Embrace: Alissa

Things to be happy about: a few days off work (soon, anyway), my younger sister’s upcoming wedding, finishing the Brooklyn Half, and this awesome Embrace:Me post from Alissa, of Balancing Act Clothing fame!  Her submission is extremely honest and life-affirming; it’s the perfect read for a Monday evening.

People in the eating disorders community often refer to their eating disorders by the name of “Ed”. Jenni Schaefer actually wrote a book about her recovery from Anorexia called “Life Without Ed” – I highly recommend it. I don’t really know any better way to describe an eating disorder than as a person separate from myself. Sometimes the voice seems so foreign, I’m sure its satan himself.

I’ve struggled with Ed since 2001. God has been 10 years? The first 3 years were textbook Anorexia. I was hospitalized in 2003 and with the help of a good treatment program, I made what I thought was a full recovery. From 2004-2009 I got married, moved to Arizona, bought a house, landed a pretty good job, ran 3 marathons – all while maintaining my recovery weight and having a pretty normal relationship with food and my body.

Then in March 2009 I had one of those life changing moments when my boss called me into his office and told me he had to lay me off. I spent a few months hibernating in my house trying to start a business or find a job – neither worked out. It wasn’t long before I was severely depressed and listening to every word Ed had to say to me. I crossed a threshold with my weight I had promised myself I’d never cross. That’s when I broke out the phonebook and cold called a local treatment center – I knew I needed help, and I didn’t want to end up hospitalized again.

Over the past two years the people at that treatment center have literally saved my life. Things didn’t get better right away. As a matter of fact they got a lot worse.  As we moved though different issues that came up, more things emerged. New issues I’d never fully delt with while hospitalized the first time. The depression snowballed and my appetite dried up. In the midst of it all, I lost a very close friend because in my low state I got drunk one night and texted her something terrible. I thought I’d never forgive myself. After that night, the burden of just getting through the day to day seemed so heavy that I began to lay awake at night and dream of taking my life. Depression and starvation are a wicked combo. Over several months, I carefully concocted a plan to end my life. I was convinced I’d be doing my loved ones a favor. I never quite found the courage to complete the plan, but I continued with plan B – draining my life out by slowly starving myself.

Thank God my therapist recognized the warning signs and with her coaxing I had enough power over Ed blurt out the plans I had. It was kind of a funny session, because after I told her, all I wanted to do was change the subject! I couldn’t believe I’d actually said it out loud. I hadn’t been afraid of death up until that point, but when I started to talk about it fear welled up inside of me. A little voice told me I didn’t really want to die, I just wanted help – I’m pretty sure that was God’s voice.

They say that once you hit bottom, you have nowhere to go but up, and that was exactly what happened. In fact, I pretty much skyrocketed up. My therapist recommended a fantastic Psychiatrist who hit the nail on the head with the right antidepressant. Within a week of taking it I felt like a new person. I started sleeping great and the scary suicidal thoughts completely dried up. I re-committed to my meal plan with my dietitian, I did some real work in therapy around an issue I hadn’t ever told anyone about. And what do you know, after 2 years, ED’s voice got quiet and the weight came back.

And here I am today, within the last month I have FINALLY reached my pre-ED weight. Life is good. I am happy. Am I happy with my body? No, not always. Ed hates every square inch of my body that no longer fits into half the clothes in my closet. Ed tells me I’m going to start double workouts and skipping lunch (I hold him off saying I’ll start that tomorrow!). He tells me I’m lazy and fat and he’s kicking and screaming and throwing a temper tantrum right this very minute.  I hear him, but I’m not obeying him anymore. I’m NOT letting him win.

My dietician recently told me that recovery is kinda like walking through a tornado. Its extremely difficult on both ends, but in the middle somewhere it gets easier. I’m on the outer edge of the tornado today. I’m almost there but not quite. Its a struggle to deal with Ed’s comments day in and day out. His voice is loud because he knows I’ve divorced him, and he’s pulling out the big guns to get me to come back to him.

But I’m not listening to ED anymore. My strong, recovered body recently got me across the finish line of a half marathon. That fact in itself defeats all the lies Ed tells me (that I’m a lazy failure of a person). Every time I head out for a run, I appreciate what a joy it is to live in my body. This body that God gave me has beautiful naturally blonde hair, porcelain skin, big bright hazel eyes, strong and defined quads, hamstrings, calfs and glutes. Sturdy, feet, ankles and knees. This body is beautiful, this I truly believe. Take that Ed – and go back to hell where you came from.

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  1. I love Alissa…. she’s a big reason why I actually got treatment for my ED. And I’m so sad that I didn’t realize how bad it had gotten for her… I know all too well the thoughts of taking your own life, it’s something I thought about often. (The only reason I couldn’t was also part of my own ED, perfectionism… I wanted to make sure that everything was all taken care of so my family and co-workers didn’t have to deal with a lot of things, but I was so tired from not eating that I just couldn’t put all the details into place.) This is a beautiful and encouraging post.

  2. Thanks for reading everyone. I love you too Jill 🙂 The good news is the worst is in the past – onward and upward as one of my friends often says. Lots of good things are in store in the next few months, lots to look forward to and lots to live for. And for you guys that think I’m brave – I must admit, I wasn’t brave enough to post this on my own blog! Not ready for my mom and the people I know outside the net to really know what I’ve been going through. I’m so thankful I have such a supportive online community to share with. Thanks again 🙂

  3. i ❤ alissa too 🙂

    i don't have personal experience… but i do know that it takes a LOT of guts and strength to admit you need help, to seek out help, and to be open to accepting such help. i'm glad you've continued to fight girl!

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