Aug. 10, 2016, 7:29 p.m.
I have to admit, dear reader, that I have struggled and struggled and struggled with this post. There were so many important things to write: about body image, about recovery, about fighting the good fight against this insidious, downright abusive thing we call ED. And then this tiny voice, deep inside, whispered: write about what you gain, when you let go.
Write about how you go out for lunch with friends on a moment's notice instead of sitting at home, alone, too anxious to go out to eat. Write about how you eat breakfast for dinner (and even, on days like today, dinner for breakfast) with your wee girl, Zoe, without a care in the world, instead of methodically planning out every last morsel of food that feels safe to eat. Write about how you can spend hours relaxing in the bath, or leisurely strolling down the street, or even very occasionally sleeping late all cozy and curled up in bed because you're not frantically moving your body at the gym for too many hours at a time. Write about how you laugh and cry and feel fear and pure joy, in ways that were never, ever, possible, before. Write about how you gained back your life, in giving up ED, eight and a half years ago.
This past February 2016, I decided that I was finished with writing my PhD, much as I decided, in February 2008, that I was finished with ED. I wrote about this decision here, and while it may seem very odd to compare giving up ED to giving up a PhD, there are similarities that have echoed through my life in these last few months that I must share. Was there grieving with each? Yes indeed. Were they both incredibly challenging decisions that rocked my life? Most definitely, yes. But did I capsize? No. Were there moments when I questioned my choice? Never (there most certainly were moments when ED screamed in my head that I was making the wrong choice-but my heart always knew what was right).
The point is, each time we give something up that no longer serves us, there will be grieving. There will be incredibly challenging moments or hours or days or weeks or even months. And yet, in the midst of all of this, there is what we gain, too.
When I gave up my PhD this past winter, my boyfriend kept reminding me of all of the things that I was gaining, even as I kept turning towards all of the things that I was losing, because in my grief I wasn't yet ready to let go. He reminded me when I had a hard time listening to the quiet yes inside my heart. And when I felt ready, after I had grieved enough, I celebrated gaining back my life, with my family and friends and delicious food and flower crowns and a ridiculous amount of dancing.
And so, if you have just decided to give up ED, or are pondering giving up ED, or gave up ED twenty years ago and feel it trying to creep back in, let me remind you of what my boyfriend was able to remind me: in giving up ED, you will gain back your life. As you grieve, and feel all kinds of swirling up and down emotions, and maybe even a bit out of control and as though you might capsize, remember this: remember what you gain, even in the midst of honouring the loss. And when you feel ready, celebrate gaining your life back with as much fanfare as you desire. Because you can bet that if giving up a PhD is cause for celebration, then giving up ED is cause for the biggest celebration that ever there could be. Personally, I recommend flower crowns and plenty of cupcakes.
Carrie Cox is a woman who recovered her life from anorexia nervosa over eight years ago. She is also an elementary teacher, workshop facilitator, and, most importantly, a mum to a beautiful inside-and-out girl, Zoe. Carrie acts as an advocate for eating disorder awareness and body awareness education in local, provincial and national media, and has been privileged to share her story at a wide variety of events for different organizations, including NEDIC. Most recently, Carrie gave up her PhD with much pomp and circumstance, which included wearing flower crowns and dancing in the sun with her wee girl. If you are interested in learning more about Carrie’s work, please contact her at email@example.com, or check out her blog at: adventuresinweebeekeeping.com
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