Happy Birthday to me! Happy Birthday to me! Happy Birthday, dear Erin! Happy birthday to me!
Well, actually my real birthday is March 12, but today is my 5th “healthy” birthday.
Five years ago, I decided to start my long battle of recovery from Anorexia/bulimia. Members of AA or people who quit smoking can trace their birthdays back to their last drink, or the last time they lit up. Men and women with eating disorders don’t have a clear cut birthday, so I have decided to declare the day I entered treatment at the Eating Disorder Center of Denver as my “healthy birthday”.
By no means am I perfect now, or completely eating disorder free. I still am in recovery and will be for perhaps many more years. Someone who is recovered from an eating disorder usually fights the battle for years before eventually the voice of their disease is no longer a prominent force in their life.
Each day that I wake up, I actively take steps to reach a point when my ED is no longer entwined in my thoughts, no longer a tool to cope. I hope someday, to have an entire 24 hours without hearing damaging thoughts from my ED.
The past five years has been an incredible journey. It has had its highs, matching the majesty and height of the “Roof of the World”; it has also reached depths so dark and isolated the devil would tremble in fear. I have made wonderful friends, went through a divorce, said goodbye to loved ones and friends who have entered into the peace of the Lord. I’ve become an aunt, attended weddings, partied like it was 1999, and wore a bikini in public. I have allowed myself to laugh at things I find hilarious, and am not ashamed to cry if I need to. On my “healthy birthday” I want to celebrate my life. I am so thankful that the Lord has blessed me with more time here on earth to breathe, to see, to connect, to experience and to love. I celebrate the fact that I have the opportunity to experience joy and peace. I also give thanks for my supports that encourage me to write, paint, try new things and to just be “me”.
Currently I have the respect for myself that radiates into the way I treat others. I can say yes, I can say no, I have to courage to say what I mean. Besides learning to be accountable for my actions, I have also learned that there is great beauty in the world. When I first went into treatment I was so disconnected from my body, I treated it like a foreign enemy. Today, I am in tune with my body, it is a part of who I am. Painting my nails and toe nails is something I dedicate time to each week because I like to treat myself. I also pay attention to the way warm water feels as it rolls over me in the shower. I enjoy soaping up my belly, and today I am not afraid to look at it. Four years ago, I hated my body so much I refused to look at my stomach, when I did I saw rolls and rolls of fat. Looking at my body caused anxiety and fear. Today, something as simple as applying lotion to my skin has become a sensual, majestic experience to me. I smell the scent (ginger, jasmine, and lavender). I am attentive to the muscles in my hands, the joints, I allow myself to feel the coolness of the balm. Sometimes, I close my eyes as I go through this self-care ritual, and I sigh, thankful to have beautiful hands I can spoil with lotion. You see, four years ago my hands were dry and covered with open cuts, marks made violently from shoving my hands in desperation down my throat after a binge. It is sweet victory for me to be able to love my body parts and care for them. Four years ago, I abused my body. Today I am taking steps to take care of my body, to love it. I take walks, attend ballet classes and stretch before bed. I dance around my apartment in my underwear (this is an exercise I do to remind myself that no matter my weight or size, I can be saucy). I do these things because I want to make up for lost time. I want to feel connected to my limbs, my stomach, my toes and fingers, my hair, my smile, because all of these things ultimately are tied to my soul.
My curves, my hips, my heart, they are the flesh that dress the light of my authentic self. My body is a gift and on my birthday I celebrate it.
Spiritually I have also grown the past four years. During the reign of my eating disorder I felt disconnected from my soul, from others, most of all from God. On my birthday I reflect on the fact that I am a very spiritual woman. I have grown in my faith. Each day I take time out to spend with God. I talk to Him, write journal entries to Him, and listen when He speaks. He speaks to me through nature, through the Bible, and often through other people. I no longer feel isolated or worthless. I am woven into the tapestry of God’s plan, my soul has great value. I see now that this disease has strengthened my faith, it allowed me to mature my spirit. It is not a curse, but an implement to draw me closer to the universe, to the material world and most importantly to my God.
As I write this I am in my apartment. Looking around I feel at home. I have learned to surround myself with things that reflect who I am as a woman. When I was sick, I left the house undecorated; I had no time for things like art, books or friends. Today there are pieces of art I have made, gifts from friends and students, Mexican glass, a collection of books I have read and pictures of loved ones. I have plants I have kept alive over the past years. They are part of a type of therapy. A therapist encouraged me to buy a few house plants, and as I take care of them, I am reminded to take care of me. I am happy to report that they are still alive! At one point I had a small forest of house plants, however, I made the mistake of making my older sister Kat take care of some of them. The dried, black remains of those poor plants are still on her back porch! I’m not mad, but I did mourn for my spider plant for several weeks. (Just kidding, Kat).
I also would like to report that I have a lot of mirrors in my home. I am no longer completely horrified of my reflection. In fact, sometimes I look just to see how my eyes now sparkle with health, my smile is authentic, and on occasion I actually believe that I am beautiful.
I still have a distorted view of my body shape, but I am working on fixing that. I am smiling right now as I think of all the friends who have used my bathroom and saw my post-its and affirmations stuck on my bathroom mirror. I know, it seems really silly, but trust me reading my affirmations help me, and bring strength to accept my recovered body move forward.
So where am I going from here? What are the big plans for me now? I move forward with great hope and excitement. In case you were wondering I will be eating cake today. There will be candles, and I will make a wish. I’d love to tell you what my wish is…but then it wouldn’t come true!
The My Body Gallery project needs real Women! We need your help to develop the project and build a collection of photos that will help more women see themselves more clearly. Upload a picture of your full body. Our photo submission process also allows you to block out part of the image to protect your identity, if you wish. Please note that you must be 18 to upload a photo.