This year, I’m celebrating 3 years in recovery from my eating disorder. I’ve put a lot of thought into what I should say about this process as I celebrate 3 years of freedom. I’ve replayed the day that I finally surrendered in treatment over and over in my head. So, I feel like I should share the events of that day:
Irritated by my treatment team, I spitefully quit eating that week in treatment. For the longest time, I was able to convince myself that my eating disorder wasn’t serious because I wasn’t underweight. Media gives us a singular image of what an eating disorder looks like, and it wasn’t me. I remember seeing my therapist that day. I was on a heart monitor at the time, because the doctors were trying to pinpoint a problem with my heart. When I sat down, my therapist said, “So I hear you’re not eating. Here you are with a cardiac condition, and you aren’t eating,” to which I responded adamantly, “I do NOT have a cardiac condition.” Little did I know that 30 minutes later, I would be eating my words. After I parted with my therapist, I started having palpitations. I went to the nurse with the problem, and called the heart monitoring center. They registered the problem and told me to call an ambulance immediately. When the EMTs got there, they frantically monitored my heart and came to the conclusion that I needed to be rushed immediately to the hospital. They were frenzied in getting me into the ambulance, and as they were, a peace came over me. I told myself that freaking out at this moment would not help, and that this experience was either going to kill me, or teach me something. So, with that in mind, I relaxed (as much as you can with a heart rate of 250) and accepted what was happening. When I got to the hospital, nurses and doctors rushed to me, and explained to me what was about to happen. They were going to inject me with something that would stop and restart my heart. They explained how it would feel and exactly what would happen. The nurse found a vein immediately, and commented, “I don’t know why they couldn’t find a vein in the ambulance… there’s one right here” They injected me and lifted my arms in the air. My heart went from beating out of my chest to stopping abruptly. I could feel myself starting to slip away, and my arms going limp, when I heard them call out, “Noelle! Noelle! Stay with us, Noelle!” I remember being impressed with the fact that they were calling me by my real name and not my first name.Then slowly, like a treadmill starting to speed up, my heart started beating again, this time, normally.
Needless to say, the experience didn’t kill me, but it did indeed teach me something. It taught me several things actually. It taught me that you can do serious damage to your heart with an eating disorder over the course of 15 years, even without realizing it. I learned that I needed to listen to my treatment team, because they were just trying to save my life, and that if I really wanted to get better, I would need to do exactly as they told me, and eat exactly what they told me to eat. I vowed to take my treatment more seriously and to eat 100% of what they gave me, no matter what. February 4, 2012 when I sat down to lunch I giggled to myself to see that my lunch was a bowl of soup, full of red peppers, which I hate. I ate every last bite. It wasn’t easy, but when it was gone, I felt accomplished. I had done just as I vowed to do. Since that day, I have never looked back. I wish I could say I never struggle, but every time I eat is a challenge in one way another. Some days it is easy, and some are harder. Whenever I’m tempted to act on an eating disorder urge, I think back to that day. Remembering it helps me remember the power of a wake up call straight from God. This isn’t a joke, it is life or death. I need to take recovery seriously, every day. I need to nourish my body and give it the respect and care that it spent so many years lacking.
So rehashing the story helps me remember, and maybe sharing it will help someone out that realize the same things I realized that day. It is so important that we take care of ourselves. The human body is fiercely resilient, but we only get one in life, so we must care for it while we have it.
So, when step 9 came around, my sponsor suggested that I write an amends letter to men, which upon my dismay she edited it to be an amends letter to the good men out there. Conveniently enough, I never got around to it. I never made that amends. Well, as those in recovery and anyone who believes in a loving higher power can attest to, sometimes God makes you do the steps that you didn’t want to do. With the #YesAllWomen and #NotAllMen trend going around, I thought this would be a perfect time to write my amends letter to the good guys out there, so I can finally release my bitterness. So, here goes.
Dear Good Guys,
Hey, I guess I haven’t talked to most of you before, but I’m Noelle. I’m working the twelve steps and a part of those steps is making amends to all people we have harmed (except when to do so would injure them or others). I’m 30 years old at this point, so I guess I should make a point of apologizing to you. I apologize for generalizing you, for lumping you in with all the men that have hurt me. I was wondering the whole time where the f&%$ you were, but according to my sponsor, I can’t hold you accountable for something you did not know was happening to me, so I apologize for blaming you. I’m apologize for grimacing at you every time I walked by you. That probably wasn’t very nice of me. I apologize for assuming all men are sociopaths, when the percentage is actually significantly smaller and you were out there being a decent human being with genuine feelings and a heart for your fellow humans. To those of you I’ve gotten to know on an intimate level, I’m sorry for treating you like dirt, just because that is what had been done to me. I realize now that you, too, are human beings and I was being just as low as the men I’ve held so much resentment towards all this time. I’m especially sorry to the ones who fell into love/like with me and I ignored because I was annoyed by your “neediness.” I could’ve found a more compassionate way to handle that. Overall, I just want to say I’m sorry for being exactly like the a holes that have inspired me to build this gigantic wall around my icy, lifeless heart. From now on, I will do things differently.
God has recently made it very clear to me that I’ve been holding on to this bitterness for dear life, and it is time to let it go. I honestly do not know how to function without it. All I have left protecting me now is Jesus Christ, and I know that will be more than sufficient, but I feel naked nonetheless. So, this is me, making amends to the good guys, and giving my dear, lovely, comforting hatred of the male species over to God. He’ll know what to do with it. Because honestly, it never has actually served me well.
These past couple of weeks have not been the best for me, but today was the pinnacle of that theme. I won’t go into details, but it was the darkest day I have seen in almost two years. My recovery almost slipped from my grasp, and I became once again certain that the good is all over and my life is more work than I am capable of. For a few moments, I believed that my loved ones would be better unburdened by my presence in their lives.
The moment was overwhelming, and I am still reeling from the whole event. I was feeling quite hopeless, but as I was driving home tonight, a thought hit me. My sister and I had been pondering what could possibly the cause of my troubles. Do my meds need adjusting? Is it because I’m supposed to start doing trauma work with my therapist? Am I going too long between meals?
The main question being: What could be wrong?
The thought that hit me on the way home tonight was this: What could I be doing right?
It is a common belief among those who share my faith that if you’re going through hard times, you must be doing something right. The idea being, you are on the right path, you’re about to accomplish something big for God, and the devil is trying to bring you down, or stop you in any way he can. Maybe, I thought, I’m doing something right, and the devil is trying to keep me from proceeding. I had been looking at the problem all wrong.
So, I will tell you what I am moving forward with, now more confidently than ever.
I am applying to seminary. I feel called to work in ministry with the LGBTQ population. I believe there is a whole wealth of experience and spiritual growth for both the LGBTQ population and the Christian population, as they relate to LGBTQ people. I definitely think the devil is, and has been for years, coming between a lot of people and their relationship with God. The church has always been unwelcoming and unsympathetic toward the LGBTQ population. And I resolve to be a part of changing that.
Also, I’m definitely going to address the traumas I have experienced. Obviously, I can do great things once I move past these issues, and the devil is trying to keep that from happening. I now have more resolve than ever about addressing my trauma. I know I can accomplish great things on the other side of the work I need to do.
So, suck that, satan!
You know, it is pretty funny (or maybe a little sad) that I look as this blog and realize I haven’t really written here since April of 2013. Just a few months more and it would’ve been a whole year. In 2014, I resolve to change that.
I guess it is possible I was too busy living life to sit down and write about it, but that is still no excuse. Writing is one of my passions, and this blog is one of my outlets, and I plan on honoring both of those things more in the coming year.
A little bit about 2013: This past year was a big one for me. I drove across the country from San Diego, CA to Greensboro, NC and am now living in the frigid midwest or northeast. Somewhere in between, I guess. I have spent so much time with my nephews, watching them grow and absorbing their cuteness, and honestly, every time I see them after a day or two, I’m still shocked by how adorable they are. I can’t get enough, although I’ve had my moments where I was grateful to be able to go home at the end of the day. I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to be such a huge parts of their lives, helping them become who they are meant to be, and yet I have none of the pressure of parenting, which I now realize is not meant for me at all. I get an inside glimpse at the responsibility involved in parenting, and know I haven’t the stomach for it at this point in my life. Although, I have been considering for quite some time now, the prospect of eventually being a foster parent, at some point down the road. I feel there is a big need for loving, caring foster parents, and that is a role I could one day hope to fulfill.
I find myself censoring myself a lot on Facebook, because I have two sets of friends who are polar opposites of each other. I don’t say much there anymore because I risk offending one side or the other. I consider this my neutral ground, where I can be more candid. Those who are meant to, will read it. So I will confess that along with having applied to grad school for social work, I have also applied to seminary, and that I’m hoping prayer will lead me in the right direction.
God blessed me with such a beautiful year, that I could not be more grateful. I cannot think of any ways in which this past year could’ve been better or more fulfilling. I spent this past Sunday telling my story to a group of people for the first time since treatment. I was terribly nervous at the prospect, but I honestly blocked it out right after doing it. I was glad it was over, and didn’t want to torture myself with lamentation over what I meant to say, or should’ve said. I wanted to let it be. What I was meant to say was said, and I can leave it at that. It was a big accomplishment for me to end the year off.
I want to set my intentions for 2014. First of all, I will come here and write more. After all, I’m not paying for this URL to let it sit unused. I will finish my application process for school. I will pray more and spend more time in the word. I will work toward being gainfully employed, and work toward moving past the traumas I have experienced in the past. I will learn to open myself up more to other people, and thus make more friends. I will find the church where I’m meant to be. I will spend more time praising God for all of the blessings I have received. I will continue growing in recovery, and sharing my recovery with people who can benefit from my experience. I will continue to help raise my nephews into considerate, compassionate, and gentle young men. I will hold those I love a little tighter, and savor my time with them a little more.
Those are my intentions.
I hope God blesses you with a joyous year! Thank you for reading, come back again soon! Sending my love!
Take it from someone who has been there, it really does get better.
For those of you who don’t know the It Gets Better Project all started in 2010 when Dan Savage, in response to a rising number of suicides linked to bullying, made a youtube video with his partner to inspire hope for young people facing harassment.
The It Gets Better Project’s website says: “The It Gets Better Project’s mission is to communicate to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth around the world that it gets better, and to create and inspire the changes needed to make it better for them.”
The idea is great, but I also believe it is universal.
It doesn’t just apply to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth, nor victims of bullying or high school students.
Whoever finds this post and is struggling: It really DOES get better. I promise.
I’ve recently been following the heartbreaking story of Rehtaeh Parsons, a young woman who was raped, then bullied until she decided to take her own life. I wish this message had found her. Because it does get better, even for those of us who have lived through the most devastating, terrifying, and degrading form of violence there is. Even for Rehtaeh, it could’ve gotten better.
I’m in tears as I write this, because I didn’t make it to this conclusion for lack of trying to kill myself. I had two life-threatening attempts, but somehow lived to know that these things come out on the other side.
Life isn’t as hopeless and painful as it can, at times, feel. I know there is plenty of pain to be felt, and despair to be trudged through, but I know something else too. I know that as dark as it can get, it can get that much brighter. I know that these feelings that consume, even they will fade away and make place for new ways of feeling.
I used to be so certain that the darkness would last forever. For me, it was a good 28 years or so before the clouds started to part and make way for light. I can look at that time now and understand what growth came from it. I know that I am that much stronger because I went through it. And I see now how my experience can benefit others.
That’s everything this blog is about.
Sometimes, in my darkest moments, I had a twinge of hope that kept me alive, even when I wanted so badly to die. My hope plagued me, because it seemed to work against all the hurt I knew in my life. I just wanted to let go, and sometimes, I did. But I know something about that nagging particle of hope still imbedded somewhere deep within. It was a glimpse. It was a glimpse at what could be. And for me, what now is.
I wish Rehtaeh could’ve known this. There are so many people out there right now, who I wish could know this. I don’t even know your names. I didn’t even know Rehtaeh, but right now, I cry for her like she was a dear friend.
If you’re looking for some shred of hope, a reason to stay alive, I pray the words of this stranger can be that for you.
I don’t believe suicide is selfish or wrong, because I know it is not an act entered into lightly. I know the despair it takes to bring you to that decision. But it cannot be an option, because your life has worth, and meaning, even if you don’t believe it. The anguish doesn’t become extinct through your death, it is simply passed on to others. To those you loved most. No, the anguish is defeated only through living a meaningful life. Through sharing your struggles with others. Through finding your joy.
None of us are as alone as we sometimes feel.
It may feel like it is taking to forever to get there. But you WILL get there. It may feel like more than you can bear. But you CAN bear it. You may think no one understands, but I do. You may think this darkness is all you will ever know, but you will live your fair share of joy as well.
It really DOES get better. I promise.
IF YOU ARE IN CRISIS, CALL: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
I finally reached step 12. Although, steps 9-12 are an on-going process. Nine is making amends. Ten is taking a daily inventory, and admitting when you’re wrong. Eleven is working toward a conscious contact with God, through prayer and meditation. Twelve is helping others the way you have been helped.
I have worked all twelve steps, but these last four, I will still be working daily.
To be honest, I’m writing this blog post as encouragement to myself, prior to making more amends. I’ve made an effort to do two so far, but going back to where I’m from is going to give me an opportunity to make a lot of amends with a lot of people. Most of these, I am glad to do. An apology for all of these people is long overdue.
There are a few, however, that I am scared to approach. I’m sure a lot of people face at least one that they are hesitant to do.
See, the process is one of humility. We admit that we were wrong, even in the cases where the other had a hand in it as well. It isn’t our place to expect an apology from them. We are only responsible for our wrongdoings. It is our chance to do what we can to clean up the mess we have left in our destructive wake.
Through the process of our inventory, we started to become humbled by finally facing head-on, the harms we had caused others. The amends continues to humble us, but also empowers us. It is our chance to clean the slate, and an opportunity to do things differently next time. Finally, we can do all in our power to right our wrong, even though time cannot be rewound and actions cannot be undone. It is a powerful step.
I’m hoping you all will pray for me in this process, that I will have the strength to do even the hardest ones, completely and with compassion.
This isn’t going to be easy, but I do hope it will help me in my work toward being a better person, and living a more fulfilling life.
As adamant as I am about the issue of sexual violence, I feel that maybe my take on it can come off misleading. See, because of my own history with sexual violence, it is hard for me to actually be a part of the fight.
In 2009, I had a therapist tell me to “stop watching the news.” So, I did. Around the time, I had become fixated on the Shanyia Davis story. A mom sold her 5 year old daughter into sexual slavery. The daughter was later found raped and murdered, then tossed on the side of the road, like trash. I was dumbfounded and destroyed by this story. It pretty much shattered my world, and I couldn’t stop following it. How could someone do that to a child? How could a mother do that to her own child? I couldn’t understand it, and it made a frightening reality come to light for me: there is evil in this world, beyond my comprehension, and even with what I’ve been through, I’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg.
I wish I could tell you that when I stopped watching the news, everything got a little lighter for me. And maybe it did, a wee bit. Even to this day, I go online, and pick and choose headlines based on their triviality. “Reality TV is going down the toilet–literally” The more serious stories, I avoid. I know enough just by the headlines. “Police: Florida man linked to up to 1 million child porn videos, images” The headline says enough. I don’t need to read about this pig, and start to mull over the fact that those 1 million videos and images, mean that tens of thousands of children were forced to participate in sexual acts to make that stuff. I know that already. Although, maybe some people don’t. Maybe a lot of people are completely desensitized to that stuff, and don’t even consider those children when they read a headline like that. For them, I say: READ THE ARTICLE, and think about it.
For those of us who have survived similar experiences, I say: Don’t torture yourself.
No, I understand enough without subjecting myself to it. I heard tidbits about the Steubenville rape case. Enough to get a gist. I cannot read an article about it. I simply can’t. Maybe this makes me a hypocrite, or maybe it makes me self-preserving, I don’t know. All I know is, I just can’t stomach it and hold my world together.
Similarly, I write about the fight to end this stuff, because I cannot actually participate in the fight. I’ve been on the front lines of the battle, and I know how hopeless it is there. For those of you who can stay there and fight this battle, I thank you. I know what it feels like to notice that the army is lacking in numbers, and that all the people at your side are survivors. A lot of times, it is survivors like me, who cannot manage to stay and fight and hold their own lives in tact, but they fight anyway, their very livelihood falling by the wayside. I understand that.
It feels like screaming endlessly in a sea of people, who know you’re there, but choose not to acknowledge you.
I cannot actively delve into the numerous cases of sexual violence and survive. This is what I learned in recovery. If I want to survive, I have to take a step back. Sometimes, this makes me feel helpless and useless. Most of the time, I know it is what keeps me breathing.
I learned that in recovery, but I also learned something from my relationship with God: This battle isn’t just a physical one, or an emotional or mental one. This is a spiritual battle too.
Now this is where my two worlds collide. I know a lot of feminists working without God, and a lot of God-loving people, working without feminism. For me, these two worlds are not mutually exclusive.
I cannot be out there fighting emotionally, mentally, physically, or judiciously, but I can fight like hell spiritually.
I’ve started praying feverishly on the subject of sexual violence. I learned from my relationship with God, that the fight to end sexual violence isn’t hopeless, it just can’t be fought alone. Human beings simply don’t have the power to end it based on the sure will of the fight. We aren’t that powerful. But I fully believe, that with God at our backs, this battle can be won.
I pray for the victims, that they find healing and wholeness despite their experiences. And I pray for those who are on the front lines fighting, that they have the strength and ferocity to not back down, no matter what. I pray for the un-listening, uncaring world, that their eyes and hearts are opened to this battle, and that they join in the fight. I declare miracles over this battle, that it be won by the side that is good. And I rebuke evil’s grasp on so many of us through such violence. I declare victory against evil, and an end to sexual violence.
For those non-believers, you probably think this is useless. But that’s ok, we all have our opinions. Maybe prayer isn’t for you, but luckily, there are plenty of ways to join in the movement.
For those believers, I hope you’ll join me in prayer.
We have the power to end this battle. We just have to claim it.