Today, in part two, she shares how she deals with eating disordered thoughts, how families can help a loved one and the lessons she’s learned from her struggles and recovery.
If you’d like to share your story of recovery from an eating disorder, please email me at mtartakovsky at gmail dot com. You can check out more stories here.
Q: Do you still struggle with eating disordered thoughts and behaviors? If so, how do you overcome them?
A: Behaviors, thankfully no. Thoughts, absolutely. I’ve found it incredibly helpful not to attempt to argue with or change my distorted cognitions. If anything, again, I think about what I cherish or where I’d like to go in life. When I do that, I realize that anorexia and my values are mutually exclusive. I can’t have both.
Again, there were 927,498,374,289,347 times that I chose anorexia over my values, because my values were unknown, abstract. They just seemed so far away. But then there came a day where they didn’t seem as far off.
I began to do tangible things to work toward what I want in life and suddenly, I had purpose. I remember this purpose when my thoughts grow loud and this helps me resist urges to participate in restriction, over-exercise, etc.
Q: What insights have you taken away from your struggles and recovery?
A: Life is not to be wasted. It is too incredible. Even prior to my eating disorder, I didn’t live life as I do now. Now everything is so much brighter and deeper. Not in a crunchy granola, cliché, lame way – in an, I have feelings and can express them honestly. I have thoughts and don’t always find the need to suppress them. I have relationships and enjoy them. Life is 3-D instead of 1-D.
My struggles were not in vain. I am so positive that I am here to change the world, and my eating disorder was the conduit to this revelation. The rest of the world may laugh and think I am naive, but I’ve overcome far too much to take no for an answer or to let others stand in my way.
Q: What can family members do to support a loved one who’s struggling with an ED?
A: The best thing family members can do to support a loved one who’s struggling is to remain a constant in his or her life. This definitely sounds cliché; however, standing by a loved one with an eating disorder seems incredibly challenging.
It takes an inordinate amount of patience. Do not give up on your loved one – be his/her strength when he/she can’t get by on his/her own strength.
Q: Anything else you’d like readers to know?
A: Rest assured, I wasn’t always in a place where I had a strong desire to get better. I did not always possess the willingness to listen to those who wanted to come alongside me and I have not always had the insight I have now. I had times where I did not speak to my family and friends, and days where I felt like they would never understand me.
There were the sessions where I would pretend everything was great and if I spoke any words to my therapist, they’d be words of denial and polite resistance. There were moments where I was convinced I could not overcome this. There were times where my family felt I was at war with them and there were times where I flaunted my noncompliance openly before them.
There were so many days where I threw pillows at my therapist, and stormed out of her office while screaming at her. There were the minutes where I knew beating the disorder was possible, but believed that I didn’t really want to beat it.
And then, there were moments where I allowed my family and friends be supportive and minutes where I could appreciate their love. There were sessions where I began to get honest and confide in my therapist. She was no longer just some lady in an office, she was an instrument helping me save my own life.
There were the minutes where I knew beating the disorder was possible, and that I, indeed, wanted to win. They were not always audible moments of revelation, or these large and blinding, holy miracles. They were small, subtle victories. And they didn’t always look like victories. The fight was in no way picturesque or anything that I’d want to do over.
Healing isn’t simple and it isn’t pretty. Oftentimes, the healing, the small, subtle victories felt painful and were challenging, but in the long term, the fight proved itself worthwhile. The victories were pixels; a smaller part of a larger picture. That larger picture, that picture is life. A life that provides room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy, for edification, for actualization and room for life in its totality, as it is meant to be experienced.