The following article is an excerpt from Anna Palmer’s book, Coming Home: Healing From an Eating Disorder by Finding Beauty in Imperfection. May the words here grant you deeper permission to come home to the fullness of yourself, humanness, divinity, and all. Welcome home.
Chapter 6. Finding My Own Way, The Awakening Begins: What God Do I Believe in Now?
The ant-depressant fog ensued. I was totally numb. My body and mind felt frozen in time. I was feeling less of everything. I felt nothing other than numb. Numbness was my only “relief.” I became a walking zombie.
But it wasn’t really relief that I felt. It was simply a thick layer of fog hovering over and smothering all of my feelings. I was on autopilot. I was doing things, but I had no human feeling behind anything I did or said.
Despite the numbness, something within me was trying to get my attention. I felt some deep inner pulse urging me to reconnect with something bigger than my small human self. I began following the thread, which led me to explore my religious and spiritual beliefs.
Having been raised a Christian, I tried to follow suit into my college years. I even sought out a Bible study to attend. I believed the Christian God would save me from my living and waking hell.
I started searching for God anywhere and everywhere I could think of, except within me. I went to a used bookstore and browsed the spirituality section. I found a book about hypnotherapy and past lives called, Many Lives, Many Masters by Brian Weiss, a psychologist and world-renowned psychiatrist.
I had never heard of past lives at this point in time. Nonetheless, I was studying psychology in school, so the book’s content sounded like it was right up my alley.
In just a matter of days, I devoured the book. It was a fascinating real-life retelling of Dr. Weiss’s transformative therapeutic relationship with one of his patients through the use of hypnotherapy and past-life regression.
The real-life account story took place back in the 1980s, when the use of hypnotherapy was still not widely recognized as an effective therapeutic modality. This particular patient had suffered from panic attacks, night terrors, and other mental disturbances that interfered with her quality of life. While under hypnosis, the patient began to recall vivid memories of her past lives.
It was through the recollection of these hidden, subconscious memories, that her “symptoms” were alleviated and her life utterly transformed. She was free from the waking terrors that previously had gripped her day in and day out.
The book shook me wide-awake. In more ways than one, I finally felt that I had found what I had been looking for. I realized that religious dogma felt too limiting for my mind, whereas spirituality felt freeing, liberating, expansive, and empowering. I began to see that I was connected to something much bigger, even bigger than Christianity. I was connected to the universe and to my soul through this widening perspective of something deeply mystical and psychological. I felt the shackles of religion and my self-imposed limiting box coming off.
The book showed me that the deeper, more insidious issues driving my ED existed in the subconscious mind. My conscious “symptoms” of bulimia, restriction and binging, depression, and anxiety were just that, symptoms. They were not the root or driving forces of the ED. I could see that the symptomatic behaviors were stemming from deeper held patterns, whether from this life, or perhaps from another life. The roots grew much deeper.
This book shook my foundation of Christianity and broke it apart, in the best of ways. The foundation was never sturdy enough to begin with anyways. My psychologically driven mind needed to understand spirituality from a more open and expansive lens.
Plus, if no God or Jesus was going to save me from the ED, I began to realize that perhaps I could save myself. Maybe, that sounds egotistical, but I needed to reclaim my power and abolish my learned helplessness and victim mentality. I would begin a journey to reclaim the god within me, not seek a savior outside of me.
I was wide-awake now. The idea of reincarnation seemed to be the missing link in the religious puzzle for me. Prior to reading the book, I never could fully grasp the peculiarity of death leading to heaven (or hell) indefinitely. It never made sense to me.
The revelation this book relayed to me was this: we live many lives as souls, in various forms, to learn lessons and evolve on a soul level. We choose to come here to evolve and grow in this Earth school. We choose the bodies we have and the families and circumstances we are born into, in order to evolve in the ways needed by our individual soul consciousness. This was my “aha” moment.
I no longer believed that I was powerless to a God I couldn’t grasp anymore. I started to see that maybe, just maybe, I had more power over myself and my life than I had ever before known or believed.
At the same time, I started delving into the world of “conspiracy” theories, more political in nature, but mind-expanding nonetheless. I explored topics such as chemtrails, the Illumaniti and Free Masons, media and political corruption, and abuse of power. I devoured alternative news sources and watched countless YouTube videos, quickly going down a veritable rabbit hole.
It wasn’t very light down there; there was a lot of darkness in what I was exploring. Looking back, it probably was mirroring my waking reality and state of darkness and depression. It did push me outside the confines of “normal,” though, and urged me to keep expanding and questioning my beliefs and worldview.
This is the power of an awakening. Whether through knowledge or experience, waking up shatters your present belief system by challenging or directly opposing it, or even by just expanding the container. I was seeing and reading about things I had never even thought existed in my “smaller” world prior.
It was very much like my early awakening to life outside of the Christian school I attended. I found myself falling deeper and deeper into the black hole, though, still not aware yet of my light within myself to pull me back or to anchor into. Regardless, with this newfound mind and spiritual and worldly information, I began to wake up to a world beyond my previous existence.
I came to the following conclusion: There is far more to this world than I could have ever imagined or known, and I had only just skimmed the surface. It was the tip of an iceberg in the sea of consciousness that I was colliding into. My mind and soul were awakening to even bigger truths and realities.
I was on a beach vacation with my family when a tidal wave of expanded awareness of myself hit me with tremendous force. I suddenly knew I had to stop taking the antidepressants I was on. I knew that if I was going to “figure” the ED out, I had to understand my emotions. The only way to understand them was to dive back into them, this time with more awareness and observational perspective and willingness to feel.
(Author’s note: I do NOT condone the sudden cessation of antidepressants. Please, please, please, do NOT take this as advice or medical know-how to do this. I did what was NOT recommended, and I do NOT recommend it. If on antidepressants, PLEASE consult your doctor before weaning off if that is your decision).
My decision at the time, was to stop taking antidepressants altogether. So, in the middle of our family vacation, I did just that. I experienced some symptoms coming off, bodily sensations and such, and some mood dropping, but overall, I made the transition okay.
I felt liberated, like I had finally made a choice for me. I felt like I was the one back in the driver’s seat of my life, making choices that felt good, were honoring of myself, and finding my way.
It wasn’t a quick fix though. I knew by choosing the path of no medication, it was going to be hard, long, messy, and arduous work. (As an aside: please always listen to what you need. Meds can absolutely help in dire and extreme life/death circumstances.)
At this same time that I stopped taking the antidepressant medication, I also started practicing yoga. My mind fought yoga initially (and still does). The slowness, the breathing focus, the stretching of my overly tightened muscles from years of playing sports was not comfortable.
To be honest, yoga irritated the sh*t out of me. I felt mostly anger and frustration when I first started practicing. My mind was so used to overruling my body and telling it what to do. The two had not yet started to work together again.
Yoga would become a key component of bridging the mind and body disconnect for me. It would be a lifelong practice of re-learning how to teach my mind to work with and relate to my body, not overpower it with force, assault and punishment.
Read part one of this series: Coming Home: On Healing from an Eating Disorder.
Read part two of this series: How Eating Disorders are a way of Coping with Emotions & the Effects of Traumatic Events.
Read part three of this series: Hello Bulimia, My Secret Friend: When Food Becomes Survival & the Body the Enemy.
Read part four of this series: The Real Toxin: The Harm of our Fat-Phobic Culture.
Read part five of this series: How Eating Disorders Feed on the Insecure Self.