By: Jacquie Rangel
If you were the last person on earth, would you still choose to recover from your eating disorder? Humor me for a moment, and imagine that the last person on earth indeed has something to live for. Maybe there’s a colony of puppies that depend on your existence, I don’t know, this is your hypothetical humanless earth. My point is, you have some sort of purpose and have means to keep living your life. Would you choose recovery?
I have a couple of reasons to believe the people who have chosen to pursue a full recovery would answer yes. First of all, when you are in your eating disorder, you are essentially alone anyway, so this hypothetical shouldn’t be the greatest stretch of your imagination. Also, when you boil down the experience of an eating disorder, you find excruciating physical, mental and spiritual pain that results from your body’s deterioration and a slow descent into madness as you try to shut out obsessive (and utterly illogical) thoughts. Finally, I believe this to be true because I continue to witness the same fear from people in the early phases of recovery when they are initially tripped up by negative body image, or intrusive thoughts and behaviors they had experienced some distance from. I find that this fear isn’t quite rooted in the simple fear of a dietless existence or a body that is different than the one they used to live in. More than anything, the fear I see in someone’s eyes when that old voice speaks up and drives them to an familiar reflex is rooted in the terror of going back to where they came from. I think if you’re being honest with yourself even on your worst day in recovery when you want nothing more to binge, purge and restrict yourself into oblivion, you still recognize that you wouldn’t actively opt to spend a day in the reality that was your eating disorder with or without the company of others.
Of course, it’s not as easy as slipping out the back door of this eating disorder party you’ve been at for a while now. You’re the guest of honor and your lack of presence won’t go unnoticed. Your eating disorder voice has locked your healthy self out and turned the music up loud enough that you can’t hear it crying out. Every time you question “Hey, what am I actually doing here? I don’t actually feel good around the people in this room,” your eating disorder offers the false hope of relief with a series of rituals and behaviors. You believe this suspicious character whose party you can’t didn’t want to attend in the first place because it’s likely you experience a sense of relief when you take it up on its “generous” offer. Even if you’ve never had an eating disorder, maybe you now have a small glimpse into why even a moment’s relief seems worth pursuing. What we forget when we choose a brief moment of reprieve, is that we are feeding their eating disorder voice, granting it a small victory.
This is NORMAL and OKAY! Recovering from an eating disorder is a war and both the eating disorder self and the healthy self will win battles. A battle won by the eating disorder voice is not the end of the war, but rather an opportunity for healthy self to see where it faltered and regroup for the next battle. Not easy work, and seeing the absurdity of it all in print is only meant to remind you that it’s simply not something you can expect your loved ones to fully understand. Sure, they can empathize with pain, but they cannot feel this particular brand of agony for themselves. There are a handful of people in the world who, with time, truly come to understand the intricacies of the battles and recognize the significance of triumphs and defeats that seem so trivial to the naked eye. These are the kind of people who will recognize your Olympic strength when you make it through your first holiday meal without you having said a word to them about your fears. Somehow, they recognize it without having lived it. Those people are unicorns, and though I’m a full believer, I know they’re not running amok and we’re lucky if we come across one in our lifetime. The reality at the end of the day is that you have to be that person for yourself. People can love you to pieces and still not know when you challenged your eating disorder in a big way. I promise you, this is not a prerequisite to you getting better. Whether you have the most understanding, rock star support system or not, you still need to wake up every day and make the difficult choice to act in line with recovery. You might never be decorated as the war hero you are, but think about it and you will see it was only your eating disorder that decided it needed approval anyway.
So I ask you again. If you were the last person on earth, would you still choose to recover from your eating disorder?
About the Author: Jacquie E. Rangel brings to the field her belief that conversations about eating disorders are a bridge to consciousness and empowerment. In September of 2015 Jacquie began her work with Monte Nido & Affiliates as the Education Training Manager. She finds great joy in facilitating an organization that believes a person can become fully recovered and helps clients discover their “healthy-selves”. Prior to Monte Nido, she worked at Center for Discovery in both Northern and Southern California as a counselor in an adolescent residential treatment milieu.
Jacquie completed her Bachelors of Psychology at the University of Miami. During her time there, she co-founded the Project HEAL Miami chapter when she realized the need to create constructive awareness around eating disorders, body image and self-love. She continues to work on several projects with the organization including managing an education-based collaboration with Clementine Treatment Programs. She also organized authors for and contributed a chapter to Project Heal’s Recovery Is book. Jacquie is a trained Body Project facilitator, and has completed training for the Carolyn Costin Institute Mentorship Program. Recovered from an eating disorder herself, Jacquie is driven by her passion to de-stigmatize society’s understanding of mental health by bringing light-heartedness, humor and compassion to the subject.
Jacquie is also a 200-hour registered yoga teacher and enjoys helping people discover and cultivate strength and self-compassion through their practice. Outside of work and yoga, Jacquie loves to travel, driven by her global upbringing spanning three continents.