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Recovery Stories

Amy Medina -- aka. SFishy

May, 2000

After almost ten years of living with anorexia, purging anorexia and compulsive exercise, I started my own recovery at the same time I built the very first generation of this website -- November, 1995 (do any of your remember the site from back then?).

At that point MrFishy and I had been together close to two years. I had been honest with him about the ED from the start, while all the time both my physical and mental state continued to deteriorate. Our daughter was so little and I would catch MrFishy checking on my breathing in the middle of the night... and the reality started to set in. I could die from this. I did not want to desert my family -- I wanted to be HAPPY with ME -- I wanted my daughter to grow up HAPPY with herself -- and I wanted to experience life. I made the decision to truly live.

It was tough getting started. The benefit I had was that I am a persistant b*tch -- when I decide to do something I do it. Of course, I was scared... and I think my biggest fear was who would I be without the eating disorder and would I like that person?

As I've mentioned many times before, I believe the process of recovery is a very personal choice. To me going inpatient was not an option... I did not want to leave my husband and kids for any extended length of time. We also could not financially afford to have me out of work, and to lose my medical benefits. The first thing I did was go to my family physician and tell him "I have anorexia and want some help." Those are the words I said. He was less than understanding, not very supportive, and scurried from the room like I had declared some contaminating condition that would rub off on him, but returned with the phone number for my insurance company's mental health evaluation helpline.

I called them. They were rude. The man wanted me to explain to him "how exactly is it that you think you have anorexia" and I refused to validate his ignorance with an answer -- I just said "look, your company provides mental health care coverage that I pay for, so just give me the numbers of therapists in my area and we'll let one of them make the determination whether I have a problem or not."

I got the numbers. I bounced around to a few therapist, seeing some in person, talking to some on the phone. I was getting discouraged and the whole while, relying more on my ED. FINALLY, by the grace of some higher power, or maybe even luck, I saw a TV commercial (of all things) for a local therapy center. I called them and talked to the man who would become one of the best therapists I've ever had.

I went to therapy once a week for over a year. My therapist was wonderful with an ecclectic approach -- allowing me to use my art and poetry as one way to express some of the more difficult issues. He would give me homework assignments. He would ask me to analyze myself. Above all else, he also saw straight through my bullshit and my ability to rationalize everything -- and he did not let me get away with it.

I worked hard. I always tried to be honest and not hide anything (and that got easier with time). In the first four months things got worse before they began to get better. I was bombarded with issues I didn't feel ready to face and, of course, fell back on the ED as my security blanket. My therapist was aware of this the entire time and never made me feel a failure because of it. He suggested hospitalization at one point, but I declined (because of the same reasons above) and he allowed me to make that choice (expressing all the while that if things continued to get worse, it would no longer be a choice).

We worked on self-esteem. We worked on alternative ways to cope. He worked on getting me to feel again by helping me through talking and crying and yelling about my issues. He taught me to see the difference between responsibility and blame. He guided me towards truly believing that it wasn't my fault that life happened the way it did.

I don't want to go into details about why he and I had a "falling out"... but after that year and a half I had to make the decision to not see him anymore. We basically had a large argument about something that didn't even pertain to my treatment (it had to do with some freelance work I did for him)... I will say this... it was because of him that I was strong enough to say "Enough. It's time for me to move on" and to not blame myself for it. I will forever be thankful for the guidance I received from him through our sessions.

During all this time I received tremendous support from MrFishy. When I had first told him it was so hard for him to know how to be supportive and he did all the cliché things a lot of "outsiders" do. I'm not going to talk from his perspective because I can't -- but I have asked him to post here too and he can share his thoughts on all this.

As I began the site (at the same time as I had decided to recover) MrFishy began to learn a lot more about what EDs are truly about. It helped me to be helping others and it taught me about making a separation between my own problems and those of everyone else... it's wonderful to want to help others, but not as a way to escape your own problems. I also learned that the best way I could help others suffering was to recover myself!

My goal in recovery, because of my thoughts on Eating Disorders, was to build my self-esteem... to learn to love myself completely and be comfortable being me. My attitude was that once I could do that the behaviors would fall away... and this has been my experience. Of course, I also needed to find new ways to cope... new ways to manage stress... better ways to communicate my needs... and how to validate my own emotions... and as I began to do all that the need I had to rely on food/starvations/exercise/purging seemed to slowly fade. I will stress with strong emphasis... a LOT of people must stabalize their physical health first, so intially there may have to be a strong focus on the food and behaviors -- remember... everyone is different and there is no "one right way" to recover.

After I left my first therapist I took a break for a while. I focused on me in other ways doing workbooks and reading self-help books... doing my self-affirmations everyday. (My favorite books that helped? Here's two - Don't Diet, Live It!" by Andrea Lobue and Marsea Marcus... Sarks Play!book and Journal by Sark). I went to some self-help workshops (like those given by John Bradshaw). I started to focus on doing things I love or learning new things (like how to sing!) I journalled... I talked to MrFishy... I stuck close to my support network of friends when I needed to, during rough times... I learned to rely on myself and on positive, healthy ways to cope... I took strides to move forward and felt and lived. For the first time in my life I started to feel like a real person, and one I actually liked!

LOL... I also shaved my head!

I went back to another therapist after about a year... I did some work with her, but felt like she actually wanted me to be sicker than I was... like she wasn't prepared to work with someone who had achieved some self-worth... so I didn't stay very long. About two months. At that point I made a decision that it was time for the next step for me. I emphasize "for me" because we are all so different and lots of people stay in therapy a lot longer than I did... and that's okay! Keep in mind that my whole life I've been in and out of therapy for various reasons (my parents made me go in highschool a few times... and I'd been to marriage counseling/divorce counseling with my first husband).

So I say again... what am I doing now?

I am now fully recovered. What I mean by this: when there are stressful times in my life I don't rely on food, lack of food, purging or exercise to get me through it, and even if my mind does go a mile a minute I've learned how to slow it down, and cope with things one step at a time. I have learned to accept the ups and downs of life, and to realize that they are all part of the human experience, not something I deserve to beat myself up over. My feelings count. I am worth it.

... and the other good stuff?

My eating is normal... I eat two healthy meals a day (I've never been a breakfast eater), at least two snacks, and I start each morning with a healthy shake that includes Ensure (for vitamins and my bones). I don't worry about my weight and on a day-to-day basis I can look in the mirror and love what I see (without trying to sound conceited - hehe). I can walk into a room full of people, a restaurant, a business meeting, and feel good about myself and the things that will come out of my mouth. I can make decisions without having to ask twenty-seven people first if they think it's the right one. I can talk about how I feel. I can tell someone I'm pissed at them. I can say "I'm down today" or "I'm having one of those days so could you give me some space". I can set healthy boundaries for myself -- "you can't talk to me that way!" -- and I can say "no" when people ask me to do something for them and I really just can't do it. I can go clothes or food shopping and enjoy it. I eat anything I want and enjoy it and I don't not eat because I'm punishing myself or getting back at someone or because I'm having a bad day. I can take healthy risks and try new things -- because even if I don't succeed at it, it's ok (right now I'm learning to play the drums)!!!! I can wear what I want, wear my hair the way I want it, do the things I want to do without fear of judgement! I don't do it for anyone else... I do it for me -- and if ya don't like it, lump it!

Most of all...
I'm proud of me.


May, 2001

I was asked on the bulletin board this question: How did you decide that you had made the transition from RecoverING to RecoverED?

I was in recovery for about five years. My goal was to be completely recoverED. As I moved through the whole process, using the ED as a coping tool was less and less an option. As I worked to become closer to "recoverED" my self-esteem shot up, my self-confidence rose, and my self-doubts disappeared -- these were all things I consciously worked on for a while, and as time went on, they became less and less work, until they were no longer daily challenges to labor on.

The absolute last thing I worked on was body image. I had decided that for me, I would not consider myself fully recovered until walking around with a negative body image wasn't happening. I did a lot of this work in the last year of my recovery. Getting rid of clothes that didn't fit, looking at myself in the mirror every day and telling myself "hey, you're just right for YOU," assuring myself that my mood has nothing to do with how I perceive myself -- a reflection is just a reflection. Is my body perfect? NO -- but it doesn't have to be. Being realistically aware of imperfections doesn't mean I need to self-destruct, or that I'm a bad person, or that I can't love my body. Having the occassional bad body-image moment doesn't need to last more than a moment, doesn't need to dictate my mood for the day, and doesn't mean I can't love myself.

Finally, there came a time and awareness that everything just wasn't work anymore. I truly didn't give a shit what other people thought about me, or the way they might judge me -- nor did I believe I needed to have "this type" of body -- my body is just right for me. I eat when I'm hungry and my mood doesn't dictate it (I enjoy the process of eating! I can't even imagine NOT enjoying it). It is mearly a pleasurable way to fuel my body, and that's the way it should be.

I considered myself recoverED when I realized that body image, lack of self-confidence and self-esteem were no longer issues ruling my life. I proclaimed I was recoverED the day I could truly say I love me for me, the whole package, inside and out, no matter how I'm feeling (whether happy, sad, angry, etc.), and no matter what my weight is. I proclaimed I was recoverED when I could accept that making mistakes is okay and it doesn't mean people won't like me, and when I realized that it's okay if not everyone likes me. I proclaimed I was recoverED when I could cope with life and emotions in healthy ways as second nature, when I realized that food and the size of my body has nothing to do with my emotions or sense of self-worth, nor should it.

I proclaimed I was recoverED when all the above just came naturally, after five years of hard work... work well worth it.

And I'm proud of me.

November, 2002

On the bulletin board I was recently asked a series of questions on recovery and being recoverED... they were awesome questions, and I wanted to share them with you here, along with my answers.

"American (and perhaps global) society puts a tremendous value on weightloss...
Television commercials say: "Do you want to lose _____ pounds by the end of the weekend? Sure, we all do." What is the comparison between a person who's recovered from an eating disorder, and a person who has never had one?"

Everyone has bad body-image days. First and foremost, they should not consume your time and thoughts... and they should never translate into hurting yourself. It also doesn't dictate your mood. Tony and I have talked about this. Even he says that he's human, and of course wakes up some days thinking he could be in better shape. But as quickly as he thinks it, he's not thinking it anymore. It is the same for me. Sure, I don't look in the mirror every day loving every aspect of myself, but there's never even a thought of hurting myself over it... and it's forgotten as soon as I'm onto to the next thing... it doesn't pervade my every thought and my mood for the entire day... or even for the next hour. Overall, I'm very self accepting and self-loving and KNOW that my body is right for me, and the times I'm feeling unhappy about any specific body part are pretty few and far between.

What does Amy (or any person recovered) think, when they walk down a street downtown, or open up a magazine, or watch the television, and are bombarded by weight loss ads and pictures of unhealthy women modeling 'beauty' for the american (or global) culture? Are you completely indifferent to it?
Do you see these images and feel disgusted by it?
Do you see these images and feel wistful?
Do you see these images, and feel something entirely different than any of this?"

At times I'm oblivious to it. Or I change the channel because all the weight-loss promos are ridiculous. Or I think "man, she needs to eat a sandwich" (sorry, that's honest!). Because of what I do here, there are times I'm thinking more from an "ED Awareness" perspective, wishing that healthier women were portrayed in the media as beautiful, as strong, as wives and coworkers and friends. It never triggers me. I never compare myself. I never wish to look like someone famous. I can also admire my opinion of beauty for what it is -- SHE is beautiful for her, I am beautiful for me. I don't want to be anyone I'm not, and I don't want to fit some crazy mold.

I ALSO almost never buy a fashion magazine and I do not subscribe to anything even remotely like a fashion magazine. Not because they are "triggering" but because I refuse to support an industry I think needs to change. I also do not want MY daughter growing up thinking models are typical.

"Take a hypothetical situation where Amy (or another person who has recovered) is faced by a former trigger.
Do you think to yourself: "hey, this used to be something that really bothered me. I don't get nearly so bothered by it now, but I do find it upsetting a little, but I know I can handle this situation very well, even so."
"hey, this used to bother me a lot, but it doesn't bother me anymore, not even a little bit"
Or do you think something entirely different?"

"Trigger" is hard to define. Stressful, upsetting, angering situations it's not even a conscious thought... I just by second nature cope in healthy ways. I don't ever think "well I could go back to my ED but instead I'll do A B & C." I just do A B & C.

Things that used to bother me or were triggering for me, again, there isn't much of a conscious thought process about it. The notion of going back to ED behaviors doesn't ever enter my mind as an option. Eating is just eating... fueling my body. I recognize and have healed from issues in my past, so when something happens that relates in some way, I don't ever feel triggered by it or consciously think "now this is something that would have really bothered me" -- it bothers me or affects me however it does emotionally and then I cope with those emotions in healthy and productive ways.

"When it comes to foods... are there foods that people who are recovered simply don't like? Not saying that EVERYONE recovered doesn't like food X or food Y.... But when it comes to individual prefrence. Maybe someone doesn't like Thai food because they think it is unappealing. Is this completely normal, or does this scream out "Eating Disorder", just because food avoidance can be a symptom of an eating disorder?"

This is a complicated one to answer. Of course there are foods I just don't like (I despise the taste of Indian food for example). It's not "eating disordered" in and of itself to not like certain foods. BUT, it is of an ED-Mindset to be using your dislike of a food as an excuse not to eat enough, or to make an excuse to engage in ED behaviors, like having only a salad because you don't like the pizza everyone else is eating. It boils down to YOU and how in touch you are about the choices you are making when it comes to eating. Are you being sneaky? Are you lying to avoid certain foods? Are you so stringent in what you like and don't like that it's impossible to work with? Are there emotional reasons you won't eat certain things? Are you making healthy choices as the alternative to what is placed in front of you that you don't like? Questions for you to think about.

This is my favorite question you asked ...

"When it comes to egos... how big is people's who are recovered? I know for myself, my ego/self-confidence has grown tremendously since I started recovery. But I'm not always completely one hundred percent "YAY ME!" all day long. Do people who are recovered always feel extremely good about themselves? And if not, what are some examples of when self confidence would go up or down? Do people who are recovered need compliments, and appreciate when someone is thoughtful enough to say something nice about them?"

I don't walk around feeling "yay Amy" all the time, but I do walk around feeling good about me all the time. I am always content with who I am. In other words, lets say I make a mistake... screw up a freelance job I'm doing or handle a situation a little off kilter (like lose my temper)... I don't think BADLY about myself because of it. I just know I made a mistake and next time will try my best not to repeat it. I don't think I'm a piece of crud, but instead I know that EVERYONE makes mistakes and it's okay to forgive myself, and ask to be forgiven by those effected. I know I deserve to take care of myself. I know that making mistakes doesn't mean I'm a bad person. I know that having a bad day (like feeling sad about something) doesn't mean I can't love myself simultaneously. I love that I can feel sad! No, not because it's enjoyable, but because it's part of the human experience, and I KNOW it won't last forever. I can comfort myself and feel self-confident enough to know I can ask for support from my loved-ones. I can be so-okay with myself that I know being sad doesn't equal being self-destructive.

I don't NEED compliments from everyone or anyone. Of course, they are always nice to hear and I say "thank you" when they are offered (I never argue and say "oh stop, I'm really a big piece of doodie"). I just accept the compliment and go on my merry way. Everyone is going to have moments in life where you go a long time with no compliments at all... self-esteem is about giving YOURSELF those compliments, and knowing you don't NEED validation or recognition from those around you. I know I'm talented and smart. I know I'm a good mom and wife. I also recognize when I make a mistake or need to make improvements on something and can take criticism without it translating into "my whole life is ruined and I'm just an idiot". I can accept I certainly don't know everything and listen to other's opinions without it meaning I must be stupid. NO ONE knows everything. I never think everyone is staring at me when they're not (of course if I fart in the supermarket, I'd expect some might notice and give me some not-so-nice looks! LOL but I can have a sense of humor about it. I'm not a blemish on society because of it).

Self-confidence could deminish during an embarrassing event, or when you make a mistake. But why should it? Feeling embarrassed for a few minutes doesn't mean you're a bad person. Making a mistake means your human. Now lets say I make a mistake that hurts someone's feelings. Am I a horrible person and should I think so??? No. I do what is appropriate in the situation (apologizing to them if the situation allows for it, or correct myself if appropriate). What if I do something I believe in and the by-product is that someone's feelings get hurt? Do I feel bad about myself? No. I might not be happy about it, but I can also accept that I don't have control over what everyone is going to feel -- I can't possibly control or anticipate that someone's feelings are going to get hurt because I'm standing up for myself and my beliefs. Just like someone elses beliefs don't make me a bad person, my beliefs don't make other people bad. I keep loving myself knowing that I do the best I can. There are so many possible situations to consider we can't get into them all, but ultimately everyone is going to make mistakes, everyone is going to have the right to stick up for themselves, everyone deserves to be outspoken and to communicate, and there are never good reasons to feel like you aren't a good person. Unless you are choosing a life to purposely be hurtful to others (like by committing crimes), there's no reason to lose sleep at night thinking "I'm a bad person".

Even trying new things can cause you to feel unsure and unsafe, or vulnerable. Do those feelings mean not to feel good about yourself? NOPE! It means you have the confidence to risk trying something new, even if you stumble along the way! I'm walking a tight-rope for the first time in my life, and I feel unsure of my footing -- that is THE most important time to feel confidence... to tell myself "I can do it!" and to have the self-worth to know I can ask for help if I need it!

Its good that Amy has gone so long being ED free, I just think that if something happens to her or her family, her symptoms could return.

Nope. I've said this before. The chances of it happening to me are the same as for someone who has NEVER had an Eating Disorder. The chances of me ending up with an ED again are the same as MrFishy ending up with one -- I am recoverED.

I have been through the death of my father, the death of my grandmother, one of my closest friends being diagnosed with a serious illness, losing my full-time job (and income) of twelve years, and other stressful events. It isn't as though my life has been all peachy-keen since being recovered. Can I predict exactly how I would handle other incredibly traumatic events in the future? Of course not. But I have the self-love and the skills I need to know how to take care of myself, and the chances of me returning to an Eating Disorder are no greater than for the average healthy never-suffered-an-ED person.

I have said it's an individual choice how you wish your recovery to go, and I stand by that. But I do think the question always needs to be asked, are you selling yourself short by saying "I'll never fully recover" or are you using it as an excuse (conscious or subconscious) to live off the security of "well if it doesn't work out I can always go back"?

Thanks for asking, and for the opportunity to answer some really good questions.

okay... enough story-telling from me for now. If you go to the Who We Are section on the site, you can read some of my poetry and more about MrFishy and me.

Read MrFishy's story too!

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