
For changing my life.
I want to open this with a personal share –
The other day, I went to post a picture on my recovery Instagram account. I was by the pool – one of the first warm Spring days here in Denver, and I posed with my new swimsuit perfectly positioned – the light-infused filter chosen – and I had my caption ready to go.
“Soaking up rays – living my best recovery life.” I planned to write to followers.
Living my best recovery life.
As I went to post, awaiting likes and comments as we do on our social media platforms – something struck me as inherently disingenuous about that statement.
“What is living a best recovery life?” I had to ask myself. Does such a thing exist?
As I gnawed on the inside of my bottom lip, I realized that once again – I was choosing to present myself in that perfect light – in the easy way that social media (and eating disorders) beg us to do.
In the simple way that we sometimes like to juxtapose recovery vs our eating disorder.
Recovery = easy, eating disorder = hard.
But, ultimately, what a silly statement that hardly captures the art of recovery, and most certainly does not present the reality of life with an eating disorder.
I changed the text.
I am living a life, I decided to post. And this bikini feels comfortable and not comfortable. And I am free and learning how to be free.
I did not include superlatives. No grand statements. I am merely living a life in recovery – and it is positive, but hard– and I exist always in a flexible definition of ‘okay.’
I know in these letters we are meant to write about the ease of recovery. How it’s “the greatest” – how “much more” beautiful the world looks through our rose-tinted #recovery glasses.
The world is beautiful.
But, I don’t need to remind anyone of that. We write recovery letters to relate. We write them to express the subtle truths we all know about life with an eating disorder.
And, at the end of the day – my story is no different than most.
I have been in recovery for 3 ½ years from a life long struggle with anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating. I’ve been to treatment – been to outpatient – relapsed – and survived.
I now write about it.
And like many others, I still live in a state where I often have to remind myself what makes life in recovery meaningful enough to go on living it.
Recovery can admittedly seem like such a thankless task. A chore we put on autopilot.
And because of that, I know that eating disorders can seem more appealing at times; appealing in their control, controlling in their fear, and seductive in their immediate gratification.
So perhaps I’m writing this (from a rickety coffee shop table) today to admit in print that it is true that the quote “allure” of an eating disorder could likely hiss in your ear for the rest of your life.
However, I am also here to represent tangible proof that we are capable of living with that hiss in our ear– and still recover, and be content.
Regardless of “which” eating disorder or how long you’ve struggled, you are capable of it – and there is a day that you can stop comparing calories – and start comparing the differences between your “eating disorder world” and your “recovery world.”
Perhaps then – you will be reminded that the recovery world you create is more alive; more vibrant – than the one you believe you’ve created in your eating disorder.
I write this letter on behalf of anorexia today because without that part of my life – how would I have ever believed that sadness and happiness are quite capable of living hand-in-hand; intertwined even – and still make up a full, rounded life.
Sitting here, making edits and backspace taps to this letter, I know that all I can ever hope to do as a blogger is make a momentary impact. I am certainly not arrogant enough to think I can change the intimate, personal world of someone’s eating disorder. I know its grasp all too well.
However, what I hope to do through this letter is remind all of us struggling or recovering – that we as humans are simply a series of choices. And our choices do not have to define us.
I am the first to admit that I make productive and also withholding recovery choices daily. I make choices I’m proud of, and ones that, seemingly, as I make them, l whisper “walk away from this choice” and don’t.
This is the reality of being human – not just recovery.
We are creatures of habit, so we must be aware of habits we create.
Are we engaging with positive movements, like Eating Recovery Center’s Eating Recovery Day, or are we engaging with the isolation of our eating disorder?
The truth is that life is inherently difficult. And no human can effortlessly feel crazy grateful to be alive every day any more than we can stay madly in love or desperately sick in grief. The mere act of existing forces us to get on with the busyness of living, which is often when our habits and choices can evolve to become deterrents to living fully.
Because of this reality, we are never not going to be faced with a choice to go back to our eating disorder. We have that choice every day in the shape of three or four meals and however many snacks, indulgences and holidays and buffets and the likes.
It will be inherently impossible to make the “right” one always.
So, I think what recovery is at the end of the day, is learning how to live in a world where your life is a flexible definition of ‘okay.’ To live presently in the hazy grey of the non-black and white life you’ve chosen through recovery.
In it, we are learning how and what to think about again – learning how to navigate our thoughts in spite of the ED voice – and how to look at the multifaceted angles of our eating disorder, and stay on the outside of it instead of being hypnotized by the constant monologue inside our heads.
What we learn is not only how exciting the world can be when we are untethered from the eating disorder grip, but how unpredictable and spontaneous and intimate life is as well – and how to think and stay conscious and alert to the triggers our world pushes at us.
Ultimately, my hope is that everyone in recovery finds their version of the flexibly okay life –
And that we will base our successes off the days we listen to our bodies–
And be gentle on the days we’ve forgotten.
That is the real freedom that people in recovery talk about. Wearing a bikini at a pool is a “freedom” of an eating disorder – sure – it can be a definitive checkmark.
But, learning how to live flexibly – and in tandem with both our eating disorder and recovery – that is how we ever move forward, choosing what and how to think so that we can remain engaged in the moments where we look up from our daily grind and exclaim “I’m happy; recovery is worth this.”
To you anorexia, always, I remain grateful that you were part of my life.
You remind me – as I knock coffee out of the cup, and onto my lap:
I still want to be here.
I want to be right here.
About Lindsey Hall
Lindsey Hall is the author behind the award-winning eating disorder recovery blog, “I Haven’t Shaved In Six Weeks,” which she started following a six-week experience at an inpatient treatment center for an eating disorder.
As a national researcher, writer, and speaker, she works to bring transparency to a community often clouded in shame in order to inform others how to spot eating disorder behaviors, and when to seek help. Lindsey has published articles and interviewed with numerous international publications, including The Today Show, CBS New York, Washington Post, Cosmopolitan, Women’s Health Magazine, Refinery29, SheKnows and more. She has delivered keynote speeches at several colleges and eating disorder recovery events including NEDA walks nationwide, and has spoken on podcast/radio and television interviews covering any and all eating disorder topics. She is currently based in Denver, Colorado – with dreams of owning a van and hitting the road.