I've been thinking a lot lately about eating disorders--mostly about how amazed I am that I am free of mine. When I started the IVF process, I felt some of my weird eating disorder behaviors returning, which didn't really surprise me since infertility treatments were a huge trigger for me before, so I sought help from a counselor here in Twin Falls. I never, ever want to end up again in the place where I was for so many years--loathing myself and eating in secret and failing at ridiculous diets and obsessing over food and feeling so empty--so I am not above seeking help when I need it.
Fortunately, even in the middle of IVF, the eating disorder behaviors got under control quickly (I think because of the good work I'd done with my counselors in Colorado and my quick decision to get help in Idaho). I still see the counselor here about once a month, mostly to talk about my mom and her prolonged illness and eventual passing and how it all continues to affect me, especially now that I am in the trenches of motherhood myself and pregnant for the first time. (Turns out that when you watch the woman whom you love and admire most in the world suffer throughout your entire childhood, it has a profound and lasting impact on you--crazy, right??).
It has been good to talk things over with a counselor once in a while, but overall, I feel like I am in a really good place mentally right now--especially with the eating disorder. I honestly marvel at how different I am from a few years ago--how food has almost no control over me anymore. It makes me laugh in amazement and thank my Father in Heaven when I realize just how different I am. I truly feel free, and that is an incredible feeling.
I worried that pregnancy and the inevitable weight gain and body changes that come along with that might bring up old issues--but so far, I have been just fine. (I hope I'm not jinxing myself.) I eat what my body wants. I don't have insane cravings for sweets like I used to. I don't own a scale and so I haven't been obsessed with the increasing numbers. I go for walks when I have the energy and try to be active because it feels good.
I feel honored to have a baby inside of me, and I love feeling her moving around. I know that I am not a tiny, cute, model-like pregnant woman, but I am okay with that. I know this isn't forever--and I will have a waistline again eventually. (The postpartum period will surely bring its own set of body image challenges, but we will cross that bridge when we get there.)
I am so, so, so grateful that I went through counseling when I did so that I could just enjoy this experience of being pregnant and not have it be all wrapped up in body insecurities and food obsessions. Seriously, I feel amazed almost daily at the grace of God and how much He has helped me change.
In the midst of all of this, I have decided that I want to share more of my story, in case there are others out there who are struggling as I have struggled. When I was first going through counseling, I was so ashamed of the fact that I have big weaknesses/needs and that I had developed an eating disorder that I couldn't share much of my experience with others. It was honestly painful to address and to talk about. Throughout the course of my therapy, I wrote a lot about my past, and I tentatively shared some of it with my sisters and my close friend who had overcome an eating disorder herself (and who started me on my path to recovery). She told me that one day, I would be able to openly share my experiences with others--that I would even be willing to share my writing, which was excruciatingly private at the time. She told me that I would reach a point when I felt so free from that former self, so very different and removed from it, that it wouldn't make me feel embarrassed anymore--it would just make me feel grateful that I had found the help that I needed and compelled to try to help others find freedom as well.
I am finding that my friend was right. Today at a playgroup of young moms, in the midst of a discussion about body image and perfectionism and diets, I just said straight out, "I went to counseling for an eating disorder, and this is some of what I learned..." I think these women were a little shocked, because who really admits something like that to a group of people they don't know that well?, but I just want people to know that they can talk to me if they are ever struggling. I want people to know where I have been--because I'm not there anymore, and I am thankful beyond words.
So I may be writing about this more often on my blog. I am going to share some of the writing that I did during my counseling, probably soon. It feels a little scary to do that, but I think it's time. I hope it will be helpful to someone.
Happy May, everyone. It's Spring. There is hope and sunshine and pollen in the air. The long winter is over--it always ends eventually.
The writing that I did in counseling is found here.