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I have met some amazing people via the Internet, and Meredith Thomas is one. Of course, I count my husband in that great bunch of people, too, thanks to online dating! (You will read below that Meredith had a bit of luck finding love online as well.) When I first came across Meredith’s blog, This Side of the Creek, I knew that she had an important message to share with the world. Thanks, Meredith, for taking the time to share your journey of hope and healing here on my blog as well. If you would like to connect with Meredith, reach out to her by commenting here or visiting her Facebook page. We would both love to hear from you. (If you post a comment below, you’ll automatically be entered into a drawing to win an ebook of the tenth anniversary edition of Life Without Ed!)

This post is one in a Life Without Ed Birthday Blog Series celebrating both recovery and the Tenth Anniversary Edition of the book, which was released recently along with the audiobook!

A Recipe for Recovery
by Meredith Thomas, M.Ed., PC-CR

Real-life dreaming is a fairly new concept for me. Growing up with an eating disorder, the only dreams I had were while I slept; they revolved around someone swooping in and rescuing me from the darkness that was my illness.

I spent 18 years with Ed, who, along with some people in my life, convinced me I wasn’t good at much. I wouldn’t go far, and I wouldn’t know what it means to experience normal life events such as marriage and childbearing. By the age of twenty-seven, I’d decided the path I’d watched so many others take just wasn’t for me. I’d stay where I was; mad at myself for being different, and mad at Ed for making me different.

However, one ordinary day inside the newsroom of the local paper where I worked as a reporter, my life did begin to change. I sat leaned over a long piece of white paper covered with stories for the next day’s reading. Red pen in my hand, I began editing the Education section. As I skimmed through the articles, I noticed something that would hold the key to my future and unlock the ability to dream…in real-life!

Halfway down the page was information on a Master of Education program in counseling and human development that was being offered locally through a 4-year college, but on our community college campus. I’d entertained the idea of going to graduate school for a counseling degree but never truly thought it was something I’d be able to do, because I was so wrapped in my Ed. But when I read that article, something inside of me said, “This is it…this is where you’re supposed to be.”

Within a few days, I was accepted into the graduate program. I remember looking into the mirror in my apartment bathroom and saying, “You’re going to be a graduate student in less than two weeks!” But the level of excitement inside of me was beyond verbal expression. I wanted this more than anything and believed God had opened this door specifically for me. How could I not walk through it?

I returned to therapy to finally claim a life without Ed. It was a very slow, long process. I knew if I wanted to make a career of counseling and help others overcome their struggles, I had to get to a place of sustaining my own mental health. This became my priority.

Engagement Photo
Engagement Photo

Eight months into my graduate program, I decided to check out the hype about online dating. I didn’t really feel ready for a relationship, but I was curious. Fortunately, another dream began to take shape and my online dating experienced worked out quite well. Within one week, I met the man who is now my husband!

It was around this time that the publisher at the newspaper where I worked asked me to start a blog on mental health. Amid all I had faced and all I was beginning to do, there was one thing that never changed; my ability to write. Writing was a passion Ed tried to kill, but one that my publisher helped me harness by suggesting I start the blog. Within a few months, the blog won an award through the Associated Press Society of Ohio and went on to win a second time.

Sadly, the next year I lost my best friend to her own Ed. It was a loss that ultimately saved my own life. I turned fully toward recovery and never looked back. I wanted to dedicate my life to helping others fight their own battles and do so in honor of my best friend.

Today I’m married, happy, healthy, and am effectively counseling others. I’m working on my certification as an eating disorder specialist, am writing my first book related to recovery, and am developing a road towards speaking publicly.

Once I was able to recover and have real-life, non-Ed dreams, nothing could stop me! I’m excited to see what the future holds.

fullsizeSchaeferLifeWithoutED

What does the future hold for you? Do you have a dream big enough to beat Ed? Post your dream here (as a comment below) for a chance to win a digital version of the tenth anniversary edition of Life Without Ed from the iBookstore. One winner will be chosen randomly among all who comment.

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  • mafer

    The mind is stronger than what we think…Ed makes victims believe he in control but when you process the thought of “can do it” u will do it;) your story is an example of can do it…you did it not ed…Ed want to do it for you .. I’m glad you in what I called wake up to reality. ..:) life without ed is amazing:)

    • Thank you. I would agree that the mind is stronger than we give it credit for. Until I was able to choose recovery, I stayed stuck thinking it was going to “just happen.” Life without ED is indeed amazing! I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Best to you.

      • Thanks again, Meredith! Your story and writing are both so powerful.

    • Thanks for commenting here. I love what you said about an attitude of “can do it.” Very true!

  • Taylor

    This is amazing! I am so glad that you are willing to share your story. Dreams are powerful and it’s awesome to see that you now know that nothing can stop you!

    • Thanks for sharing, Taylor! Dreams ARE powerful!

    • Thank you Taylor! It took a long time for me to see that life was worth living and that dreams were worth having. Now that I see it, I don’t ever want to go back. All of the ingredients in my “recipe for recovery” came together in perfect timing and the result has been more than I could have imagined.

      PS: The ingredients included, but were not limited to, willingness, GOD, graduate school, my therapist, finding my husband, losing my best friend, and being offered to join a private practice before I had even graduated. Each was added at a different time and the final ingredient allowed my recovery to blossom!

      Blessings to you.

  • Stories like this give me so much hope! After 10 years with Ed, I’m finally choosing recovery, and it’s so exciting to hear about other people getting better and moving on to bigger and better things with their lives!

    • I am so happy to hear you are choosing recovery, Emily! You are strong and quite brave. You can do it!

    • Emily, I feel honored that my story gives you hope! It’s humbling. I tell my clients that recovery is worth the hard work and that sometimes our minds make the process out to be more challenging than it is in reality. Regardless, it’s not easy and it makes my heart smile to know you are CHOOSING recovery!!! Best to you on the journey.

    • Hey Emily! You are the winner of the Life Without Ed 10th Anniversary e-book. Check your email for a download code and information soon.

  • Clare

    I relate to this on SO many levels. I also work in Journalism, and I’ve found that writing and reporting, particularly about mental health, is something that keeps me moving forward and motivated in recovery. A loss of a good friend to ED has also served as motivation for me–I want to learn and explore and thrive for myself and my life, and also for my friend Katelyn. Meredith, it is so good to hear your story of strength and persistence and ultimate joy. I’d love to hear more about your experience in the counseling and human development masters program! Thank you for sharing your experience!

    • Great to hear from you, Clare! Thanks for writing about mental health topics. That is so important. Your work makes a big difference.

      • Clare

        Hi Jenni–
        Thanks for responding to this thread. I’m sorry for your loss. Sounds like Kath was a great person and a source of inspiration, and I’m glad she as able to motivate people.

    • Hi Clare, I would be happy to share more on my experience. Feel free to connect on Facebook or to email me at mthomascounseling@gmail.com. It sounds like there are similarities in our stories. Despite your loss too, I am glad it was able to serve as motivation. I often say that Allyson’s death was the “most beautiful sorrow” I will ever know…because it saved my life! Blessings to you.

      • I, too, lost a dear friend to Ed. Kath’s death has actually motivated lots of people I know to get better. Kath’s favorite word was HOPE…and she has inspired that in so many people.

  • Amie

    Thank you Jenni and Meredith. Thank you for helping so many see recovery.
    “If you can imagine it, you can create it. If you can dream it, you can become it.” William Arthur Ward
    I know that healing is real and your affirmations strengthen my resolve to press forward daily.

    • Great quote, Amie! Thanks so much for posting. And, yes, keep pressing forward. You will make it!

    • I love that quote! And it’s so true. I had to first believe I COULD imagine and dream. As I said in my post, I struggled with having dreams or ideas about my future. Today, I’m getting better at imagining, creating, dreaming, and becoming! Keep pressing forward…one moment, one step at a time!

  • Susan Ziegler-Leclaire

    My dream for my daughter is that she continues to push forward. Our dream made together in the hospital, was that we would one day share a piece of her wedding cake without guilt, and remember the path we travelled to get her to that day.

  • M.B

    I love this post! I know my goals and dreams for my education and the future are definitely what has helped me continue to always move forward in my recovery.

    • My education was a key ingredient in my recovery as well. I knew that I couldn’t be an effective counselor while still allowing my ED to control my life. In fact, I vowed in graduate school to not counsel individuals until I was healthy enough to sustain my own self. I honestly believe that discovering what counseling was actually all about helped me to see how much control I had over my choices in relation to ED. This was empowering and I was able to choose recovery! Wasn’t easy, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything! Good luck in your studies M.B.

  • aimeeco

    I’m still trying to find my dream big enough… Every time I think I have found something, I’m motivated for a short time and then I get smothered by Ed again. I will keep searching!

    • I think it’s very inspiring that even though you find yourself “smothered by Ed again,” that you decide to keep searching! That motivation is so very important. Sometimes the best dreams are the little ones…ones we may not easily classify as dreams. I wish you the best in your search. It’s not easy to overcome the struggle, but once we can, life begins to look very different!

  • Ama1121

    My dream is to be able to get dressed and walk out the door without spending an absurd amount of time looking in the mirror and criticizing myself. I was in treatment for 2 months for my ed and can now successfully complete all meals but body image is still a struggle.

    • Body image concerns often linger after behaviors stop. I still face moments where I struggle with that as well. Being a woman in our society is not easy. But, I’m glad to hear that you are completing your meals! Keep the momentum going and continue to hold onto the dream of getting dressed and walking out the door. Oh how I can relate to that experience!

  • Sharyn Raiche

    I just celebrated my 48th birthday… thanks to my supportive husband and my two fierce and incredible daughters, I was finally able to seek out therapy for my own eating disorder last summer. 10 months into it I am so grateful for my body, my health and the strength I get looking in the mirror each morning and seeing… MYSELF!!! 🙂

    • So inspiring Sharyn! I love that you can see YOURSELF in the mirror now and not who ED would convince you to see! Keep trekkin’ because it’s so worth it!

  • Shelly

    I feel as though I have finally
    Overcome my battle with anorexia thanks to a supportive man. I was able to let go of the control and change my life he made me want to be better by sticking by my side and supportive me and I wanted to share my life with him and grow with him as well as expand as a family and we are expecting our first baby in October !!!

    • CONGRATULATIONS SHELLY! What exciting news. My husband was a major support for me. He showed unconditional love and acceptance that I hadn’t experienced before. So glad to hear you’re doing well and was able to overcome! Good luck with the new baby!

  • Cat

    This brought tears to my eyes simply because I’ve suppressed my own dreams for too long. I’ve just finished my degree by the skin of my teeth and anorexia has left me with nowhere to go with it and living a life of fear. I’m starting to see the ed for what it really is – a load of lies and a life of fear. Scared of living.
    I’m ready to climb out of this hole.

    • Being ready to climb out of the hole, I believe, is the greatest first step. When we can say, “I have had enough. I’m done. I’m ready,” recovery can begin to really happen for us. I had to get to that place myself and it took quite some time, but I promise life without ED is better than any single day spent in his/her grip! I still am in awe that I’m free! Worth every moment of hard work! I don’t think I had the ability to dream at all when I was with ED because everything was so tainted. You FINISHED your degree which is a HUGE accomplishment…now go out into the world and be who YOU want to be!!! Blessings, Meredith

  • Sarah D.

    I’m in school to be a counselor but I’m barely making it through ED dog’s me at every step. seeing someone else is actually doing it is really inspiring thank you for your post.

    • I’m glad my story is inspiring to you. One of the key things I learned in my counseling program is that we must take care of ourselves in order to help others. Now, this doesn’t mean we have to be perfect or never have hurts and hangups…we are human! Being in graduate school changed my life because I began to see how much I still needed to do to get healthy while learning about what the process of help meant. Best to you as you complete your studies Sarah!

  • Thank you all so very much for the feedback! The hard work pays off and life without ED is a beautiful, and possible, reality! Keep working the process, trusting yourself instead of ED. You have an immense strength inside of you… Blessings to each of you on your journey. <3 Meredith

  • Sarah Hayes

    This is amazing, Meredith! Its so great to read your story. It makes my heart smile to see how well you are doing now. You are an inspiration and some day I hope things will really fall into place for me too. 🙂

    • Thank you so much Sarah. It was not without a lot of hard work and to know that it inspires others is something that makes MY heart smile. Sending you love and hugs. Meredith

  • rach

    My dream of becoming a physical therapist continues to grow each day. School and clinical rotations have been the prescription for kicking ed in the ass.

    • This is great stuff! Thanks so much for sharing. Your words about dreams remind me of this: https://jennischaefer.com/dream-big/ A young woman, Amanda Olsen, once posted on my Facebook Wall: “Finally found a dream big enough to beat Ed!” You will be a wonderful physical therapist. You will help a lot of people!

      • rach

        Thanks Jenni,
        I’ve read both of your books over the years which have been tremendously helpful, inspiring, and insightful. Your story helps others see the light in moments of darkness and emerge as a butterfly does after nesting in its cocoon. Thank you for being that beacon of light and passionately committing yourself to guiding others toward intuition, self love and empowerment. You are a strong and brave woman. Rock it!
        Rachel

  • Lu VB

    Hi Jenni and Meredith, thank you both for your inspiration and being so open about your battles. It helps to install me with hope at a time/stage where i am struggling to know if my dreams will ever be played out in real life. After 24yrs living with Ed and despairing at the devastation it has reeked on the lives of my loved ones, my body and my aspirations, it is difficult to continue to believe i can and will get better.
    Knowing you suffered for so long Meredith and have reached the point you now have is hope inducing. I’ve realised in the last few days that a huge obstacle has been that i carry so much shame, guilt and self loathing for having anorexia. I need to accept that recovery doesn’t mean those urges, thoughts and fears and feelings just disappear and that to stay silent about them /try to deny they are there BECAUSE i am in ‘recovery’ (& i fear that to show/express them to myself or anyone else would cause us all to lose hope i am fighting Ed), only prevents me from recognising them for what they are and addressing them.
    In fact, unless i am provoking Ed and stirring up feelings of fears, thoughts and urges of an anorexic nature, i am unlikely to be making true steps to recovery. In this sense, perhaps i need to interpret having those fears and thoughts as a sign I’m challenging ed. It is then, i found, more possible to not react to them because I’ve ‘looked them in the eye’ and can see their source- not me, but Ed. I want to ‘drive my ‘bus’ in the direction towards my dreams, and not allow those screaming, unruly passengers to hijack the controls and steer me awsy any longer.
    Thank you for this space and i apologise for my long splurge, which diverges from the original purpose of it….what are my dreams minus Ed? To not be cold all the time, to be able to go hiking again without fear of fractures. To have my nieces and nephew for the weekend to give my sisters a break/lie in. To help my friends. To ease the anxiety and sadness i bring to my family. To dance and wear less than 20 layers of clothes to keep warm and hide my shameful emaciated frame. To have a romantic, intimate relationship. To laugh. To live freely. To travel. To nolonger be constantly terrified. To be autonomous. To be the captain of my ship!!!! ?
    Love and hope to everyone battling Ed and may your dreams be lived. Love lu xxxx

    • Thanks so much for sharing. I love the vision that you paint of life without Ed. It is beautiful. And, it IS possible! Don’t quit.