Since beginning my journey of recovery five years ago, I feel like I have aged by twenty years. It’s not because of recovery. I don’t regret this journey at all. My life feels infinitely more rewarding, meaningful, and connected. I feel firmly rooted and stable for the first time in my life. My emotional lows are downright rosy in comparison to my lows of a decade ago. I feel tethered to the land of the living by a bungee cord of heavenly fortitude. I don’t exactly understand the details of this transformation, but I think sometimes that’s how grace works. You can’t always trace it, or analyze it, or chart it. I really would like to, but it is somewhat ellusive.
Alongside this internal transformation and restoration, my physical condition continues to decline. I see and feel my body deteriorating before my eyes. My friend pointed out a picture of me from six years ago when I was steeped in the eating disorder. She was unaware of what that picture represented, and in fact, held it up as a picture of health in contrast to my present state. I chuckled and said, “I am so much more alive now than I was in that picture.” She looked shocked. I don’t blame her. Externally, I look so much worse now. The irony is strong.
Some days, I can’t handle looking in the mirror. The sickness is written all over my body. I feel shame, self-hate, and grief as I observe a version of myself that I hardly recognize. How do I hold this strange shift in my hands? I traded self-destruction for an illness that I have no control of the outcome. Would I go back to the eating disorder if it meant that I could have my body back from this monster? Not a chance. I can’t stand up, but I can feel the deep joy of watching a rainbow with my babies. I am in constant physical pain, but I also can feel the overwhelming power of the Holy Spirit as I sit in prayer and worship. In a body of death, as I die to myself, I come alive in crazy irreplaceable ways.
I would love to grow to love and appreciate the broken reflection in the mirror, to see past the flaws and evidence of illness and premature aging. I pray that God heals my insecurity and ushers me out of this unhelpful self-scrutiny. In the mean time, this is my life, and it is full and beautiful. Healing and death can co-occur in this paradoxical kingdom, and my life is evidence of God’s mysterious ways of stepping outside of our boxes.