Those who have known me for a while know that I’ve been outspoken about my long battle with eating disorders stemming from adolescent trauma, insecurity and experiences as a competitive swimmer.
Back on social media now because of COVID, I was scrolling through my feed the other day and noticed a lot of posts about food and drinking.
“Are you going to lose 10 pounds or gain the quarantine 15?” one meme asks.
Another states: “I need to practice social distancing from the refrigerator.”
I look over to my left at the fridge. Then it occurs to me that the nervous eating habits implied through these memes are far from my current life experience. I have been healthily nourishing myself and my family.
My mind flashes to memories of stressful situations that sent me swirling into cycles of restriction, bingeing and purging. I pause and give thanks for my freedom and then think of those who are currently having to navigate the powerlessness of addiction amidst the COVID crisis.
The vicious cycles of ED wreaked havoc on my life and was devastating in so many ways.
I was never safe. I’d go about my days always wondering in the back of my mind when the unmanageable obsessions would kick in.
At times I’d try to fight it off, clutching to meditation or yoga or writing like you might clutch to a pole for safety in hurricane force winds. Eventually the winds would win and I’d get swept in.
Other times, I’d just surrender to the forces without a fight like I do when I get caught under a big wave in the ocean. I’d go limp and let the force take me through the cycles of my eating disorder that would eventually leave me numb enough to swim back into the waters of my life again.
Today, I am thankfully healed from my eating disorders. I also don’t drink alcohol. And, up until this COVID crisis, I had been mostly off social media. I have learned to feel my feelings and to lean on human relationships and my relationship with God, not food or substances, when the forces get intense.
My healing was not at all by accident, nor was it a phenomenon of western medicine or a miraculous supernatural shift. It was an arduous climb through various modalities and experiences that spanned decades.
Today, we are amidst a pandemic. The forces at play in reality and of course in the media are anxiety-provoking.
But when my husband and I decided that it’s best for him to stay at work at the hospital for the foreseeable future, away from the kids and me, or when I’ve overreacted when my daughter couldn’t stop touching things at the store, or when the quarantines were announced or any number of other provocative experiences during the last two weeks, I reached out to friends, I put my feet in the sand, I got silent and I prayed. I don’t do these things to “remedy” the situation but out of the natural practice of life that I have created. They are the bedrock of my everyday.
I’ve been thinking a lot over the last few years about what I’ve learned about healing through my excruciating but worthy journey and related work. I’ve recently been accepted to a doctorate program in which I would seek to understand more fully how we heal, specifically, how we can move through life transitions like coming-of-age embodied and whole rather than sick and fragmented.
I have some thoughts about healing that feel relevant to our current situation.
While I had an amazing childhood in many ways, I grew up in an unhealthy system of achievement and perfectionism. I thought it was normal. I have had to completely unwind out of that system – to see my life break down completely in order to build it back up again.
Death can be part of healing. When plants are sick, we prune them and they grow back stronger. Trees lose their leaves in autumn only to rebirth magnificently in spring. Nature goes through cycles.
Ends and deaths can be painful, gutting even. But as we let life – that little pulse of awareness / God / Spirit / source – start to guide us, an unwinding happens. And through that unwinding we can find ourselves again.
This crisis will bring us to our knees, if it hasn’t already. People will question themselves and life. People have died and will continue to. At times we will try to cling to that secure pole in the howling winds and at others we will surrender to the crashing waves. But if we keep listening, as we keep turning towards one another and within, we will get through this. And if we follow that listening, we may look back one day and realize we are unrecognizable to who have been.
We are up for a marathon here, not a month or two of inconvenience. I know marathons well – mine was 20 years. We can do this.
If you are suffering from addiction, especially from an eating disorder right now, I am so sorry. I used to scour books looking for the solution. I’d turn to the end first to figure out how the f*#k that person recovered. Recovery really is about the process – and it has to be, because we must watch the world around us crumble and grieve that loss before we can start to put it back together it more healthily.
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Great Spirit / God / One Uniting Source –
Thank you that you are always here with us. Thank you that all things are working together for our good. I ask you to be with those who are suffering now – who are really suffering – who are hopeless. I ask you to rest in the hearts of those trapped in cycles of addiction, especially those restricting, bingeing and purging. Our helplessness is magnified right now. Help us turn to you and to remember that we can hear you. Be with us now in unmistakable ways. We need you. We always have, we always do.