Six months ago today, I cried my way out the doors of my treatment program wearing my flower crown and clinging to that heart shaped stone. I had been there for 32 short days. To this day, I can still feel the sheer terror that coursed through my veins as sobs wracked my not-as-fragile frame. I was not at all confident in my ability to maintain recovery outside the safety and security of that House on the Hill.
I have fought like hell to get to the place I’m at today, and I am proud of the woman I am becoming. The thing is, I still feel that fear sometimes. It takes different forms, but I still feel it. More often than not, it shows itself in my fear of letting go of the little things. Those fears of being alone, of not having a plan B, of not acheiving academic success now that I’m no longer sick. The tangible realities of recovery – giving up important relationships, being just a person without the clause of an eating disorder. As I wrote a couple of months ago, the fear that shows itself time and time again is the fear of my own ability to get better.
In all honesty, this week has not been an easy one. I was making poor choices with little regard to the consequences, but I also knew there was a line that I could not cross. I made the conscious choice not to cross it, even though I had multiple opportunities to choose otherwise. When I found out that yet another person that I cared about once upon a time passed away today, I began the swift downward spiral in my head. It happened last time too, but within an hour, I had managed to talk myself off the metaphorical ledge and turn my week around. I realized that if I didn’t choose differently, I stood to lose some of the most important people in my life, and this time…it would be on me.
I’m doing really well, and I know that I am because of weeks like this. Everything went wrong, I fell apart, and then I pulled myself together and kept putting one foot in front of the other. That’s what this is about. I have chosen to keep stepping further into the unknown, simply because it is my only option. For me, there is no other way. I am certain that as long as I continue on this trajectory, I am going to live a “recovered” life.
Regardless of how long a woman stays in the program, she is given a graduation ceremony on the day of, or in certain circumstances the day before, her departure from the home. This ceremony includes reading an Eater’s Agreement aloud, recieving words of encouragement and affirmations from the clients and staff alike, and blowing out a symbolic candle.
The Eater’s Agreement was one of the most significant assignments I was given during my time. My perfectionism kicked into overdrive when I sat down to write it, and I re-wrote it three times before I was finally satisfied that I wasn’t doing it wrong (i thought i was doing everything wrong while i was there. it was a thing.), but more so that I was saying everything I felt needed to be said.
The Eater’s Agreement is a tangible reminder of the critical recovery work that was started in the program, and it speaks to what your healthy self desires for your life. I wholeheartedly support the concept and think that it would be a valuable addition to any longer term residential program. Since I left the program six months ago, I have gone through multiple seasons where I read my Eater’s Agreement out loud every morning before I even put my feet on the ground. It served as a daily recommitment to the long-term life that I wanted, and a motivation to complete the everyday tasks necessary to acheive those long term life plans.
I don’t read it every day anymore, but every so often, I’ll go back and read it. The thing I love about it is that it speaks both to my past and my future. It’s a reflection and a road map simultaneously.
Given that I read this aloud six months ago today, I feel it is appropriate to share it once more.
Without further adieu….my eater’s agreement.
Until this point, I have spent my whole life running from emotion, shielding myself from vulnerability with my intellect. I have existed in a fragmented, broken manner for years. The time for that has come and gone.
From this day forward, I hereby agree to live wholeheartedly. I accept that in order to do that, I must allow myself to sit with intense emotion. I must be honest, and speak my truth even when it hurts. I agree to nourish my body, soul, and spirit on a consistent basis.
Through the years, I’ve fought so hard to maintain an image of strength that people look at and admire. Over the last four weeks, I have learned that true strength is not found in hiding my emotions. In fact, it’s entirely the opposite. True strength is found in vulnerability. It is found in the willingness to look at circumstances that are so overwhelming, and feel seemingly impossible and decide that I am going to do it anyways.
I agree to find my strength in vulnerability. I agree to stand firm in my recovery, not by fighting my way through every meal and pushing hard against every obstacle, but rather by acknowledging my weaknesses and surrounding myself with people who will build me up and fight alongside of me. I agree to ask for help when I need it, instead of trying to tough it out on my own.
I agree to turn my back on isolation. My eating disorder has convinced me that it has been my only companion for far too long. I am reclaiming my relationships. I agree to reach out when I feel alone, but more than that, I agree to invest my full self in each relationship that I choose to enter into. I acknowledge that I was created for community, and that people are an important part of my life.
I agree to accept that I have needs. I will voice them, and actively seek to have them met. I understand that to have needs is not a bad thing. To have needs is to be fully human. I agree to let go of my own judgment of myself for having needs, and instead radically accept that I am a worthy human.
I acknowledge that I have played the role of the victim in the past, but that role is no longer mine. I declare that I am taking back the power from my eating disorder, but also from everyone who’s ever tried to tell me that I can’t do this.
I’m walking out the doors of this house on the hill with knees knocking and hands shaking and my head held high. I am choosing to be proud of the work that I’ve done here, and I agree to continue the work that I have begun here. I agree to feel the fear and do it anyways.
This is not the end of my story. I will overcome.