Editor’s Note: This article is by Erika Broadbent, Founder of Be a Light, Save a Life & Survivor of a 13 Year Eating Disorder.
“She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. When she speaks, her words are wise and she gives instructions with kindness.” –Proverbs 31:25-26
On February 21, 2014 a local treatment center kicked off National Eating Disorder Awareness week with an event called “Burning the Lies.” We were asked to bring items that were holding us captive to the lies we believed about our relationships, our body image, our eating disorders and especially ourselves. As many came together both men, women and even children, I was overcome with gratitude. I sat there and listened to some of the words written with such honesty, pain, and vulnerability. I watched children throw doll forms into the flames that had negative body image words written on them and it just made my heart cry. These beautiful souls, so creative, so raw and some of them so young made me feel so inspired. Taking a stand and finally fighting for themselves. Finally, it was my turn to get honest.
As I looked into the flames of the fire I could not tell you what exactly ran through my mind, there were just no words and I was rendered speechless. It had been a very long time since I had truly felt this way, and the past week had been full of anxiety as I went through old boxes in preparation for this very moment. I was forced to face some of the physical memories that only reminded me of pain and hurt, but that I had held on to. Why did I do that? As much work as I had put into recovery from my eating disorder, I had been having a hard time figuring out what really letting go looked like for me. I had forgiven my mistakes, but not myself. I came to terms with the reality of my past abusive relationship, but fully letting go of what I had believed it to be was harder to let go.
As my turn came to speak, all I could do was cry. For once, no words were necessary. I looked into the flames and let go of all the pain. I threw in all of the physical memories that continued to hold a little grip on my heart. As I watched these toxic memories burn, I felt relief mixed with such sadness. There were so many overwhelming emotions with the reality that I will never have to look at these things ever again. That maybe, for me, this is what letting go felt like.
That week leading up to the event, I already knew some of the things I had wanted to burn. I unpacked boxes that had not been touched in almost two years, most of which were filled with pictures, mementos and even clothes from the last 7 years of my life. Nothing in those boxes were healthy reminders of who and what I worked so hard to become, so why was I holding onto it all? Those who know me know that I am extremely sentimental, which is both a blessing and a curse. I keep everything that people give to me because it reminds me of that moment and I want to cherish it and remember it. As I shuffled through those boxes, I realized that I don’t want to remember these things. The relationship most of these things were from was a lie and I didn’t want to keep this lie alive. I had been struggling to find closure and some sort of piece within myself to truly let go of all the anger, pain and hurt.
The morning of the event, I felt uneasy and full of emotions. I was going to burn away everything that had anything to do with the past that brought negative memories to my heart and mind. So why did I feel so uncomfortable? I kneeled in prayer because I was just so anxious and instantly felt peace. I realized that I was uncomfortable because I also felt sadness, which I had been fighting. I am so hard on myself and am always trying to “be strong” that I don’t allow myself to just feel my feelings.
I guess a part of me felt like if I am sad about letting go, then maybe I’m not at that place of acceptance that I thought I was. But I was wrong. It is sad. I must grieve. I loved, gave my all, and almost died doing it. Letting this go is incredibly sad, but on a much different level. I started to realize that it was okay to be sad, and later that night, as I threw these things into the flames, I also knew that it was okay to let go.
The first step of recovery is admitting we are powerless. For so long I thought that I was in control, but now understand that I will never be. I can only control my thoughts, my actions, and the way I handle myself in any given situation. What someone else does in response to that is in God’s hands, not mine. On my way home I reflected on the whole week and felt a little more at peace with myself. I no longer felt anger. I no longer felt that want of something awful to happen to those who had caused me pain, but felt a sense of calm in knowing that that fate is and never was up to me. My mind felt free from the negativity that had occupied it for so long. For the first time, I really felt a sense of clarity.
We all hold onto things for some reason or another. Some of which are material, some emotional, and sometimes a mixture of both. Letting go of that looks different to everyone, and it’s not always the easiest thing to do. However, it has been my experience that all of the toughest choices I have made have been the most rewarding. It is scary at times, but I refuse to let fear stand in the way of living this beautiful life that God has given me.
“So I reflect on all this and conclude that the righteous and the wise and what they do are in God’s hands, but no man knows whether love or hate awaits him. All share a common destiny- the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad, the clean and the unclean, those who offer sacrifices and those who do not.” –Ecclesiastes 9:1-2
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