**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.
Josh Person is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer and brand communications consultant who has worked with a number of startup companies in the natural foods industry. In addition to his work, he believes in spreading awareness about and educating others on eating disorders and other mental health issues. Follow him on Instagram @thejoshperson.
Recovery Conversations is a question-and-answer series that shares voices and stories of eating disorder recovery. Among the many things Josh Person shares in this post are the lessons he has learned in recovery, the support and resources helpful to his healing, and the wisdom he’d give to his younger self.
It isn’t about looking a certain way or eating certain types and quantities of food. Rather, these are just the tangible manifestations of something so much deeper. An eating disorder is the loop of internal dialogue that cannot be turned off. The feelings of lack and unworthiness. These are emotions not easily put into words.
Another thing I think is important for people to know is that eating disorders are not the result of “bad parenting,” as parents of clients seem to think. So many are unnecessarily blaming themselves (including my own) for “causing” their child’s eating disorder, which is not the case!
I was first diagnosed with an eating disorder when I was just 15 years old (I am now 25), and fell into the behaviors in the name of “good health.” Although, yes, my eating disorder was well aware of what it was doing, I, JOSH, was very ignorant to the world of eating disorders.
So much of what is shown in the media targeting men in regard to “perfect health,” the “ideal body”, “clean” eating, etc. is completely toxic, and is sadly normalized — especially within the fitness industry. This disordered messaging definitely had an effect on me. I have battled my ED throughout adulthood and have never been ashamed of it. But I know for many men who struggle, they suffer in silence. I do think with the trend toward normalizing treatment (therapy, medication, etc.), more men will share their stories, which is why I am eager to share my own.
My recovery began after a visit to the hospital for low vital signs, which subsequently led to being admitted to an inpatient treatment program in Winter 2010. In the 10 years since being first diagnosed, I have, unfortunately, relapsed a number of times. My most recent relapse resulted in some legal trouble, which has been a major motivator in healing. Because I know the person I am when I am sick is not the person I desire to be. I do still struggle and have moments of weakness, but reminding myself of this brings everything back into focus.
The clarity I feel when I am in a healthy place, physically and mentally. It just feels good to be honest and at peace with myself.
I think the most helpful thing for me has been open dialogue and complete transparency, especially with my family.
Really educating myself on what proper nutrition looks like has been major in supporting my recovery. Understanding that everyone has different dietary needs and that we are all on a journey to finding what works. There are so many great websites with a focus on functional nutrition, wellness, and personal growth… Some of my favorites include: Louis Hay’s writings and affirmations, Byron Katie’s “The Work,” Jewel’s Never Broken Foundation, Tom Bilyeu’s Impact Theory, Mosaic Eye Unfolding, and Vibrate Higher Daily. Also, only recently did I come across the Law of Attraction and the phenomenal teachings of Abraham by Jerry and Esther Hicks, which resonates to my core! This has led me down the rabbit hole of self-discovery.
Also, a song that stood out to me is called “Ablaze” by Alanis Morissette. It is not about recovery, but about the innocence and joy of youth. The lyrics are so powerful; read them for yourself!
2020 was a year of personal growth and discovery for sure. Something that I didn’t learn until earlier this year is the practice of setting personal boundaries, and communicating and sticking to them! It is important to put your own health first.
I have a pretty established morning routine, but it’s not too rigid, which has only led to disordered behaviors in the past. Especially since the start of COVID and social distancing, my anxiety has been quite high as a big part of my job is keeping up with social media and news. I value my work, but I also have learned the necessity of logging off and taking time to RELAX, too.
Embrace who you are, live for YOU. Growing up, and still today, I was the mediator… the peace-maker… the one who lived to make others happy. The one who everyone else turned to for support. I really lost alignment with my own identity.
I have always been loved by others, and this love has always been genuine. But if I had only known how to love myself unconditionally, too, I would not have been in such a vulnerable place for my ED to creep in.
You are safe within yourself. So much of my disorder is rooted in fear of growth and change, and feelings of unworthiness and lack — always running from myself, looking for some kind of escape, comfort, and safety outside of my own being.
I’ve learned that when you allow yourself to relax into the flow of life, learn to trust yourself, and look for the joy in everything, life really is great. There is no reason to suffer… to constantly be striving for perfection. What’s the point in that? Keep growing and have fun, too!
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If you or a loved one is experiencing an eating disorder, help is available. Reach out to The Emily Program today by calling 1-888-364-5977 or completing our online form.
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