"When life pushes you, push harder." -Anonymous
Who knew that such a simple quote, could impact one so much? This quote comes to mind and hits home a little harder on this very emotional day. It's not the fact it's Monday that makes today so emotional for me.
Its because of the fact that 3 years ago today, life pushed me to my absolute limit. 3 years ago today, I hit rock bottom. 3 years ago today, I was faced with two options, life or death. 3 years ago today, I was placed in a hospital bed at a fragile 89 pounds.
3 years ago today, I was officially diagnosed with anorexia nervosa.
Anorexia. What does that word truly mean? According to Mayo Clinic, "Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by an abnormally low body weight, intense fear of gaining weight and a distorted perception of body weight." For the most part, I agree with their definition. However, I diasagree with the "abnormally low body weight" part. Even when I was 50 pounds heavier than my lowest weight, I was anorexic. There were stages of my illness that I looked perfectly healthy to the outside world. What the outside world couldn't see however, was the internal damage my anorexia was doing to me. But I'm not going to go into the nitty gritty details of all the self mutalation and destruction that drove me to the point of being 89 pounds. That's not what this post is about. This post is about the roller coaster I jumped onto 3 years ago today. The roller coaster I call recovery.
When I was told that afternoon via phone call, all while standing in the middle of a Hobby Lobby aisle that I was going to be an emergency admission to Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, I had a whirlwind of emotions surrounding me.
"What did this mean? What are they going to do to me there? Are they going to make me fat? I can't be fat. I would rather die than gain weight. This isn't happening. I still have 4 more exercise sessions left today. I can't go. I will not go."
Those weren't my emotions. Those were Ed's.
99% of the time, my emotions were hid away deep within my soul by Ed. But at that very moment, I could hear the whispering of that itty bitty 1% of LAURYN's emotions coming through. "They're going to feed you. You'll finally be able to eat real food. You don't have to exercise another 4 times today. You finally get a break. Finally."
The reason I refer to my eating disorder as Ed is because I view my eating disorder as a male. A male I had been in an abusive relationship with for over 5 years. I was married to a demon who mentally and physically abused me day in and day out. November 9th 2012 was the day I was finally able to serve him with divorce papers. The lies he would feed me was the only thing I would consume. The misconception of never being thin enough, the ridiculous food myths, the body image dismorphia, the self hatred, this list could go on for over half a decade.
I withered away for a peace of mind I never got. Just 5 more pounds turns into 15 more pounds, and 15 turns into 25. Point being, no matter how much weight you lose, it's never enough. Ed promised me that the lower my weight was, the happier I would be. That's the biggest load of crap I've ever heard. It was the exact opposite of what was actually happening. The lower my weight was, the more miserable I was. 3 years ago today, I had to accept that change was inevitable, I was going to have to sacrifice the comfort of discomfort, and all of my control.
The difference between November 9th 2012 and today, November 9th 2015, is that I am wholesome. I am healing. I am practicing self love instead of self hate. I am exchanging starvation for nourishment. I am not trying to become who I was before my eating disorder, but trying to become the woman I have fought so hard to be.
When you go to treatment, they prepare you based on what THEY think recovery should be about. When I left inpatient treatment, I thought I was going to go home and have everything be butterflies and rainbows. I have learned through many downfalls, relapses, and breakdowns that statement is anything but the truth. Does recovery have rainbow moments? Absolutely. But you can't have a rainbow without rain. Cliche statement, I know. The amount of thunderstorms that have dawned over my soul cannot compare to the amount of rainbows that have shot across my horizon during my recovery journey. No one can tell you what recovery will have in store for you. No one can truly prepare you for the hardships you will have. No one can tell you the weather forecast to know when all of those storms and rainbows will dawn upon you. The truth is, you control the weather. You adjust the sails. You control the fate. You control your recovery process. I myself have much too often let Ed creep back into my life to show me an "easy" way out when I needed one. That's why recovery is an infinite roller coaster. There's ups and downs, twists and turns, and it never stops rolling. Recovery continues on the difficult days, and continues at the pace you set.
That girl who was in a hospital bed at this very moment 3 years ago holds a very special place in my heart. She was told her heart had stopped beating in her sleep multiple times on a nightly basis. She was too weak to walk on her own. She had a feeding tube crammed up her nose 6 times before it finally stayed in. She was told she was one day away from death. She believed that her self worth was based off of what the number on the scale read, and how many calories she could burn daily. She signed those divorce papers three years ago today, because her mental strength outweighed her physical strength.
Today I have transformed myself not only physically, but mentally. I nourish my body, mind, and soul. I can eat without guilt. I can enjoy the foods I once did feared (I mean helloooo, I've eaten donuts two nights in a row, and am having Dairy Queen tonight!). I can get through a meal without chewing and spitting it out, or throwing it away out of fear. I can do anything I set my mind to. I can, and I will.
Of course, I struggle. I have days where I just want to give up completely. Days where I wish I could do my recovery process all over again. Days where I have chosen to miss out on something that could've been great, because it could've also been difficult. I admit it. I'm not perfect. Who is though? I am flawlessly flawed, and perfectly imperfect. My good days outweigh my bad days, and my successes outweigh my failures.
I have proven to not only the ones surrounding me, but myself that recovery is possible. Hell, I'm living proof. I work my booty (thanks squats and carbs) off for what I have built myself to be. The smallest victories, are often the ones that leave the biggest impact. I have come so far from where I was once, but am so far from where I want to be. My goal is to never stop having a goal. Without a goal in mind, what does one strive for? I strive for overall health, happiness, and acceptance. What you strive for is up to you. This life is yours. "Take the power to choose what you want to do and do it well. Take the power to love what you want in life and love it honestly. Take the power to walk in the forest and be a part of nature. Take the power to control your own life. No one else can do it for you. Take the power to make your life happy."
I have gained so much more than just weight. I have gained the knowledge that a thigh gap will never fill the empty spaces an eating disorder was once able to carve into my spirit. Visible bones will never show the inner strength that lies within me. No amount of weight lost will ever compensate for the years I sacrificed striving for perfection. I wish to continue to inspire others, continue to better myself, continue to feed my soul, and continue the journey to love who I am, and appreciate all that God gave me and shaped me to be.
I am enough. I am stronger than my abusive ex-husband. I am more than my eating disorder.
I am me. Lauryn Nicole Cudworth. Lover of life, peanut butter, fitness, and most importantly, myself.
Thank you to everyone and anyone who has made my recovery journey happen. To my team at Children's Hospital, to the friends who have pulled my head out of my butt, and most importantly, to my family who has been my rock through it all. I would be in a grave right now if it wasn't for any of you. No words can express the amount of love and support I am eternally grateful for. I love each and every one of you more than you will ever know.
Here's to recovery and kicking our inner demons to the curb for good, one bite at a time. And always remember, strength doesn't come from what you can do, it comes from overcoming the things you thought you couldn't do.