Last week was National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. For those of you who are faithful followers of this blog, you might have noticed that I did not publish a post last week. Which might seem strange, given that I am a vocal advocate for mental health, eating disorders, and recovery as a whole. But there are actually several reasons that I did not post during this important week:
- I was busy engaging in several of the Center for Eating Disorders (CED) sponsored community events. I got to hear from a variety of speakers who had much wisdom to impart to an audience of individuals who struggle with eating disorders, providers, and support people. I was inspired by stories of recovery and activism.
- Social media was flooded with videos, research, pictures, testimonies, and other pro-recovery material. Everywhere you turned, there was another reminder. It was awesome. It was also a little bit overwhelming. I felt like my voice was getting lost in a sea of email blasts and calls-to-action on Facebook. Don’t get me wrong. I think the existence of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week is an extremely positive and necessary thing. It serves as a platform and gives a voice to those who ordinarily wouldn’t share their story. Their struggle. I believe it saves lives: it tells the world that seeking treatment is a strength and provides individuals with countless opportunities to seek help. But eating disorders wage war on the bodies and minds of men and women the other 358 days of the year. I decided to soak in last week’s activism and use it to fuel my life, writing, and recovery during the remaining 51 weeks of the year.
- I ran out of time. Let’s face it. Writing takes time and energy. Both are things that I’ve been low on the last several weeks. The down time that I did have last weekend was spent expressing myself through artwork. Sometimes magazines and mod-podge are more therapeutic than writing. It’s all about balance.
So this past week created an environment ripe for enlightenment. One revelation that I had was pretty obvious. I realized how much I’ve taken for granted the resources available to me. The CED provides countless opportunities to actively pursue recovery and engage in a community of people who value mental, physical, and emotional health. In the past, I have not even acknowledged the programs, speakers, support groups, and various other events that take place less than an hour from my house. What a waste! I have decided to begin taking advantage of the opportunities I am privileged to have access to. I am committed to taking on an active role in my recovery and spreading awareness and hope to others.
One of the women who spoke at the CED event last Sunday said something that struck me at my core:
If you read my last post (My Body Screams), you know that I have an ongoing battle with physical pain from a hip injury I sustained 10 years ago. My hip has been bothering me again. More and more. Last Monday I finally caved and had an MRI arthrogram, then saw my orthopedist later that afternoon. It was the longest day of my life.
“You don’t have a stress fracture and you didn’t re-tear your labrum,” he said. Sigh. “If I was just looking at your MRI and didn’t know you, I’d say you’d be alright. But I know you. I’ve been working with you for 2 years. You’re not alright. And I’m not okay with that.”
He went on to say he believes my labrum just isn’t viable anymore and asked me to consider letting him do a labral reconstruction. He stretches out in the chair and his eyes lock with mine. It’s uncomfortable, so I glance at the floor. I look back up. He’s still there. He can’t make any promises. I know that. He hopes a nonviable labrum is the problem because it’s something he can fix. This is truly the last thing he can do for me. But he makes no guarantees. Which is one of the things I like about him.
He tells me to think about it. There’s a lot to consider.
My biggest question continues to be directed to both him and myself. What will make this time any different?
His part of things is really quite simple. Instead of repairing my labrum, he’ll be replacing it. It’s a relatively new procedure and I’m certain not as easy as it sounds. The task may be complex, but his role is finite.
Mine, however, is not. My role is dynamic. It is detailed. It is trying. It is daily.
“You can’t heal a body you hate.”
My body has never healed properly, which makes me angry. And I’ve always directed that anger at my body. I’ve admitted to hating my body. I’ve publicly waged ware on my body for years. I have never properly nourished my body following any of my past 6 surgeries. I have always pushed the limits. I have never taken time to rest.
What will make this time any different? My commitment to love my body and care for it in such a way that undoubtedly reveals my affection for it. Because if you can’t heal body you hate, the opposite must be true as well.
A well-loved body has the capacity to heal.
As a people-pleaser, one of my first thoughts is that people will think I’m crazy for signing up for yet another surgery. The weeks on crutches. The months in a brace. The hundreds (probably more like thousands by the time we’re through) of hours worth of physical therapy.
Maybe I am crazy. But the truth is this: I’m not ready to give up yet. I refuse to believe that this is as good as it’s going to get. So if there’s one shot left to take, I’ll take it. And this time, I’m going to do it right. 5 months of treatment has restored my body to a healthy weight and equipped me with tools and coping mechanisms to use in times of anxiety, stress, sadness, or anger. I have been proactive in assembling what I like to call the All-Star Super Steller Treatment Team, which consists of a therapist, psychiatrist, dietitian, and physical therapist. Plus my amazing support system of family and friends. I am ready to do this right.
Every year, the CED holds a Love Your Tree (LYT) campaign. Middle school, High school, and college students submit original artwork in response to the prompt, “Like a tree, my body is…”. Artwork submitted for this year’s campaign was displayed in the Sheppard Pratt Conference Center throughout the week and a winner was selected to be used on promotional material.
The artwork was inspiring. Beautiful. And it got me to thinking. How would I complete that prompt? What word would I use to positively describe my body? I’ve always described my body as broken. Even the professionals have continuously fed me the message that my body is something that needs to be fixed. “Defective. I must just be defective.”
But I want to heal my body, which means I must learn to love it. Which is actually a lot easier to do now that I’ve realized that…