This December I will celebrate 10 years eating disorder free. As I reflect on the past decade, I am in awe of the countless ways that my life has changed for the better, and by the healing that has been able to take place in my heart, mind, and spirit.
I never used to believe in “total recovery”. I didn’t see how it could be possible to ever be free of something that gripped my life with so much power and fury. I thought it would always be a part of me—something that, at the very least, I would keep tucked away in my closet until the moments when I really needed help coping with life.
But over the past decade I have disproven this belief. I have lived, and walked, and celebrated, and suffered through all of life’s ups and downs, all eating disorder free. I have made it through seasons of extreme anxiety, fear, and doubt without turning to my former vice to “save me”. I see now that when I destroyed the beast 10 years ago, it stayed dead. And I am so thankful!
But I will not suggest that it has always been easy, or that there haven’t been challenges along the way. I will not say that the unhealthy mindsets completely disintegrated a decade ago, never to return. I will not say that sometimes I don’t still struggle with distorted thinking when it comes to my value, my health, and my body.
Pregnancy has brought this struggle to the forefront for me, in a way that nothing else in the past decade ever has. It has made me wonder if perhaps one of the reasons I have never “had to” return to my eating disorder is because I have always maintained enough control over my physical appearance to continue feeling somewhat “safe”.
While I have not been hyper-vigilant about it, my weight has never really surpassed the point it was at before my eating disorder began as a teenager. That would have been scary for me. But as it turns out, I have learned to maintain a healthy weight and just never really had to battle with pushing past that fearful number. And perhaps, for me, that has been somewhat of a subconscious comfort.
Now, however, I weigh more than I have ever weighed in my life. And yes, naturally I should, because I am just about 26 weeks pregnant. And logically I can embrace that; celebrate it even! But when it comes to seeing the numbers on the scale, and when it comes to all the comments people make about my growing body, that little girl inside of me—my broken past-self—starts to freak out. And I will admit that I am struggling to know how to navigate these confusing feelings, brought to life by all of this new attention my changing body is getting me.
Uncomfortable is the best word to describe it. It makes me uncomfortable when people talk about how big my belly is. It makes me uncomfortable when I step on the scale and see how much weight I have gained (and to be clear, I don’t own a scale, so this only happens on occasion at prenatal checkups or at a friend’s house). And it makes me uncomfortable that my body is now the centre of everyone’s attention. It sort of reminds me of that horribly awkward recovery stage that I went through as a teenager, when they re-fed you at the hospital to get your weight back up, and everyone started constantly telling you how “healthy” you looked… No one in recovery wanted to hear that!
Now, to set the record straight, I am not in that unhealthy space anymore. And I DON’T hate my body right now. I love my body. I am SO thankful for my body, and so aware of the miracle involved in the simple fact that I was able to conceive this baby and even carry her to this point, considering all the damage my body has lived through in the past. Furthermore, I am not mad at people for making comments about my body! I absolutely know that no one is trying to make me feel uncomfortable, and I genuinely appreciate how excited people are to celebrate with me! I am grateful for that and I deeply value it.
So all of that said, please understand that this blog is absolutely not:
- A rant to send out a passive-aggressive message to people, communicating that they should no longer say anything to me about my body or my pregnancy.
- A cry for help from a pregnant lady who is struggling with an eating disorder, or even the temptation to engage in one—in fact, nothing could be farther than the truth. I am taking very good care of my body and my baby!
- A statement saying that I am not coping well or that I hate being pregnant.
Rather, here’s what I want to communicate:
- Pregnancy is hard, and it presents different challenges to all women. For me, it has resurfaced some old feelings and struggles that existed in the past, and right now I am trying to learn how to navigate those things in a healthy way.
- I may be mentally struggling to wrap my mind around my pregnant body and weight, but I am SO in love with my baby and so thankful for the opportunity to carry her in my body and to get to start being her mom already, even before she is born.
- I have experienced total recovery from an eating disorder, but I am learning that mental pathways still need to be reforged, even decades later. This is not a bad thing, but a beautiful part of the process, and a welcome task that comes to us when we are ready to take on the next step. And I am ready for this one.
- I don’t want anyone reading this to feel that they should change anything about the way they interact with me regarding my pregnancy or body. The issues outlined above are not your issue… they are mine. And I’m writing this blog today because I need to process these feelings, not because I want you to stop being excited about my baby!
Finally, if you can relate, I’d love to hear from you. I think I had this insane misconception about pregnancy that everyone just loves it, thinks it is the best thing ever, and always feels super flowery and positive about their pregnancy bodies. But this has not been my experience, nor has it been for many other women! Pregnancy carries a lot of challenges with it that you didn’t see coming! So if you can relate to struggling with your growing pregnancy body when everyone else around you seems to want to talk about it and nothing else… leave me a comment and share some thoughts!