I’ve been doing my best to get lots of pleasure reading this summer and I’m compiling a post with all the books I’ve read for the end of summer.However, I wanted to share some thoughts I have about a book I recently read, “It Was Me All Along” a memoir by Andie Mitchell. The book revolves around her life, mostly dicussing issues she’s dealt with involving weight, exercise, and eating. But it doesn’t stop there- it is so much deeper than “diet and exercise” and goes into the roots of what made her and what pushed her decisions in life. I finished the book in a day, because I simply couldn’t put it down. At the end I felt both like I wanted to hug her and like I wanted to hug myself.
You see, no matter the type of eating disorder, individuals who are living with one or who have recovered from one (like myself) share a lot in common when it comes to thinking and seeing themselves. I remember in my days of inpatient treatment, during our therapy groups there was a lot of nodding and agreeing as we took turns expressing ourselves. So when someone tells their story, it is hard not to see at least some of your own in it.
There were several parts of the book that stood out to me…
She talked about how she blamed every rejection and disappointment on her weight. And I remember doing the same as a young girl. I remember when we got pictures developed from the middle school beauty pageant and how I bawled my eyes out when I saw them. I felt like the reason why I lost the pageant was staring me in the face- I thought my weight was to blame. When a guy decided he didn’t like me or I didn’t get the part I wanted in a play- in my irrational mind, it all went back to my weight.
She expressed how eating in the company of others felt strained once she reached a healthier weight, “I felt as if everything I ate in view of others wrong.” During the months that followed my arrival back home after receiving treatment, I was so nervous to go to events where I had to eat in front of others. She gave the example of how ordering a salad could be embarrassing no matter the size. If I ordered a salad, it was restrictive, I’d hear “is that all you’re eating?” Unless the salad I ordered was really big, with lots of vegetables and heavy on lettuce, then I heard “wow, I can’t believe you can eat all that.” If I was challenging myself to something like a dessert I heard, “I didn’t think you would eat that.” It was like I couldn’t win.
In her recovery she had a moment where everything clicked, “I recognized the positive cycle I begun: move moderately, eat moderately, repeat.” I think this line speaks volume to what living a healthy life after an eating disorder looks like. When in the midst of the disorder, everything is black and white- bad food vs good food, fanatic exerciser vs couch potato, success vs failure, unattainable thinness vs morbid obesity. There is no wiggle room in the mind of an eating disorder, there is no moderation. Yet, moderation is the key to life as it is the key to recovery. Understanding and living out moderation is how humans maintain healthy lives.
My favorite part of the book however, was how she discovers that no matter what her weight was, it was her all along. It was her that went through every trial and hardship, no matter what amount of body fat she carried. Reading these words is what made this book real to me.
Sometimes I feel so displaced from my former selves that I don’t believe they were me at all. I think about the young me, the one that was yet to be diagnosed with an eating disorder and it’s hard to say we are the same person.
Then there’s me at my thinnest and sickest. I have difficulty believing I was ever her either.
For a long time I thought of my life as in three stages: pre-anorexia, anorexia, and post-anorexia. Three separate stages, three separate people. Yet, Mitchell’s words have caused me to rethink this. In her memoir, her story is very fluid. While she is battling her eating disorder at its various stages, she remains the same person. Her thoughts are sometimes irrational, but sometimes they are clear and level-headed. She sometimes eats too much and sometimes she eats too little. Yet, it is all her the whole time.
I think I’ve wanted to feel freed from my past self, my past identities. I mean, it’s been so long since I was there. I thought the only way to not live as the “chubby” girl who is insecure and impulsive and overemotional or as the sick girl who is distant and rigid was to get as far away as possible from them. However, when I think about the memories I had, the people I loved, and experiences I went through, I realize how much I don’t want to lose that. Yes, life was out of control in many ways during those times, but it was still me, my life. I was never three separate people- it was me, it was me all along.
I don’t want to lose any part of me or any part of my past, because it’s all apart of who I am, where I’ve been. Do I occasionally wish I did things differently, made different decisions? Yes. Does my heart break when I think about the relationships I severed by falling deeper into the disorder? Yes. Sometimes I wonder who I would have been today if I never got sick. In reality, I would have still been me, no matter what direction I went in.
We were singing this song in church Sunday night and the line “He has given us new life” stood out to me. God has given me new life, but I don’t forget the person I was before. My pastor constantly reminds us to think about the person we were before God renewed us. That person was still us, but that person is a reflection of how far we’ve come.
I’m linking up with Amanda for TOL Thursday.