The 13th of August is actually the day that marks 5 1/2 years, so I am posting this a little early given that I will be out of the country on the 13th & likely without access to the blog. (but will I still carry myself extra joyfully & maybe do some cartwheels around Cuba to celebrate? it’s likely). I wanted to be sure I wrote & published this before I left because over the past few years it has become somewhat of a tradition for me to write a reflective post whenever I hit a whole or half year anniversary in recovery, and doing so is important to me for 2 reasons. First and foremost, I know there are people who read this blog solely for the posts surrounding mental health, eating disorders, & recovery, and I want to share whatever hope I can with them. While writing about such an important & vulnerable part of my life still makes me a little anxious, I think in our society today, it’s important to allow ourselves to be vulnerable, especially as a means of breaking stigmas. I know that back when I was first beginning recovery, I would seek out people to talk to who I knew could relate, and I would always find myself reading articles or blogs online that could help me navigate it all. So now that I am where I am, its become important to me that this blog serves as that source of hope for people who may need it, just as I did. I also write these posts to keep track of this journey for myself, because my recovery is & continues to be the reason that I am here today, and I think that’s something to celebrate, both in writing & in life.
As I approach 5 1/2 years, I think one of the biggest things I’ve been learning recently is that being in recovery is not a weakness. As open as I’ve been about this part of my life, the whole ‘recovery does not indicate weakness’ concept is a fairly new one to me, and it’s something I’m still working on believing entirely. I am a perfectionist, and while none of our lives, realistically, are perfect, having struggled with an eating disorder and being in recovery is a part of my life that stands out to me as ‘imperfect,’ and my mind likes to remind me of that. But what I’m learning is that it’s okay to be in recovery and not yet be fully recovered, and that it’s not a weakness.
I had this belief in my head that I could not simultaneously be in recovery and also be an effective leader in ministry, or an aspiring pastor. When I interviewed with DCOM for my certification interview, we talked about this a lot, and I had no idea walking into that interview that along with being overjoyed about becoming certified, I would also be encouraged in my recovery by the nine or so laity & pastors, including my DS, who interviewed & certified me. It stirred up in my head this crazy idea that maybe this isn’t the end all be all — that I can excel in life and in ministry while also being in recovery. While there is no doubt in my mind that I will be fully recovered one day, it is a beautiful thing to know that I will be supported by those both in my professional and personal life until that day comes. I don’t think the members of DCOM will ever understand the extent to which they reassured me of this truth — that it’s okay to have crap to go through and that you can struggle and still lead well & effectively in the Church (and anywhere else!) Given that my recovery and my call to ministry are two of the most important things in the world to me, believing this has been a life changing thing. In retrospect, I can’t believe I ever let myself think I couldn’t continue in the process towards pastoral leadership unless I no longer had a figurative mountain to climb, or that I could not be in the process of recovery without failing miserably as a leader. But the reality of it is, we all, at some point in our lives (more than once) will have various mountains to climb, because we’re human beings! But that does not at all make us incapable of doing anything, especially not what God has called us to do. That is a truth that sunk in even more for me the day that I sat down in a church one Sunday and listened to a pastor preach about their recovery from an addiction. To hear that being preached from the pulpit & to see someone stand before me who is in recovery, and also a pastor was so helpful in my walk. It was reassurance that I think I needed in order to begin believing that it’s okay to not be perfect, cliche as that sounds. As I sat there, God was like, “hey, you don’t have to choose between being in recovery and being a pastor, you know.” And that is just one of the many examples of how I did not come to this realization all on my own. Along with God I have a lot of people to thank for helping me get this ingrained into my head. The mentors, pastors, & all of the people in my life who I look up to, I once did everything in my power to hide my recovery from, for fear of coming across as weak — but now? They’re some of my biggest supporters in recovery. Not too long ago, I was tagging along on hospital/house visits with one of my pastors, and it was about lunch time and we hadn’t finished our visits yet, so they said, “we’re going to get lunch out, unless that makes you nervous,” and I’ll never forget being taken aback, in a good way, that someone I look up to would be conscious of something like that. Comments like that still make me step back in awe because it rips apart my belief that this is something people will look at me differently for, treat me as fragile or weak for, or something that nobody could ever be ‘normal’ about. But those are lies. Instead, these people who may not even begin to understand what recovery is, still pray for & with me, they listen, they let me vent or cry, they check in with me, & they willingly hold me accountable – these people are nothing short of a blessing from God. It may have taken me 5 years, but I am grateful to slowly but surely be getting over seeing my recovery as some sort of weakness, and instead, seeing it as something that could actually make me a better person, leader, student, friend, & future pastor. We all have crap to go through, amen? Even those whom we think so highly of, or deem perfect. But that crap that we go through doesn’t deem you or me incapable of excelling, or incapable of being used by God. Whatever your mountain is, whatever challenge you face, remember it does not have to stunt your ability to thrive, and it does not make you weak. These obstacles you face aren’t supposed to hinder you, deem you weak, make you ashamed, or discourage you. They’re supposed to help create you.
Personally, it’s not that often that I say out loud the 6 words, “I am in recovery from anorexia” but in my mind, they’re words that carry with them strength, when they used to be words that carried with them shame. I remember when I wasn’t in recovery, still in the very depths of the disorder, and how miserable I constantly was. But now I see where I am in recovery — 5 1/2 years in — and I see how happy & in love with life I am. 5 1/2 years is a long time, and its been hard work, and still is hard work some days and some weeks. But it is beautiful. So don’t lose hope. You’ll get there. Remember recovery is a process more so than it is a choice that you make just once. I say and I write that all the time but it’s a truth that I don’t think can be acknowledged too much. Recovery is a choice you make day after day after day, meal after meal after meal, and sometimes, moment after moment after moment. I am able to have a healthy relationship with food & eat all of the peanut butter m&ms and ice cream I want, I am so very happy with where I am and where God is calling me and am able to exercise because I genuinely love it and want to make my body strong. I am so much better off than I was 5 1/2 years ago, & in every possible aspect of life — mentally, physically, emotionally. But eating & food? It’s still a struggle some days. And on those days, I just have to fight a little harder. That is the reality of recovery from an eating disorder, or recovery from any illness. It’s not a perfect road. It’s a process, and it’s not one that you can rush. But it’s worth it — more worth it than I could even begin to write here. If you’re struggling, I want you to know that. I want you to know that you are not alone in your struggle and also want you to know that you are strong enough to fight. It’s going to be hard, so you’re going to need to fight like hell, and I know it feels impossible, but it’s not. Remember that having a mental illness of any kind does not make you weak. It’s just something you’ve been handed to combat and overcome, and you are fully capable of doing just that, so do not let yourself believe otherwise, and don’t let anyone else make you believe otherwise, either. You are strong, and you are capable. Study those words until you believe them, and never let yourself forget them. I didn’t, I haven’t, and it’s why I’ve reached 5 1/2 years. I believe in you!