Good morning and welcome to this week’s Thinking Out Loud post, hosted by Amanda! Over the last week, with Thanksgiving on my mind, I have been thinking quite a bit about gratitude. I have been open about the fact that I have had some difficult weeks in the last month or so, and it can be easy for me to lose sight of how far I have come and all of the things in my life that I feel grateful for. So, this week, I’m sharing 10 things for which I feel immense gratitude.
1. Connection with friends and family
The first picture was taken last fall. Looking at it makes my skin crawl, and remembering that time in my life is almost enough to bring me to tears. In the depths of my eating disorder, I had lost the thing I loved and craved more than anything else: human connection. If you’ve been in a comparable situation, you likely know what I’m talking about. It is a desperate, lonely place where all thoughts are clouded by a fog of starvation. The second picture was taken this past weekend, and I see a world of difference between this picture and the first. Although I may stumble in recovery, I once again have the connection to others that makes life worth living.
When you have an eating disorder, it’s hard to care for or about anything else. I remember returning from summer camp last year and feeling entirely disinterested in my pets. Growing up, I was the girl overcome with emotion when a pet died, who needed to miss a day of school after such a tragedy. Yet, last summer I found myself suggesting to my mom that we euthanize one of our cats without batting an eyelash. I knew that I was on the right track in recovery when I started caring about my pets once more, and I am thankful for the love, entertainment, and nurturing opportunities provided by animals.
3. The beauty of winter
A year ago, I was too cold to appreciate how gorgeous winter can be. To exercise as much as possible, I forced myself to walk in the bitter cold as if it were a death march, falling and injuring myself multiple times. This year, my body can regulate its temperature well enough to endure beautiful walks in the snow and I no longer force walks upon myself when it is not safe to do so. Well, I did fall pretty hard while walking the dog the other day, but that was primarily due to my inherent clumsiness.
4. The ability to eat food prepared by others
For many months, my disorder insisted that I prepare all of my own food. To some extent, seeing things through the lens of my disorder, I understand this rationality. While many may think that those with anorexia do not experience hunger, that was not in any way my experience. I felt hunger more than I felt anything else. Because of that, I wanted to eat every single calorie that I would allow myself to eat. I was so devastatingly hungry that I desperately wanted each calorie that I was allowed to consume. Simultaneously, however, I was terrified of overeating and I thought I needed to make sure that was never a possibility. Thus I was trapped in a fruitless attempt to reach a perfect balance, where I ate as much as I was allowed, while never chancing accidentally eating too much. This balancing act made eating anything not prepared by me, anything that I could not know the exact caloric value of, impossible.
I am grateful beyond words for being able to enjoy foods prepared by others once more. A way that we can show our love for one another is by offering each other food, and I missed out on this opportunity to be nurtured when I was too obsessive to allow others to prepare food for me. Now, I get to enjoy tastes of things like this fucking incredible almond and cherry torte that my coworker brought in for a treat last week.
5. Quality, restorative sleep
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: sleep is one of the greatest gifts in life. The sleep graphs above are from one year ago and from just the other night. If I compare them, my mind is blown away by the difference. A year ago, I rarely experienced a good night’s sleep. Even if I did not wake up ravenously hungry during the night, I never felt fully rested. Now, more days than not, I wake up feeling rested and hungry for breakfast, but not feeling so hungry that I could gnaw off my left arm. I can now wholly understand why sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture, and I can’t fully express the beauty of experiencing quality sleep once more.
6. Therapy, and my therapist
I was never somebody who looked down on those that sought therapy (I studied social work, after all), but I certainly did not see it benefitting me. Now, I am thankful beyond measure for my last year and a half of sessions with a therapist. My therapist pushes me more than anybody else to pursue a full, genuine recovery. I have been tempted time and time again to settle for less than fully recovered when things get tough, but my therapist reminds me that my life can amount to more than that. She reminds me that I deserve better than my disorder when I struggle to remind myself, and I am eternally grateful for that.
8. Being able to relax
Anorexia ripped the ability to relax out from under my feet. I constantly had to be doing something, ideally something that burned a substantial amount of calories. These days, I can allow myself to relax much more easily. Whether that means lying in bed with a book, watching reality television, or doing yoga, I am glad that the dictator in my head that turned me into an uber-productive, calorie-burning machine has quieted down. I even had my first facial this morning, which was the best thing that my skin has ever experienced. Seriously, I now believe that heaven must consist of 24-hour facials.
9. The ability to help others
I’ve written about how good it felt to be able to give blood a few weeks ago, but I find myself delighted with being able to help others in much smaller ways, as well. Eating disorders are selfish, manipulative beings and I did very little to help others when I was at my sickest point. How could I? I couldn’t even help myself. A year and a half since beginning the process of recovery, I have it in my heart to do so much more for others. I now enjoy surprising people with little gifts, helping them out with chores, and giving my time and money to causes that I care about, which feels wonderful.
This list would not be complete without the inclusion of food. If it weren’t for food, the last year of recovery would not have been possible. As challenging as it is to accept, recovery is not possible without adequate nutrition. I could have spent hours upon hours in therapy, but without food I would not be where I am. And, without food, I will not continue to progress in recovery. I am undeniably privileged in the access I have to quality, life-sustaining food and I am thankful for that privilege.
I am thankful for so many things, and this list in no way includes all of them. Above all else, I am thankful that I crawled my way out of the deep hole of my eating disorder that I resided in a year ago. I am thankful for every person that has offered me a hand along the way, and I am thankful for the patience and kindness that has been shown to me as I have attempted to discover who I want to be in this world. Truly, my cup overflows with so many beautiful things and I can’t help but be grateful.