(Read Part 1 of Lize Brittin’s journey here).
After 20 years of struggling, my life started to feel different. Over time, I was able to find joy again. I could run again without having to force myself to be at the top.
During this transition, I noticed a strong correlation between my thoughts and my speech and how I was feeling. The more I switched my focus away from food, calories and miles, the more I could allow myself to be in the moment, and this was a way for me to temporarily forget that I was anorexic. I aimed at avoiding triggering statements like, “I feel fat” and instead tried to uncover what this symptom meant. Was I tired, afraid or lonely? Did this translate into feeling uncomfortable? Digging for the cause of the symptom rather than focusing on the symptom itself was essential to my recovery.
Over time, the thoughts that were so oppressive started to abate and move to the background. Before long, I started to notice that those thoughts would completely disappear for short periods. Soon, the periods of time without the distorted thoughts stretched into longer and longer segments until I was more focused on living and less obsessed with what I was eating, how I was exercising or how my body looked.
There’s a saying in AA that goes something like: First it gets easier, then it gets harder. After that it gets really hard. Then it gets easier again, and then you start to live.
This is exactly what happened for me. In the beginning, the thought of change brought some hope, so it got easier to leave old patterns that no longer serve me behind. Then I realized that a lot of emotion and feelings were coming up when I was no longer disassociating through the illness. After that, I had to move through the challenging emotions and address past traumas. This was the hard part. Fortunately, I started to get the hang of it, and before long, I noticed that I had suddenly become a participant in the world. The nightmare that was my life was in the past.
When people were concerned that my illness would come back, I was reassured that I now have the tools to stay one or even two steps ahead of it.
If I could give only one piece of advice to anyone struggling with an eating disorder, it would be to hold on to the belief that a full recovery is possible. You may not know what that looks like, but the more you can imagine how you want your life to be, the more you can strive to make it happen.
I want to thank Rachael Steil for her efforts in raising awareness and supporting other runners who battle eating-related issues. Knowing we are not alone is a comforting thought, and feeling supported can push us to make the changes we need.