**Content warning: This is one person’s story; everyone will have unique experiences in recovery and beyond. Some stories may mention eating disorder thoughts, behaviors, and symptoms. Please use your discretion when reading and speak with your support system as needed.
While navigating her own recovery journey at The Emily Program, Teresa Schmitz discovered a hidden gift in being known as a great listener with a compassionate heart. Being earmarked as an IT Leader who was more into the people on her teams than the technology they were building, she realized her purpose was beyond her title. She connected the dots and soon realized her purpose was to help empower others. She pursued her dreams of becoming a coach and launched her own coaching business, My Best Self Yet. She now helps women feel empowered to navigate the journey of loving themselves unconditionally. She also empowers others to know and use their character strengths in the In It Together group coaching program. Learn more about Teresa’s story and follow My Best Self Yet on Facebook, Instagram, and her blog.
Choosing to say yes to the eating disorder treatment that is offered after your diagnosis can be scary. Most likely, you’ve been living with your eating disorder for some time, and it has been your go-to coping skill when life got hard. Yet, I am living proof that while it is scary at the beginning, it is very rewarding at the same time. There is so much you gain from seeking a recovery journey.
I remember when I was first diagnosed with my eating disorder, three weeks shy of my 46th birthday. I thought I was “too old” to have an eating disorder. I’d been uneducated about eating disorders up until that point in my life and bought into the stereotype that they were only for teenagers or young adult women. At the time, I also bought into the stereotype that overweight people had no self-control, and they chose to be overweight.
I felt alone and ashamed before entering treatment—feelings an eating disorder loves to capitalize on. I thought the problem was that I didn’t know how to lose weight or was “addicted” to high-calorie foods (the “no self-control” stereotype). My weight and body size were the problem, my eating disorder convinced me, so I spent years trying to fix it. It was as if my body was a project that needed constant fixing.
Then, one Monday evening, I showed up for intensive outpatient treatment at The Emily Program. Much to my surprise, the other women in programming that night were about my same age or a little older. I learned so much about eating disorders in treatment. I learned that it really wasn’t me who was the problem. It wasn’t that I was “doing” anything wrong. Quite the opposite. I learned that an eating disorder is a mental health diagnosis and had nothing to do with the number on the scale.
It would take a lot of convincing me that I was not the problem. You don’t just start believing everything you hear that first night after having danced with an eating disorder for years (for me, I’d first heard “you have an unhealthy relationship with food” from my primary doctor in 2011 and yet was not formally diagnosed with an eating disorder until October 2017). I thought the eating disorder was just an excuse to be overweight—that somehow, I had “chosen” to be overweight. I’d been successful in my career and just couldn’t get my eating “right,” I thought, because my eating disorder had fed me this lie for years.
Once I could cut through all the preconceived notions that I was the problem, I was able to see that I was not the problem and that I was so worthy. Underneath the need for control was a woman who deserved to be loved and happy and joyful. Not because of my size or shape. Simply because I was a human being. I kept showing up to outpatient treatment, my weekly dietitian and therapy appointments, and eventually DBT class and body image yoga. Night after night, I committed to something so important to me. It was as if my life depended on this once-in-a-lifetime chance, because it did. The nights seemed long at the time, yet looking back, the first months went so fast.
Fast forward well over three years and I can’t believe how far I am on my recovery journey. Life feels so carefree now. I don’t view my body as a project that needs fixing anymore. I no longer have deep-rooted stereotypes or beliefs about eating disorders or my own worth. That is by far the best thing about recovery. I feel and believe I am worthy. I said yes to recovery, and I know you can too!
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