Friday, July 6, 2012

5 Years. (July 7, 2012)

When I was 11 years old, I began a dieting routine that soon became the norm in my life. By the time I was 16, I was in and out of treatment programs and hospitals on a somewhat regular basis for an eating disorder that had claimed not only my (and my parents) financial health, but my physical health, my right mind and what remained of my soul. At the age of 24, I gave up. I believed I was never going to be able to take back what God had given me and in my anger and defeat, I tried to finish off what remained of His gifts.

I don't and never will remember making the decision. I'll never see myself hooked up to the plethora of machines that sustained my life and stole nearly all hope from the hearts of my bewildered parents as they watched me in a coma, dying in a sterile ICU unit in a cold, unfamiliar, east coast town. I'll never know the true terror that seized the heart of my sister, family, and friends as they languished in prayer for a miracle recovery from far away places, their minds full of questions.

I only have the privilege of embracing and celebrating the answer to those prayers: A life that remains, a life graciously returned.

Five years ago today I woke up.

For five years I have had the privilege of celebrating the triumphs of recovery, the failures of my humanity, and the relief of a God who does not change, does not forsake, does not turn away NO MATTER WHAT.

I've found freedom from the diseases, the habits, and the death that clung to me in the form of pursuit of perfection in nearly everything; free of the need to control. I am beyond blessed to have freedom from the physical, financial, and most of the relational consequences of the disease.

I pray, if God wills it, that in the next 5 years I will find freedom from the stigma and labels associated with the person I was when I was sick with those illnesses. I pray that those who believed I was a failure without hope, gain a new understanding of the disease that held me captive and release their judgement and ignorance; not for my benefit, but for those that remain, for those who will one day suffer a mental disease (maybe even themselves, personally) and need their support and understanding.

I pray my friends learn to embrace and not run from the reality of mental illness anymore than they would from a diagnoses of cancer or diabetes - because, in so many ways, they are the same; unwanted and uninvited illnesses that infect and impair different parts of the body or mind, both (and nearly just as often) fatal. Not that I in any way believe these diseases are to be compared - nor the experiences of individuals facing them, but I do hope for the respect of the fight I faced (that others are facing and will one day face) because there is hope! I can prove it. With God's help, I did.

Yet, with people applying labels and ignoring the severity (and validity of the need to treat) these illnesses, pushing them off as the modern day lepers of society hoping that if they are ignored long enough, they'll go away, many will never speak up, never seek help, never know that hope. The ignorance of people - that's the failure.

Not me. I'm alive and well.

Top Left: A dear friend who came to keep me company in the early days of my recovery.
Top Right: A totally staged picture - I was trying to make my friend laugh after a stressful day for both of us.
Bottom: My sweet niece and I enjoying the beautiful summer weather, June 2012.

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