Surprised by Recovery

I battled anorexia from age 13 to age 30. Seventeen years felt like forever to me.   It was seventeen years of being in and out of hospitals, being terrified of dying and desperate for something just to kill me already.   I was hospitalized over a dozen times, sometimes scraping the bottom of the pit physically, sometimes emotionally. These seventeen years included broken bones due to osteoporosis, three near-fatal suicide attempts, an ongoing agonizing exercise addiction, and constant self-injury.

There was nothing mild or moderate about my struggle. It was severe and chronic, and it was going to kill me. It was just a matter of time. The miracle was that I had lived through it so far, but miracles can only give so much to people who don’t really appreciate them, or so I thought.   Certainly, through the years, I built up skills and gained tools for recovery. I had “stable” times, usually only lasting a month or so here and there. I still had passions, and I somehow still had friends who put up with my crap.   I graduated high school and college at the top of my classes and made it halfway through graduate school. But I was mostly dead.

Then something happened, slowly, gracefully.

I started to come to life, maybe for the first time in my entire life. I think that it happened through relationship. The healing started three years ago when the anorexia was still primary. Someone got through my 10-foot thick shell, and a man at that. Men have never been allowed in my life. But he broke through. I have no idea how that happened. I certainly wasn’t looking for him. I had my sight set on destruction. Slowly, like over two years, as our relationship grew, my relationship with anorexia became more and more distant. It is much more difficult to hurt yourself when that act hurts the one whom you love so much. Years in treatment and therapy had bestowed upon me all of the skills that I needed for recovery, and I began to use them. I finally had a reason to.

Looking back, I feel a little bad that I couldn’t find it in myself to recover for myself, but who are we outside of relationship? Healing occurs in relationship, because that is where the destruction occurred. Now I have three people crowding my heart with love, given and received. The anorexia doesn’t fit anymore. It was eclipsed by his love, and now it is triple-eclipsed. That relationship with the eating disorder is one that I will happily sacrifice for the love of self-giving of marriage and motherhood. I expected that recovery would be agonizing and tedious, but it has been natural and simple. It only made sense. It actually has been a lot simpler than remaining in the anorexia ever was.


This has been my experience. There are still some haunting thoughts. I still get angry when I hear about diets and weight loss. Occasionally, like once every few months, I miss it. But I would never give up my new existence in order to return to my old. Now, this is just the anorexia and self-destruction. I have a long way to go in my recovery from my trauma and dissociation. The scape-goat of anorexia is removed, however, so now I can focus, with the support of my loved ones, on the stuff that is at the root. And for that, I am so thankful.

4 thoughts on “Surprised by Recovery

  1. Thanks for posting this, I think recovery may be more than a surprise, I’m still waiting to see what I will find.

  2. So glad you are writing again. Anorexia was not my main eating disorder struggle, it was bulimia. At it’s worst, I would binge and purge up to seven times a day. It pretty much ruled my life. I was so addicted. The weird thing was, It didn’t make me any skinnier what so ever which was why I started it in the first place. After that, it just became something that ruled me. I was free for many years and then relapsed while suffereing from PPD. I think it might always be one of my inner demons. So glad you found your true love.

    1. I am so sorry for your struggle. I do believe that we have to continually fight for our recovery. But I think too that we don’t have to live a life constantly tormented. I sometimes feel guilty sharing about my recovery because it has seemed somewhat simple. But I would hate to keep my story hidden for fear of judgement. Maybe it can offer some hope.

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Pastor Al Gilbert

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