I want to thank Jenny Naes for opening the door to her journey to Recovery from her Eating Disorder. I asked her if she would be willing to share how she came about choosing recovery. I met Jenny through Twitter and recommend anyone who struggles with an Eating Disorder or is in Recovery from an Eating Disorder to follow her.
Below are her words & her photography. She is participating in Project 365 and has other really powerful pictures, so please check them out as well.
Thank you Jenny for being so honest, open, and brave to share your story with us!
The Moment to Choose: by Jenny Naes
When I think about my eating disorder journey, there are some very important moments that stand out. Life, after all, is composed of moments compounded. Each moment often carrying with it the opportunity for choice in how we react, embrace, recoil, flow, etc. So much of my time spent dealing with anorexia nervosa is muddled and a blur. My heart was beating and my lungs took in and expelled air, but it is only by those units of measurement that I can honestly say I was alive. I don’t remember much because I spent so much time behind my wall, ensuring that nothing happened to me, hurt me, affected me. I spent all my time quantifying myself: calories in, calories burned, weighing, measuring, timing. In between the numbers there was only room for thinspiration, how to keep it up, how this made me better, how I wasn’t good enough unless… Life was the same day in and day out. Down to the calorie, I would not allow for anything to change. So maybe it’s less that I can’t remember much but that there wasn’t much to remember. I had reduced my life, literally, to crumbs. But of what I do remember, the parts that stand out are the moments when I actually embraced the choice in the present moment. This is most definitely not to say that I enjoyed this freedom of choice, or that I basked in the glow of this freedom. I remember the moment when I chose to go to the gym and burn calories instead of staying at my college’s homecoming football game with my sorority sisters, embarking upon an addiction and obsession with working out. (I literally picked myself up half way through the game and left for the gym.) I remember the moment, alone in my bedroom, when I recognized the fork in the road: health or anorexia. I remember choosing anorexia. These were the moments that changed my life forever. These were big moments, big choices. I will never stop living with the consequences of those choices.
But there is another moment not to be forgotten about, the most recent most important decision of my life: the moment I chose recovery. I will never, ever, ever forget this night. I was at my absolute lowest in life. It was the summer, so I was home from school at my parents’ house. My anorexia was at its worst. I had limited myself to so few calories in a day that I couldn’t sustain my workouts anymore. Taking the stairs up and down to my room in the basement was almost too taxing. I slept all the time, albeit very restlessly. My dreams were riddled with nightmares. My nightmares were always the same: I was eating. I got lightheaded every time I stood up. I spent most of my days laying in bed or on the couch reading. I wasn’t working. I was at my lowest weight and striving to lose more. The only thing that gave me a glimmer of “happiness” was how much bone definition I had, how small the last pair of jeans I’d bought were, pride in saying “no” to food at family functions, affirmation when someone would comment on how thin I’d gotten (even if it was a comment saturated with concern). I was positively incapable of sustaining relationships. All I did was lie to cover up for my eating disorder. I fought with my parents, my sister; I couldn’t make connections with new people. Besides laying down and reading, my only other favorite pass time had become taking pictures of myself in different clothes in order to gauge how small my belly had gotten, how thin my arms and hips were. Soon I couldn’t even sleep anymore. Insomnia was setting in, which only meant more time thinking, counting calories, scolding myself.
And so came this fateful night in July 2007. The house was quiet, my parents were asleep and I was in my room. Bored of reading, I got out the camera and started taking pictures of myself. I was reviewing the images, it was after midnight now. I was scanning, scanning and suddenly… I saw myself. I mean, I really saw myself. I’m talking about 100% removal of the body dysmorphia goggles. I saw what I had become: lifeless, depressed, unhealthy, flesh and bones… nothing but bones. And just like that, I broke. There had been cracks in my foundation and finally the weight of everything fell upon me.
To lighten the mood of the story, I often joke that what came next was my “Lifetime TV Movie” moment, complete with sobbing, punching and throwing pillows, ripping things off the wall and tearing my room apart in hysterics. Joke or not, that’s just what happened. I had experienced a desperately needed moment of clarity. I was going to die if something didn’t change. I could not go on like that for another moment. I could not continue to seclude myself, to remove myself from life while I waited for life to begin. After destroying my bedroom proved to be a less than helpful resolution, I realized what I had to do next. It was 1 a.m. now, and I didn’t care. I went upstairs and into my parents’ room.
“Mom,” I uttered.
And then, I chose to say the truest, and by far hardest, thing I had said in well over a year, “Mom… I need help.”
I chose. I had no idea what I was choosing, what the next step meant, where life was inevitably going to go. And that was the most difficult part about this choice. This choice meant allowing myself to feel like I was walking on a high wire, with no safety net below me, no harness to keep me from tumbling. I was choosing to acknowledge, to feel once more. To be totally honest, I didn’t even know I was choosing recovery. All I knew was what I saw in that fleeting moment of clarity (and believe me, it was very fleeting) was the scariest thing I had ever seen and in order to save my life, I needed to run in the opposite direction. The opposite of an eating disorder is acceptance of imperfection, of self, of the present moment. It is allowing the self to be vulnerable, to be open to hurt and suffering. But it is also allowing the self to be open to love and joy. It is allowing the self to live again. To taste life. To connect. To grow. To embrace. It’s believing in one’s Truth, in practicing compassion for the self. It’s, plain and simple, living. I have done a lot of courageous things in my life, but everything pales in comparison to this moment, to this choice. If someone were to ask me, “what is your greatest accomplishment in life?” or “what is the proudest moment of your life?” I will tell them the story of this night.
What comes next, the story of my personal path of recovery is for another day. Just like every other person who is and has been in recovery for an eating disorder, I worked my ass off. To this day I’m still working my ass off. Of course it has gotten easier and with constant effort it will continue to get easier. My eating disorder is part of me and it always will be. The difference now, the most important part in choosing recovery, has been just that: the choice. I chose recovery that night for the very first time. Since that night,I have wavered, yes. I have struggled and strayed. But I have realized that every moment brings with it the chance to chose recovery again. And I always will. Recovery is not a choice you make only once. Again and again and again. I will choose– recovery.