The perfectly imperfect gift of recovery
By: Jenni Schaefer
I am sitting on my back porch listening to the rain. My knees are getting wet, but I don’t mind. I am happy—I feel whole. I am not perfect. And the miracle is that, finally, I’m okay with that. In fact, I embrace my perfectly imperfect life.
This is what it is like after an eating disorder. Of course, my days are not always this serene. I don’t get to daydream outside on my back porch all of the time. Sometimes, I have to go inside—into my life to face the inevitable challenges of being human. Recently, I have been learning how to cope with both of my parents fighting cancer at the same time. A gift of my recovery is that I can actually cope with this difficult situation. I deal with life on life’s terms, which means experiencing emotions and getting support when I need it. I don’t have to turn to (or away from) food anymore.
Life after my eating disorder also means that I sometimes feel like I am lagging behind in certain areas. Because I dated Ed (my “eating disorder”) for so long during my teens and twenties, at times, I feel like a thirty-year-old adolescent when it comes to love and relationships. I have heard other people who struggle with eating disorders express how they feel behind in school or their careers. But the truth is that we are not really behind. We are right where we are supposed to be. Although I don’t have a husband and kids, I have what I need. I am content. Even better, I am excited about my current life and do my best to celebrate each moment. If I keep doing that, I believe the future will take care of itself. George Elliot said, “It’s never too late to be who you might have been.” I believe that.
Because those of us on recovery road devote a significant amount of time and energy to self-growth, we are often light-years ahead of other people in some parts of life. For instance, my eating disorder recovery enabled me to learn more than I ever would have about spirituality, balanced living, and body image. Most “normal” people never have the chance to visit with a dietitian or attend body image therapy group, and, sadly, countless men and women across the globe have a disordered relationship with food and their bodies. I am deeply grateful to have a happy one.
The most amazing part about life after Ed has been finding myself. And I discover more about me everyday. During my recovery journey, I realized that I love nature, which is why I often sit on my back porch. Writing is one of my favorite pastimes, so I have turned the pen into my career. Unlike when I was lost in my eating disorder, my current life reflects who I am and what I love. My favorite color is pink. Guess what color the dress is that I am wearing right now? (Yes, pink.) I like hanging out with friends and having fun, so I do that often. I no longer feel guilty for enjoying myself. I actually just put my pen down to go on a relaxing walk with a friend in the rain! Recovery has even taught me how to metaphorically dance in the rain.
If your life has been touched by an eating disorder, you, too, can experience this incredible freedom. Get professional help. Surround yourself with loving friends and family members who will help you to stand back up when you fall. With time and patience, your feet will become grounded, and you will ultimately reach that place I call fully recovered. Don’t quit before the miracle happens for you.
A consultant with the Center for Change, Jenni Schaefer is a singer/songwriter, speaker, and author of Goodbye Ed, Hello Me and Life Without Ed. Her debut music CD is titled “phoenix, Tennessee.” For more information: www.jennischaefer.com or www.facebook.com/lifewithouted
ANAD believes in recovery! We know that recovery is possible for each and every individual, and we encourage you to visit our forum to share about your recovery!
People with eating disorders are often very independent, intelligent and hard working. They do not want to be a burden, or share their feelings or vulnerabilities with anyone. Many times the greatest hurdle is admitting to an eating disorder and then reaching out for help. Some men and women feel this is a private problem, and are too ashamed or embarrassed to reveal their struggle to anyone. We suggest you begin with ANAD. Call or email. Have a first conversation with someone that will not judge, that will be open and compassionate. ANAD has a mission of directing people toward assessment, treatment and then a lifetime of recovery.
Recovery is a long road. It is a journey that is best traveled with others.
Recovery looks different for each person and every family or support system. We have some ideas about what recovery could look like for you.
Recovery means change, and it might be…
- Eating three meals a day, including all food groups
- Exercising moderately three times a week for 20 minutes
- Going to ANAD support group meetings
- Being able to concentrate on a book again
- Knowing that if I get bored, worried, or excited I can dial a friend’s number
- Expressing anger constructively
- Laughing when others might not be
- Adding the word “no” to my vocabulary
- Not getting an “A”
- Trying a new activity
- Not being controlled by what others think
- Taking control over MY life
- Making physical and emotional health my number one priority
- Knowing that there is hope
- My behavior AND thinking have changed
- Doing what makes me happy
- Cultivating my friendships
If you would like to share your personal story of recovery and have it posted here, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. You will be encouraging others!