A Letter To You, Anorexia

This one’s to you, anorexia

For you continue to change my life.

The last time I saw my best friend alive, it was 9:00pm at a house party at The University of Arkansas, and I stood there, in the front yard of someone’s house, backing away from him because I wanted to finish a run.

18 years old – our first week of college – he was visiting on his way to a Mississippi school.

Linds, he pleaded, reaching out for my shoulder. Just stay. Christ, don’t run.

I’ll be back, I’d laughed – shorts whipping my legs in the night breeze. I’ll run and I’ll change and I’ll come back.

It’s my only night here, he sputtered– yelling down the lawn with a red solo cup in his hand– his plaid shorts hanging at the knee. Promise you’ll come back?

Yeah, I’d waved, smiling as I turned.

And I was gone before he could say more – running. Running because I’d eaten bowls of cereal. Running because the ED voice was screeching – and would be for years to come.

That voice, so strong: “You can’t go back. No. You. You run.”

So, I ran. And I didn’t go back.

Later, I texted him.

Goodnight, I wrote. Have fun with the boys.

I’ll see him soon, I thought. I’ll make it up.

And then my best friend, who carried me to bed as kids when I fell asleep on the couch –

One month later – that pretty little boy fell from a tree, and he died.

For years afterwards, and maybe more years to come, I have found myself faced with the lingering consequence of that choice: “was a run worth it that night? Is anything about an eating disorder ever… worth it?”

Of course it wasn’t, one might say.

But, I believe, maybe, it was.

Sheesh, Linds, you’re probably thinking. Heavy stuff.

And maybe this should be the point that I take a backseat here. Speak only to the brightness in recovery – or how much more beautiful the world looks through my rose-tinted #recovery glasses. 

And hey, the world is beautiful.

But, I don’t think that’s the point.

I am here, like many others, to speak to the realities of life with – and after – an eating disorder. And the consequences and choices amidst all of it.

At the end of the day, my story is no different than most.

I have been in recovery for 5 years from a life-long love affair with anorexia, exercise bulimia and binge eating. I’ve been to treatment – been to outpatient – relapsed – and survived.

And, like many others, I still live in a reality where I sometimes have to remind myself what makes life in recovery meaningful enough to go on living in it.

While an eating disorder can provide instant gratification, I complained once to a therapist that recovery can admittedly feel like such a thankless task some days: a burden to feel so much without an escape.

7 years after my best friend passed, I found myself in treatment one night grieving his death as deeply as I did the day after I was told he was gone (because no one really grieves the first day. They merely survive.)

Is this how it’s supposed to be, I asked a counselor that night – snot running down my nose, as I laid in the grass. How do I bear it? Why?

Because it won’t always be this way, she said. But you’ll have to try it out for yourself to know that feelings just are.

And I chose, then, to believe her.

Why? I’ll never know.

But, 5 years (and a whole heap of sobs) later, perhaps I’m writing this from a rickety coffee shop table tonight to pass along that message, as someone once did for me – and represent proof that we are capable of living through the “hard stuff” and still recover, and even be content.

Regardless of which eating disorder, how long you’ve struggled, or how many moments you look back at your life and hold grief because of your choices –

You are capable of facing it – and I know firsthand that there is a day that you stop counting calories– and start comparing the differences between your “eating disorder world” and your “recovery” world, and acknowledge that the two seem incomparable.

I write this letter on behalf of my eating disorder and my best friend tonight, because without that pain in my life – how would I have ever known that grief, guilt, sentiment, and joy are all quite capable of living hand-in-hand; intertwined even – and still make for a full, rounded life.

No matter what you’ve done in your eating disorder, or the back tracks in recovery – or the sheer amount of times you’ve wondered “is this worth it?” and decided ‘no’, only to then again decide ‘yes’ – these are all merely choices. And you have the power to grow from them, and make a different one, tomorrow.

Sitting here, making edits and backspace taps to this letter, I know that all I can ever hope to do as a writer is make a momentary impact with sentences. 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 these words is remind all of us struggling or learning to recover – that we as humans are simply a series of choices. And no one choice defines who we are.

The sheer number of choices – and the unpredictable outcome of each of them, makes recovery inherently difficult at times. Anyone who says differently is, truly, selling you something.

So because of this reality, we are always going to be faced with a choice to go back to the perceived comfort (and control) of our eating disorder.

And there will be hard days where it feels inherently impossible not to.

So, I think what recovery is at the end of the day, is learning how to live flexibly within a life filled with choices and uncontrollable consequences, and the grace to forgive yourself when those choices leave stains.

By choosing recovery, we learn how and what to think about again – how to navigate our thoughts in spite of the ED voice and the shame – and how to look at the multifaceted angles of our eating disorder, and stay on the outside of it instead of being hypnotized by its constant monologue inside our heads.

What we learn, overtime, is not only how rewarding the world can be when we are untethered from the eating disorder grip and the guilt, 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 flexible recovery –

And that we will claim our successes on the days we wrestle with the hard stuff –

And be gentle to ourselves on the days we forgot how – as I continue to do, when I think of my best friend standing there, as I ran into the night.

So 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.

Bradley, circa 2007

**Special thanks to Eating Recovery Center for asking me to write this letter!

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Sh*t Rehab Never Taught Me: Part One

In December 2013, I was gearing up to go to treatment in Florida after 8 years of living in the eating disorder cycle.

In my mind, I had this notion that rehab was gonna be this all-knowing descent into radical self realization.

More or less, I expected to come out of it being Basic B*tch Gandhi… or at the very least, Mother Teresa’s sinful pseudo-daughter. Meditating on the reg – zen-like in feeling, and – of course – still thin because in my jacked up head I thought the weight I felt was “extra” was only there because I binge ate about as much as I starved.

L-O-L.

Continue reading “Sh*t Rehab Never Taught Me: Part One”

CURRENTLY SCHEDULING: Interested In Receiving Recovery Coaching 1×1? Or Tips on Blogging? Let’s Talk!

I’ve been a slacker on the blog this past month and some. Tis’ true.

I’d love to make 100 different excuses as to why (and will totally take this as an opp to shamelessly plug the fact that my partner and I are engaged as of a week ago!) but the truth is I have really just allowed myself to overextend commitments.

Whether it’s recovery meet n’ greet coffees or planning recovery speeches or my 9-5 job or traveling for my 9-5 (and recently for a recovery speech) I am at the point where I can no longer give a present (and meaningful) amount of time to any one email, Instagram direct message, or phone call.

Someone told me once that I needed to create boundaries in my advocacy work or I would get burned out and be of no help to anyone, least of all myself. I ignored this for another two years.

Of course I can, I told myself. I cherish ALL conversations and emails. (I do.)

But, it’s dawned on me since that that person had a point.

While I cherish all connection, I also cherish the privilege to show up and genuinely give my invested time, energy and presence.

I simply cannot do that in unstructured ways.

Over the last year, I have received daily emails that range in various needs: from assistance in finding local resources to treat eating disorders, to starting a personal recovery blog, to general recovery coaching, to parents asking about how to talk to their children.

Continue reading “CURRENTLY SCHEDULING: Interested In Receiving Recovery Coaching 1×1? Or Tips on Blogging? Let’s Talk!”

Why I Hope I Always Regret My Eating Disorder

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2011 vs 2018

I’m having a moment y’all.

I have something that I’m itching to write.

PRAISE BE!!!!!!!!!!!!! If I could figure out how to insert emoji prayer hands in this post, I would.

But instead, I’ll just use an excessive amount of exclamation points and hope that you choose to keep reading and forgive me.

Continue reading “Why I Hope I Always Regret My Eating Disorder”

“New Year, New You”: Post-Holiday Body Image Meltdown

We are 6 days into 2019, and here I am – brimming with possibility, opportunity, a new job, dreams:

And, like clockwork, a post-holiday body image crisis steaming Titanic-force ahead.

#Bliss.

via GIPHY

Maybe it’s the fitness Instagram ads peppering my feed, or the insidious amount of leftover sweets positioned as a shrine on our kitchen counter, haunting my waking hours.

Or the return to schedule after 15 days of nonstop travel and eating out.

Or maybe I’m just basking in the blooming guilt of what I ate over the holidays.

Whatever the reason, it happens almost every January.

Continue reading ““New Year, New You”: Post-Holiday Body Image Meltdown”

“But Red Wine Has Antioxidants”: Navigating Alcohol And Anorexia In Today’s World

Every time I sit down to write about eating disorders, I ask myself “what needs to be said, that most are unwilling to share?”

Sometimes, that leads me down a rabbit hole with an unclear end. Occasionally, a seed of perspective develops.

More frequently, a truth emerges (or reemerges) that I’m conveniently escaping.

This share is one of those, and took me two months to write.

Continue reading ““But Red Wine Has Antioxidants”: Navigating Alcohol And Anorexia In Today’s World”

Thanksgiving Recovery Reminder: Diet Talk

Continue reading “Thanksgiving Recovery Reminder: Diet Talk”

Do You Struggle With “Leftover Anorexia”?

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Standard cheese, nature, computer pic

First things first – I think I’ve coined this whole “leftover anorexia” term and I’m feeling called to take a moment here to chuckle at my own irony. (Is it irony? Leftover? Like … leftovers. Like, food. Get it? Oh God, I know. Lame. Possibly insensitive.)

But, it’s another one of those eating disorder topics that seems to be difficult to acknowledge – though my guess is quite a few of us struggle with it.

Continue reading “Do You Struggle With “Leftover Anorexia”?”

It’s True: You Probably Aren’t “Sick Enough” To Have An Eating Disorder

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Yo, hold up. Put down the pitch forks, please.

I write headlines to get your attention.

This is one of them.

Continue reading “It’s True: You Probably Aren’t “Sick Enough” To Have An Eating Disorder”

#FitFam: Surviving Instagram With An Eating Disorder

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I had a few witty one-liners I planned for this opening – but thought I’d instead spare you my subpar comedic timing and roll right into the big question here:

Do you ever feel like Instagram is the cause of a particularly shitty self-esteem day?

Continue reading “#FitFam: Surviving Instagram With An Eating Disorder”