I know. Thinking about liberation should not feel confusing. It should feel liberating. How I wish it were true. But with all the talk of the Season of Liberation, (also known as Passover), I’ve been consumed thinking about my own personal liberation, and to be honest, it has been an extremely confusing process.
After many hours of contemplation, I believe I finally figured it out.
In the beginning stages of my eating disorder I thought I had finally gained the ultimate freedom. I lost tons of weight; I was finally liberated from my larger body, in which I often felt quite uncomfortable. I was finally free to shop in whichever store sold clothing, because I actually fit into their sizes. I was finally free to participate in group pictures, because I didn’t panic when I saw how I looked in them afterwards. I was finally free to talk to my friends, teachers, and colleagues, because I wasn’t afraid they were staring at my excess fat. I was finally free to walk down the main street, because I wasn’t afraid people would laugh at me as they drove by. I was finally free to swap clothing with my friends and sisters because I was no longer double their size.
I thought I was free. And I did experience liberation to an extent. I experienced a taste of freedom in one aspect of life - my body was smaller than it used to be.
It is only now, after tasting the liberation of recovery, that I realize I was not free at all. My mind was in a prison of its own. I was tied down by ridiculous rules. I was consumed with obsessive thoughts. I was leaping for impossible targets. I was unaware that my mind was deeply entrenched in a dangerous mental illness.
My eating disorder manipulated me into believing that I was finally liberated, but it was an illusion. In reality - he kept me locked in his cell, following his rules, and living by his word.
The liberation, which Ed tried to fool me into, was misleading and temporary because it was dependent on the size of my body and considered nothing else. It negated my mental well-being, my physical health, my energy levels, my talents, my spirituality, my social life, and my family values. It was “liberation” at the expense of everything else. It was “liberation” that could potentially kill me. That ain’t liberation.
When I entered recovery I was choosing genuine liberation. I was choosing to break myself free of Ed’s abusive tactics. It was necessary to give up his temporary liberation in order to choose liberation that was sustainable.
I chose to give up the liberation of a living in smaller body because when my body was that size my health was in danger.
I chose to give up the liberation of living in a smaller body because it would allow me to do more than I would ever accomplish in that current state of mind.
It would allow me to sleep peacefully at night and function during the day.
It would allow me to work and study productively without feeling like passing out.
It would allow me to appreciate the company of my family members, not obsess about the food between us.
It would allow me to spend time with friends, not avoid chilling with them in case plans included eating.
It would allow me to enter the grocery store and buy food without intense anxiety.
It would allow me to look forward to Shabbos and the Chagim (holidays) instead of dreading the abundance of meals.
It would allow me to attend a close friend’s wedding and spend the night celebrating her, not spend the night obsessing about how I look.
It would allow me to be honest with the ones I love, not lie about the food I ate or did not eat.
It would allow me to visit a sibling out of town for a whole weekend without starving myself.
It would allow me to go on a vacation with my mind fully relaxed.
It would allow me to get dressed and leave my house, instead of hide in my bed.
It would allow me to start to focus on my strengths and victories, not my weaknesses and failures.
It would allow me to have space in my brain to think about something other than food.
It would allow me to thrive through life, instead of survive through it.
It would allow me to live and not die.
Most importantly, I chose to give up the liberation of a living in a smaller body because G-d never intended for me to have one. He created me in a larger body. Accepting my body with inner peace will help me experience the ultimate liberation. Trying to be someone who I’m not and the size I’m not - is false liberation.
Recovery is genuine liberation.
Experiencing food freedom is genuine liberation.
Practicing self-compassion is genuine liberation.
Nourishing my body is genuine liberation.
Feeding my mind with healthy thoughts is genuine liberation.
Eating breakfast without intense shame and guilt is genuine liberation.
Feeling beautiful and worthy independent of my body size is genuine liberation.
I still have many inner battles. Do I want the liberation of a living in a smaller body knowing that it will cause constant anguish and possibly kill me, or do I want the liberation of experiencing a successful and peaceful life while living in a larger body? The difference between then and now is that I have clarity and my heart knows which liberation deserves to win the battle.
I have chosen to fight for genuine liberation by choosing recovery. It is not easy. It’s a continuous challenge to seek this liberation, but it’s worth every moment of sweat. Because this liberation will lead me to an honest life of inner joy.
What personal liberation are you striving to achieve? Take your liberations to battle. Which ones are misleading? And which ones are real? Dig deep. Punch them. Tear them apart. Ask yourself which one is strong and independent. Ask yourself which one will withstand the test of time. And don’t give up until you figure it out because you deserve to win The Battle of Liberations.
(Disclaimer: This blog conveys the author’s personal experience and is not necessarily a depiction of the general population’s experience with eating disorders.)