My Path to Acceptance
It was the one day of the week that was different from the rest. Filled with a mix of happiness and anxiety, Sundays consisted of wearing frilly dresses that would soar when I would spin in circles, and shoes that clacked on the tile of the church basement. We were never on time, and I can still hear the sound of my dad’s voice as he would call to my mom who was interminably frazzled and would reply, “if you’d just let me be I can get done and we can leave!” Back then my innocence and beliefs were based solely on things I learned through my parents or the adults they entrusted me to. But truth changes as we get older; less about having that unwavering faith and more about self-discovery and seeking out our own beliefs. It is this desire to seek our self-truth that is the main source of the angst-filled teenage years, and the pillar of the people we become. But what is truth and why is it an ever-fleeting image on the edge of our vision for some of us?
To those of us with ED you can’t define truth with a dictionary like we’re a kindergartner learning a new word. For us, whose life has consisted of the broken-glass image that ED has created, truth is something we seek and search for in every string of woven time, constantly questioning if the truth we find is genuine or ED. For me, seeking truth has been something that has helped me through the distorted vision ED has provided. When the truth of my eyes was something so untrustworthy, I sought truth in other areas of life, and it saved my sanity.
This is not going to be a post that is meant to convince you of religion. Quite the contrary, it is about finding truth and acceptance as fully as possible despite religion. Nor is this post meant to dissuade you from your personal faith. I believe that we each have our path to follow, and not everyone’s beliefs are meant to be the same. You see, the beautiful memories like the one above are as sweet as a fabled story learned in childhood. Once a distinct and vivid tale, now covered in the dust of time’s passage. I no longer believe in those bedtime stories though they are still quite dear to my heart.
As I’ve mentioned before, ED’s ideas entered my life extremely early. Far earlier than the forced hand of ED through Bulimia. His words whispered in my head as a young child. I’m pretty sure I’ve previously told the story of the first time I can remember having a disordered thought. Three years old, after begging for a bikini like the ‘big girls’, and remembering the disgust with my stomach when I looked in the mirror. In the most sad irony I can think of, I was actually underweight at three, which proves the strength of ED on his victims all the more. As you can imagine, growing up with ED as a companion had some strong influences on my ability to ‘have faith’.
Regardless, this inability to just blindly have faith has always brought me back to truth. I believe its part of why I always wanted to be a doctor, and ended up becoming an accountant; I couldn’t find truth in faith, but science gave me conclusions, and concrete foundations with which to build my personal truth upon. I’ve known just as many people who have found the same concrete truth in the blind faith of their religion, so in no way am I bashing religion or faith. In fact, the truth I found in science is the truth my mom found in faith, and others yet in both.
I was raised a Christian, and spent most of my childhood attending a Baptist church. As ED’s voice became louder, I struggled more and more to connect truth with religion. I had learned very young that faith was not something I believed in, regardless of how my family encouraged or tried to push me to fit that mold. For me, asking what religion and faith did of me was like asking me to believe in Santa Claus…it just didn’t make sense. I never found a connection to the God I was supposed to follow, though I got really great at seeming like the person everyone expected me to be. If anything, the more I sought-out a connection to any belief system, the more I was repelled by what I found. I find it intriguing how, for some, faith in a belief is what makes them stronger, and for others it breaks them apart. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had people try to convince me that it’s because of people who are failing to embody their stated beliefs and not the beliefs themselves that I became a ‘non-believer’. The reality is that faith is not a one-size-fits-all hat that everyone can wear. Some of us are simply meant to be hat-free.
My entire life has consisted of my feeling like I didn’t belong; like I wasn’t enough, and for years that was born of my inability to feel the same connection to religion that the people closest to me felt. It wasn’t until I was about 30 that I realized that while I didn’t know who I was just yet, I knew what I wasn’t, and what that meant to me in going forward in life. It was the first time I felt I understood my path enough to seek out a new truth in life and have strength to figure out I am. For me, losing my faith and turning my back on religion was the first time I felt connected to my future, and maybe to myself. For me it was the most freedom I had ever felt.
It was that discovery that has allowed me to grow strong enough to seek out the most important truth yet; recovery from ED. Had I kept trying so hard to believe and have faith in something I simply couldn’t, I would have continued to feel lost, broken. I don’t think I would have taken that first step toward healing. I can’t stress enough that this is my path, my journey, and that while this is what I found as my truth, it is not everyone’s, and that is okay. My daughter is a Christian. She has blind faith that the God she believes in is real, and that gives her purpose and truth. I support this because she isn’t blindly following other’s instructions, but seeking out her own truth. Truth is a beautiful thing when its your own.
The same way that not everyone eats the same things, or wears the same clothes, personal truth is a very individual choice. In the last six years I feel I have made more progress as the person I want to be, living a life I feel leaves behind the legacy I want to represent my memory someday, than I ever did the in 30 years before when I was trying to force myself to fit in a box not shaped like me. I write all of this because being where I am in recovery has taught me something very valuable. It has created a question and an answer about how we view not only ourselves but others. It has given me some raw insight into truth. Part of the recovery process is learning acceptance. You will never cut the chains to ED if you can’t accept yourself exactly as you are or how you may become. Simple in statement, much harder in execution.
I think this path has led me to place where I’ve not only started to find acceptance of myself, but realize the importance and rarity of acceptance of others as well. I think recovery requires that the truth of acceptance not only define the image I see in the mirror, but the foundation of me as a person. All I ask of my children is that they seek truth in the beliefs they choose to follow, and respect that what that may look like for one person will most definitely not be what it looks like for every person. It is not our job in life to ascertain whether another person is on their path of truth, but to be accepting of them as we are to accept ourselves.
At the end of the day I know that my goal each moment of each day is to put more love and goodness into the world; towards others, towards myself. I would encourage each person reading this to stop, look around you, look in the mirror, and ask yourself one question. Have I found my personal truth, and am I accepting of myself and others for whatever that truth might be?
I’m going to leave you with one final thought. Recovery from ED requires us to accept ourselves, which in turn helps us learn to be more accepting of others as well. When you demonstrate acceptance it is a true demonstration of selfless love (whether inward or outward), but when you expect others to change to fit into your expectation, only selfishness lives in that choice. Choose love, choose acceptance, choose recovery.