Three years ago, today, I was on a plane to Denver Colorado where I would end up spending over 3 months in intensive treatment for severe anorexia, depression, anxiety, insomnia, etc etc. As I stepped on that plane – one of the most vulnerable forms of surrender I have ever made – I had no idea what awaited me in Denver.
Three months and almost 45 pounds later I returned home. I wasn’t ready. I’m not sure anyone who has been through that experience ever feels “ready”. But I truly wasn’t prepared – insurance cut me off 6 weeks before my medical team predicted I would be ready to go home and continue a successful journey through recovery.
But now, almost 3 years later. I’m sitting on my couch in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It’s 5am – an ungodly hour, yes – but, per usual, I couldn’t sleep. And despite the cruelty that is sleep deprivation, it’s usually when I am most able to connect with my heart. So here I am. And I have a request to make…
Please don’t ask me if I’m better.
Better implies that I am now worth more or of more value than I was previously.
Better is an adjective that means “of superior excellence,” “of higher quality,” “larger; greater.”
I am larger, no doubt (ha-ha). But I am not better than I was before.
I am wiser. I am stronger. I am more equipped with tools to handle what life throws my way. I have more knowledge and understanding.
But better is a bad word. Better implies that my value has increased. With health, my contribution to my surroundings may have increased, but my intrinsic value as a human being is no more or less than it was three years ago. I hope that I was valued despite my eating disorder behaviors, the lies it told me and those around me, my self harm tendencies, my benedryl overdoses, my depression, anxiety, and the way that they controlled and manipulated my behavior and my life. I am no more of a human being now than I was then, despite all of that.
I am not Better. No, I am healing.
The word healing implies that there is no specific means to an end. It is a process. There is no specific destination where we are magically fixed and it’s an end-all, be-all scenario. Healing is an adjective that implies we are “growing,” “getting well,” “mending,” etc. Healing is individual – there is no rank, no arrival, no magical perfection that exists.
Healing means different things to everyone – and ultimately, it’s up to us to decide what our healing process looks like. Everyone is healing from something. For me personally, healing means surrendering – surrendering to God and accepting the unknown. Healing means serenity, mountains, nature, tranquility. Healing means feeling small in this big, expansive world that God has created. Healing means quietness, calmness, room to breathe.
For me, better means weight restored, regular EKG’s and lab work, the right balance of medications swimming through my system, 7-8 hours of sleep per a night, the ability to concentrate and focus at school, work, in classes, etc. For me, better is medical. better is guidelines and criteria.
My own personal better is actually healing.
It is through my healing process that I am -painfully slowly- learning to love and trust again. Fear controlled the first 20 years of my life, and many moments since then. But I’m learning that fear isn’t the only voice I have to listen too – there is also love. I could never hear love before because I was never able to cultivate my own sense of healing. I had no direction, no way of achieving quietness. There was always so much noise going on in my head – disruption and commotion created by fear that love was simply drowned out. I thought that what I heard from fear was the cold hearted truth. All the time. I thought that the voice of fear that I was hearing was MY own voice.
But I’m learning to love. I’m learning to listen to love, to embrace love, to share love. And ya know what? Love is Jesus Christ. 1 John 4:16 says that “They who live in love, live in God.” When I am able to cultivate and create quietness in my life, I am able to hear and feel love.
In Glennon Doyle Melton’s book, “Carry On Warrior, The Power of Embracing Your Beautiful Messy Life” she shares what Love “says” to her and I think it’s beautiful:
Stop grabbing sweetheart. Stop holding your breath. Breathe. There is enough. I’ve created an abundance of acceptance, attention, recognition, joy, peace, money, energy, clothes, food. I will never leave you without enough. And there is nothing to be afraid of. No feeling, no circumstance, no person. These things come and they go, and you can live through them, without running, hiding, numbing, or hurting another of my my children. And did you know this, my angel? There has never been anything wrong with you – not one day in your life. You are exactly who you were meant to be, right now, as you are. You are not to be ashamed. You punish yourself, but you have no reason to be punished. You have done just fine. No one wants you punished. You can stop that now. You are free.
Now listen carefully, because this is important: When you were born, I put a piece of myself in you. Like an indestructible, brilliant diamond, I placed a part of me inside of you. That part of you – the very essence of you, in fact – is me; it is Love, it is perfect, and it is untouchable. No one can take it from you and you can’t five it away. It is the deepest, truest part of you, the part that will someday return to me. You are Love. You cannot be tarnished by anything you’ve done or that anyone else has done to you….
Your first job is to know that: to float and swim in that knowledge, to believe that Love, the spirit, the god in you and in everyone is equally brilliant and unmarred. Your second job is to help other people know their brilliance, their essence, their perfection, their core – which is perfect Love. When they speak to you from their fear – speak past their fear and directly to their love…
Love will reveal itself one step at a time, the whole way home. Along the way, accept my blessings and give them away freely. You are worthy of giving and receiving. Believe. You are new every moment, new. Your time, your energy, your mind, the people who come into your life – they are all gifts from me and they are infinite. They belong to you and to everyone else.”
I cried when I read that. And then I highlighted certain portions, underlined lots of things, read it five times over again and cried even harder.
When I reflect on the past three years and even the years prior to going to Denver, Colorado, I feel so many emotions swimming through me – some are more like a tsunami than an easy day at the beach. One thing I know is that I have “not arrived.” I am not at this magically better place, but am healing. I am learning that one of the keys to happiness in this life is accepting that I will never be absolutely perfectly happy. Sometimes, life stinks. Life is almost always, at least a little bit, uncomfortable. But despite all of that, I can still work towards healing. And while I’m healing I might as well love others around me as much as I possibly can so that maybe, just maybe, I can have the honor of being a small part of their healing as well.
I am not better, but I am on my way towards healing. I am rising. I am loving. And I am, finally, learning to be free.
“Your problem is how you are going to spend this one and precious life you have been issued. Whether you’re going to spend it trying to look good and creating the illusion that you have power over circumstances, or whether you are going to taste it, enjoy it and find out the truth about who you are.”
― Anne Lamott
I buy cheap lipstick and write on my bathroom mirror. I write to remind myself that I am not my past, not my family tree, not a slave to this world. I write to remind myself of all the things God knows that I am…and all the things He knows YOU are too.
Sometimes, when you can’t find the strength to speak the words to the reflection staring back at you, it helps to have them already there waiting…to remind you that YOU are strong enough, worthy enough, smart enough, beautiful enough, GOOD ENOUGH.
Sometimes we all need a little help, a little reminder, that this world is not our home – not our final destination. And that we were fearfully and wonderfully made.
We are enough.