What you crave is the numbing of what you don’t want to feel.

To the Bone – Netflix

Have you ever had a piece of fruit that looked just perfect when you picked it up, but then when you took that first bite, what you found was bad? Outside the fruit looked flawless. It’s peel was shiny, the color vibrant, and it smelled amazing, but inside it was slowly rotting away, hiding it’s decay from anyone who didn’t look deep enough.

Four years ago I was that fruit. I was getting praise for the obsessive amount of working out I was doing, and I was slipping into smaller and smaller sizes, but not a single person knew that inside I was all mush and rot. No one was able to look deeply enough to see the truth.

It’s a very vivid picture when you close your eyes and try to imagine it, and yet it’s probably the most accurate way I can think to describe what someone goes through with an eating disorder. Even now, approaching one full year without a single purge, I am left battling ED from time to time. I have to remind myself with glances at my recovery tattoo of where I’ve come from and what I never want to be again. 

And with each of these moments of truth that I have to face, I learn a bit more about myself. I find out who I am a little more than I knew before. It’s all a new world when you’ve come out the other end from something like this because for a long time (decades in my case) I felt more like a problem than a person. I was my eating disorder because everything was centered around the broken relationship I had with food. 

So where am I almost 1 year purge free? Where am I after a 1 1/2 years from what I consider my ‘birth’ date? 

This will be my first true Christmas without an eating disorder. Last December I was still battling with binging and purging. In fact, I distinctly remember going to a well-liked Brazilian buffet last year and making more than one trip to the ladies room during the meal. That was my birthday. I don’t remember the gifts I received, and I don’t remember what we did, but I remember dinner and choosing to purposely hurt my body. 

I say that this is my first birthday because for me, while I lived plenty of years of life before last year, I didn’t truly LIVE it. This has been the first year since I was probably around 3 that I feel that I have truly lived life. I’ve spent the last year learning how to feel again, and how to experience and make memories. This last year has been the first time I’ve truly experienced food in a way I had never experienced it before. That is a bittersweet realization because while I have memories when my dad was still alive, most of the ones when I was old enough to carry them with me are tainted by ED. I allowed ED to be my burden and in return he stole SO many opportunities for me to remember living; replacing them with all the occasions that I lied to the people who cared so much about me in order to feed his selfishness.

I’m not saying I’m totally devoid of all memories. Clearly I carry some forward that are especially dear, but precious moments that I can never get back are colored gray by the lies I told to go puke up whatever I had eaten. The lengths a person goes to who is battling ED is drastic and also drastically sad.

This year for Christmas and my birthday I’m not asking for anything from anyone. The single thing I want is to fully feel the experience of watching my kids open their gifts with excitement. The joy of knowing I’m 37 and still breathing; of feeling my heart beating in my chest and not have it tainted by the palpitations I used to live with nearly 24 hours a day, the massive amount of hair I would shed, or the numerous other health issues caused by the harm I did myself. This year for my holidays and birthday, I want to look at my daughter who is nearly 13 and relish in the fact that when I stopped purging, she miraculously stopped feeling ‘sick’ after meals as well. That she has color in her cheeks, a smile on her face, and is healthier than I’ve ever seen her. 

I’m not going to lie, getting here, to this place was the scariest and hardest thing I think I’ve ever accomplished, and I know that I will most likely still battle making careful decisions and hearing ED from time to time for years to come, and that’s okay.

A dear friend of mine posted something on Facebook today about a mother who had two kids with them at a busy store recently. One was older the other a toddler. The toddler was acting like most toddlers in long holiday lines, and was inconsolable. The mother opened a package of glow sticks and gave one to the toddler to play with while they waited. A moment later the older child took the stick away, again causing the toddler to wail in upset. He bent the glow stick back and forth, activating the glow agent, and handed it back to his young sibling, now amazed as it glowed in his tiny hands. 

 In life, we have to be broken at times in order to truly appreciate the way we can fully glow. 

This year, as I approach almost 9 weeks of my spending ban (still successfully going!), Christmas, my 37th birthday, New Years, almost 1 year purge-free, and almost 1 1/2 years from my ‘birth’ date, I celebrate having been so broken because now I am learning how to glow.