The Victories! Slow Progression and Small Steps

by Elizabeth on April 8, 2013

Hello everyone! Last week we talked about the transition from Denver to Houston, and Elizabeth?s start at Sentido Center. Thank you again for your support and encouragement. Hopefully our story has encouraged some of our readers that might be struggling with a similar situation because, like Elizabeth has said in the past, if we can inspire just one or two people to seek treatment and recovery, then sharing our story is far worth it. This week?s post will be a little more fun and uplifting because I get to brag on Elizabeth and all of the accomplishments that she has been able to achieve during her recovery process. Our continual journey has been filled with peaks and valleys, and for now I want to forget about the struggles and focus on the victories!

First of all, I want to highlight the fact that recovery involves all aspects of Elizabeth and my life; not just behavioral improvements around food and exercise. To emphasize that point further, I want to begin with some of the deeper victories and improvements that may not be as obvious at the surface. Let?s start with values: the things in our lives that have true worth. I learned at the ?family days? seminar at ERC that in the depths of an eating disorder, an individual loses the ability to live out their values. Elizabeth has come a long a way in defining her values and keeping those most treasured aspects of her life as priority. As a husband and a friend, I take great pleasure in seeing Elizabeth?s improvements in honesty and trustworthiness. How can someone be honest when their first line of defense is to protect their behaviors? Spouses and parents can easily relate to this piece of a mental illness because of the toll that it takes on a relationship with a loved one. Obviously, the ability to trust my wife gives us the ability to break down the barriers in our relationship and develop a closer bond. We continue to improve at facing the struggles in our marriage instead of hiding problems in the eating disorder and turning the other cheek. Elizabeth can come to me with her struggles now and lean on me for support. Openness and honesty lifts a huge weight from both of our shoulders so that we can work through struggles as a team.

The same openness gives Elizabeth the ability to connect with her friends and family at a different level now. You can imagine how difficult it is to maintain a friendship while avoiding and even hiding the things most often on your mind. Elizabeth has also cleared room for empathy and compassion as her mind is not physically and emotionally consumed with the thoughts from the eating disorder. She has expressed to me multiple times that she really enjoys listening and understanding the struggles of her friends. I think she can offer sound advice, when asked, given the things that she has learned and overcome through her journey. Her friends in treatment describe her as strong and wise yet humble and open-hearted. There is a certain optimism about her that is truly inspirational to me and others around her. Her vibrant and joyful attitude during treatment helps those around her to find strength and aspiration as they tackle the same hurdles that she has overcome. Elizabeth has become very skillful with internalizing emotions and helping others to understand their purpose. For me personally, she helps me to realize that sadness, anger, and feelings of depression are not ?bad emotions? and they are not permanent. She wrote a great post on ?detachment from emotions? that does a great job enlightening people that emotions aren?t good or bad but rather necessary outward results of the circumstances in your life… Sorry if that run-on sentence didn?t make a lot of sense?just read that post and you will understand what I am trying to say. Anyway, hopefully you can grasp some of these ?deeper? victories that, in my opinion, speak volumes to Elizabeth?s recovery.

Now let?s talk about some of the outward improvements like food and running. Elizabeth?s struggles with food and excessive running went through different stages before inpatient treatment. During the recovery process, she has made tremendous necessary improvements along both fronts. Her treatment team at ERC warned Elizabeth and me that she would never be able to run again?comparing it to drinking for an alcoholic. Elizabeth was bound and determined to prove them wrong so that she could continue enjoying her passion. There is a certain purpose and joy behind her runs now that she has experienced life without that freedom. Running is no longer just a means to end to burn calories or ?earn? her food intake. I can see improvement in that she can take a day off when she feels tired or if her training plan calls for it [unlike her college days!] If I am running with her, she can tolerate the slow pace or the occasional walking, and she even stops momentarily to take pictures with Noah along the way. I won?t pretend that I don?t worry to some degree. The difference now, is that I can clearly express my concerns when we have our weekly discussions. Elizabeth feels comfortable enough to share with me if she feels like she is running for the wrong reasons, and then she can take the necessary actions with her treatment team at Sentido Center to get more support and accountability.

Finally, let?s talk food. Before going to inpatient while Elizabeth was still working, she would wake up at the crack of dawn, run before work, and then go all day without eating or drinking much of anything until dinner. Right before bed, she would eat dessert with no restrictions?it was almost like a reward for being so disciplined all day [in my eyes]. Then throughout the night, she might wake up two or three times because she was dying of thirst, starving, or both. I get stressed out and exhausted just thinking about that life!

Thank goodness we have come a long way from that stage. I won?t try to pull the wool over your eyes and tell you that Elizabeth now wakes up to a three-course breakfast, followed by McDonalds for lunch and then we order a pizza for dinner! What I will tell you is that Elizabeth is dedicated to challenging herself to break away from the rigidity of only eating certain foods and at certain times. Food is the easiest way for everyone [myself included] to measure Elizabeth?s progress from a surface level. There is a struggle, however, to find a balance between praising Elizabeth for eating a challenging meal or snack during the day and making her feel like all eyes are on her at the dinner table or at any function with food. What we both try to instill in people is the fact that recovery is deeper than food intake or gaining a certain amount of weight. Often times at dinner now, we get to enjoy the same foods which was hardly ever the case previously! We might have a little different portion sizes but none the less, it feels great to see enough improvement in Elizabeth to be able to eat the same things as a family.

Hopefully you realize that I am not trying to paint a perfect picture of Elizabeth. Nor will I try to convince anyone [including myself] that Elizabeth will never struggle to challenge herself, but I am confident of the fact that she is dedicated to wellness, and I am overjoyed by the fruits of OUR labor thus far!

Thanks for reading, and as always, please feel free to ask us both any questions you may have.

~Joe

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 jill stewart April 8, 2013 at 4:20 pm

Love it Joe! Elizabeth is a special lady!

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2 Kelsey April 8, 2013 at 5:26 pm

Yay!!!
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3 Carly @ Snack Therapy April 8, 2013 at 5:45 pm

Thanks again for sharing the story from your point of view, Joe! I have loved following this series and I’m so glad Elizabeth has made so much progress!!
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4 Sarah @Pickyrunner April 8, 2013 at 5:55 pm

i can completey relate to so much of this. While I was never in inpatient, I definitely did the whole no food during the day until dinner and dessert. It was a safety net. I’m so glad you have been willing to share your story with everyone. It’s truly inspiring and I really hope it does help someone who is currently trying to recover from such a terrible disease.
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5 Danica @ It's Progression April 8, 2013 at 6:44 pm

love this post…and I know you’ve inspired readers through this series.

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6 Lyric April 8, 2013 at 7:01 pm

This series is seriously amazing. I have no words. You are so brave and awesome:)
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7 Eric Miller April 8, 2013 at 7:14 pm

Really enjoyed the blog series guys, hope all is well back in Texas!

Miss yall!

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8 Debbie @ Deb Runs... April 8, 2013 at 7:25 pm

What a nice finish to a very important series. Thanks!
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9 Julia April 8, 2013 at 7:49 pm

Beautiful series.
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10 Rachel @ Undercover Diva: A Sitcom April 8, 2013 at 8:00 pm

Loved reading all of this! I think I would consider a GIANT victory (even though I don’t know you, Elizabeth) is the fact that Elizabeth has emerged and is a beautiful and amazing mother for Noah. Through pictures and short tidbits about him, it’s evident how much Elizabeth loves him and it’s evident how she puts him ahead of herself, which I would call a huge victory if it was me! You are a beautiful family unit, and I thank you for sharing both sides of your story!
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11 [email protected] April 9, 2013 at 9:00 am

love that pic of you two! Again, thank you for sharing your story!
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12 Heather @ farmgirlgonechicagoan April 9, 2013 at 8:05 pm

Another great addition Joe! You sound like one amazing husband.
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13 Holly KN April 12, 2013 at 1:42 am

I am thankful and grateful to have a very healthy relationship with food; but I know that this is a struggle, on different levels, for some of my friends and clients. Reading (both of) your honest and first-hand accounts helps me, in some small way, better understand what’s going on, and how I can be the best support possible. Thank you for your openness!!

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14 Olivia Vickers April 24, 2013 at 4:23 pm

Thank you so much for sharing your story.
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