I very much appreciate that word; team. Maybe it’s my athletic upbringing or my degree in sports leadership, but “team” means so much more to me than the dictionary definition: a number of persons associated in some joint action. In my case “joint action” is eating disorder recovery, and “persons” equals my therapist, dietitian, psychiatrist, and nurse practitioner, all who specialize in the treatment of eating disorders. And in my case, this team is working together, with me, to bring me from the desperate depths of depression, anxiety, and an eating disorder that completely took over my life–one I didn’t want to live anymore and still sometimes struggle to find any way out other than six feet under. To me, team means a connected and passionate group of people who innately carry a deep mutual understanding of working together to overcome the problem at hand. This is my Team.
I’ve been doing this recovery thing for 16 months now. Many days I spend so much time struggling, I want to throw in the towel. I am exhausted. I want to be completely done–one way or the other. I have tears that could keep a lake filled, and emotions heavier than that lake.
But then I remember, Team, you remained steadfast through every single face-to-face encounter. Every text. Every voicemail, phone call, and e-mail. You have shown me kindness beyond my comprehension, taught me what it means to have grace for myself, and cared for me in exactly all the ways I needed, monthly, weekly, even daily. I am endlessly grateful for this overwhelming supportive compassion. I’ve tried to make my gratitude to each of you known, but never collectively. I feel compelled to write out my gratitude for you–it has filled my soul and it seems only fair to share.
Here’s the thing, the holidays are stressful for everyone. And having very close friends in helping careers, I have the advantage of hearing how your hearts hurt for your patients and clients. I know sometimes after a long day of working with struggling eating disorder clients, you cry at the dinner table too, or privately in your car on the way home, or in your office after you’ve just ended a phone call with a client’s unhelpful and narcissistic parent. Because this process is often arduous, tumultuous, and exhausting for everyone involved. You spend all day holding space and hope for space-less and hopeless. I know I am not your only client, but the compassion and exemplary care I receive often makes me feel like I am. I know Christmas time is hard for you, too. That you have your own private life and private struggles. But somehow you have still shown up for me without hesitation. You have given me the opportunity to regularly feel worthy of your time, something I didn’t ever feel before, despite a pressing list of other things you could be doing with your time.
Last Christmas I wasn’t sure if I’d make it out of this mess. My memories are of being terrified at every holiday meal, stressing over every party, and planning how to fit my 60 miles of running in that week. I was hardly present, and we were just beginning. Some team members didn’t even know me yet.
This Christmas I am thankful I have a complete team that has worked for 16 months (give or take) to show me so much love I’ve almost had no choice but to begin to accept it. To believe your words are true when you tell me I am worthy of both recovery and others’ love. That I can start to love, at least, my younger self. You have shown me how to restart, how to dig deep, and how to feel undeniably safe. You have tried endlessly to make room for me to allow shame to dissipate.
This Christmas I am thankful your guidance led me to explore my regrettably empty spirituality and that I can positively say my growth in this part of my life has developed into something my pre-recovery self didn’t believe was ever possible. I am so proud of that. I know you are, too.
This Christmas I will still struggle. But this Christmas I have a fighting chance to be present. To take in real joy, and to not spend every free moment figuring out and worrying about all the numbers. I owe that chance to you, Team.
This Christmas, I know I have a team that believes in me, that I trust, and maybe most importantly: that I am a respected part of. I am a willing part of this team fighting for my life, a true authentic life. I am profoundly thankful for you, Team. This letter doesn’t come close to expressing how much I appreciate you, but I hope you feel a little bit cherished, because I feel that way more days than not, because of you.