This is me. My story of recovery.
Up until this moment, I lived with a secret. A secret that has consumed so much of who I am today. One that I am now, finally, ready to share. This is me, Deanna Stephens. And this is my story.
The Beginning of My Story of Recovery
How did it start? I often ask myself this question. Pinpointing the official start of my journey has been the hardest part of my recovery. Trying to remember the exact moment when the switch flicked in my brain and I began to focus on my weight, body size and shape and the need to over exercise. Answering the how and why has been part of the constant battle in my head. I have come to the realization that these are questions I may never find the answers to.
The road to recovery has not been easy.
What I do know is: even though it’s been hard and continues to be hard, recovery is worth it.
I’ve spent years allowing my ED to rule my life. I have lost friendships. Stayed home and avoided social events. I’ve abused laxatives, used diet pills. And I have survived on coffee and wine. Trying every diet imaginable, I’ve run my body into the ground with excessive exercise. I’ve treated people so badly because of my moods. I didn’t attend work morning teas and on the rare occasion I did, I wouldn’t eat. I’ve lied about whether I have eaten or not, I have eaten and ran, and eaten and ran. And now I am done. Not wanting to live like that anymore, I choose recovery.
What’s worked for me, that might help you?
The first thing I knew I needed to do, was to throw away my scales.
This has been an integral part of my recovery. After years of weighing myself once, sometimes twice a day, I knew I needed to remove the scales from my life completely. I’ve come to realize the number glaring back at me each time I stepped onto those scales never actually made me happy. It made me obsessive, checking that if the number went up, I quickly bought it back down again. I knew if I wanted recovery, I needed to first stop this cycle. And to do that, it meant I would not weigh myself ever again.
I discovered a love for yoga and meditation and this was life changing.
I stopped running 6 times a week. Instead I started waking up in the morning and meditating and practicing yoga. I started to move my body in a way that felt good instead of punishing my body by literally running myself into the ground. With meditation I learned to stop, breath, and to just be present in the moment. An attempt to calm the mind I also started a daily gratitude practice. Now this is something we do as a family at dinner time. My three sons, my husband, and I all express something we are grateful for.
Some days in recovery are harder than others, so finding something to be grateful for among the chaos helps.
I looked at my self-talk.
Understanding the science, I knew I needed to change the neurotransmitters in my brain. I needed new pathways that went against all ED thoughts. A part of this is constant self-talk. Positive self-talk is something that I believe I will do for the rest of my life. It is amazing how much our thoughts can start to change, simply by talking nicely to ourselves.
I sought help from others.
I sought professional help. My friend Millie, founder of Healed – ED Recovery Coach. Millie is simply amazing. The service she provides are outstanding. She’s an absolute angel and we’re so incredibly lucky that she is here with us, providing support to those suffering and recovering from ED.
I examined my use of social media.
Acknowledging I needed to make a change to the social media accounts I was following is something I did fairly early on in my recovery. In my opinion, some of the social media accounts followed by billions have a lot to answer for when it comes to the rising statistics of ED sufferers. For me, I needed to delete accounts that discussed dieting. And any accounts that made me want to look like the pictures I was seeing, that claimed to be about ‘health’ that actually weren’t, or that supported diet culture. Basically I deleted all the accounts that in any way made me resort to any kind of ED thoughts.
What are the words I wish to leave you with?
If you are a fellow ED sufferer, I sincerely encourage you to take the leap and start your own recovery journey. It is vital that you surround yourself with people who support you and also who have their own lived experience and can empathize with your experience. It’s critical you engage with professionals in the ED industry who can truly help you move beyond your ED self.
The road to recovery is not an easy one. Even though my own journey is not yet complete, the journey so far has shown me that the fight is totally worth it.
The hardest days in recovery are still better than living an ED life.
Find ways to calm your mind using meditation. Be kind to your body when it comes to movement by starting a daily yoga practice. Remember that all food is nourishment in some way, be it for your mind, body or soul.
We deserve to be the best version of ourselves.
And to do that, we must love ourselves unconditionally. Find your own set of mantras to support you through the rough times. Re-train your brain baby! This is so important. Tell yourself: “I am enough”; “I am strong, I am invincible, I am woman”; “I am more than my body”; “It is okay to have off body image days, it will pass”; “I want this, I truly want this”.
Know that there’s specialist help now available right here in Queensland, Australia. It is my ambition to be able to tell as many people as possible about the care and commitment provided by Mark and everyone else at endED, House of Hope and by Millie Thomas – Healed Recovery Coach.
To everyone else, I want you to rebel against diet culture. Think before you comment on diet, health and weight and consider the impact words have on other people. Understand that even when someone’s weight appears restored this doesn’t always signify recovery. The size of one’s body is not an indication that they are now okay. Gaining weight is the hardest thing to accept, and the emotions are almost unbearable. Support…we still need it. A hell of a lot of it. Otherwise, like myself, my ED behaviors would return.
I want you to celebrate that all bodies are different, and this is what makes us all beautiful.
Don’t praise weight loss. And don’t comment on the way people look in reference to their weight. When you do, this makes people feel like losing weight made them a better person. How we look has nothing to do with the person inside the body. Comment on someone’s smile. On how being in a person’s presence makes you feel. Or comment on how happy someone looks. Never comment with praise, on someone’s weight loss.
I want you to stop the before and after pics. To stop the “what I eat in a day” posts. Most importantly, if you know someone who is suffering with an Eating Disorder, I want you to help them. Find a way to help them.