Please note that this is an Archived article and may contain content that is out of date. The use of she/her/hers pronouns in some articles is not intended to be exclusionary. Eating disorders can affect people of all genders, ages, races, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, body shapes, and weights.
I was fighting a losing battle. My army reserves were depleted and I was contemplating surrendering and accepting failure. I was exhausted from the uphill struggle and I continually found myself in a dark room with no known exit or source of light. My ever-weakening body clung on to the last whisps of endurance that my weary soul tried hopelessly to generate from nothing. I was trapped in the death grip of a powerful downward cyclone that held me captive. I felt absolutely helpless and forgotten. My life was coming to an end and I was easily allowing it to happen. Bulimia was becoming the victor and I, the prisoner of a war….the war for my life.
I remember the day clearly in my head. Battle-scarred and exhausted, I entered the inpatient unit at Center for Change. My body was weak and drowning from the hell I put it through. My soul felt like nothing but blackness. I did not see the glimmer of light that others seemed to see in me. Little did I know that the next 2 ½ months would allow me to reclaim my life and help me again see my own inner light.
While at the Center, I heard the analogy of a vase being compared to a basketball. A vase is a fragile structure which is beautiful on the outside but hollow on the inside. It is held up by its outer walls and should it be dropped, it would shatter intomany pieces which would never again be able to take the form of the perfect, flawless vase. On the contrary, a basketball is flexible and adaptable. It counteracts outside pressures with its own inner strength. Should the basketball be dropped, it will easily bounce off the ground and rebound upward with relatively no decrease in value.
Every human being has elements similar to the basketball or the vase. People with vase-like qualities do poorly when faced with trials and hardships in their lives; their only source of strength and structure is based on what can be seen by others on the outside. On the contrary, people with basketball-like qualities are more able to withstand the problems that they may encounter in life because they carry their own source of inner strength. They do not depend on others for acceptance.
While at Center for Change, I was introduced to many new ideas and tools that have helped me to become more like a basketball and less like a vase in the way that I deal with problems. These new insights not only give me the advantage in the war against my eating disorder, but they also help me to prepare myself for personal hardships that I certainly will face in the future. I would like to suggest 6 ideas I learned while at Center for Change that have helped me in my life and that I believe will help others dealing with an eating disorder or other such hardship.
1. We can become stronger because of our trials.
Just as a child learns to walk, he must struggle to first sit up, scoot around on his belly, crawl on his knees, stand up, and eventually walk. As the child progresses in this learning process, he learns how to coordinate his limbs and how to keep his balance. Each time he struggles and falls, he learns from his mistakes and improves his efforts. If he never new what is was like to fall, he would never learn the value of being able to walk. Like this child, we too can learn from our mistakes and take from them tools we can use in other parts of our lives. Our weakness truly can become our strengths. In addition to personal growth, we can use our experiences to help others as they struggle with similar trials. In my own life, I would like to share with others what I have learned from by battle with bulimia in the hope that I can help them.
2. This too shall pass.
This reassuring phrase reminds me that if I patiently hold on, my struggles will eventually lessen. When I feel depressed and hopeless, I tell myself that I have felt this way before and that I will again feel happiness and peace if I simply keep fighting and allow time to pass. I liken this to a maze in which I am traveling. Sometimes I feel like I am going in hopeless circles, but as long as I keep working and don’t allow myself to become stagnant, I will eventually discover a new passageway where I will again be able to see my path ahead of me.
3. It really doesn’t matter.
This idea reminds me to keep the “big picture” in mind whenever I struggle. The truth is that most things in life really do not matter. Whether or not I eat a candy bar is not going to have a huge effect on my life. When we are faced with a struggle, it is helpful to ask if it is truly important. Will thiseffect me years from now, months from now, or weeks from now? Most of our struggles become overbearing because we give them more weight than they really hold. As long as we keep our ultimate goals and desires in mind, we can learn to overlook the small stumbling blocks that really don’t matter and we can prevent them from overtaking our sense of peace.
4. We can’t see it all now.
As we deal with life’s problems, it is helpful to remember that we can’t see or understand everything right now. To understand this idea better, I like to use the example of a young horse in training. One of the first lessons the horse learns is to move in a circle on the end of a rope around the trainer (a process known as “longeing”). When first introduced to this, the horse will often resist and put up a fight. In the process of resisting, the horse only makes it harder for himself. If he would just simply go in a circle, he would be rewarded. Like ourselves, the horse cannot see the end goal or the purpose for the hardship and so he struggles more than he would otherwise have to.
4. Concern yourself only with the present.
If we can learn to concern ourselves with the present only, we will avoid a great deal of useless worry. Depression usually comes when we are physically in the present, but our thoughts are about the past. We worry and feel badly about events that have already occurred, but we can do nothing about. Anxiety usually comes when we worry about what could happen in the future. If we could learn to let go of the “could haves” and the “what ifs”, our lives would flow much mores smoothly. If we stop worrying about the stuff that we can’t change and focus on what we are doing with ourselves at this very moment in time, we will become much more useful and productive in our lives.
5. Reliance on a higher power
Finally, the last idea I want to suggest is allowing ourselves to rely on something stronger than ourselves. This particular tool has been the most important one in my life. The knowledge I have of my own purpose in this life and the love that my Heavenly Father has for me has helped me more than anything else could. By putting my trust in Him, I am reminded that I am not alone in my struggles and that by relying on Him, I can overcome whatever is thrown into my path.
In conclusion, I want to express my hope that the ideas I have shared might be of use to another person like me who is struggling with trials in his or her life. I fully believe that by following these principles, I will be able to develop the inner strength necessary to, like the basketball, rebound from life’s trials. As I work to empower myself from within, I will be able to permanently defeat my eating disorder and never again let it come into my life.