Putting in the Work
**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.
“You have to put in the ‘work.’ You have to be willing to put your health and recovery above everything else.”
These are words that I said in my recovery story on the Peace Meal podcast. I can say them now because I am recovered, and putting in the “work” is exactly what it took.
I didn’t think recovery was possible when I was first diagnosed, as my eating disorder had convinced me that I was the problem. “I” just could not lose weight. “I” just could not seem to get a grip on my food consumption. “I” just couldn’t get my act together. There would be a lot of “work” unraveling these and many other beliefs.
My eating disorder convinced me to be so ashamed. At first, I hardly told anyone of my diagnosis. I did not even share it with my nearly lifelong friend, as my eating disorder had convinced me that she would abandon me if she knew the truth. Oddly enough, I told my boss of my diagnosis because my eating disorder convinced me that I was going to get fired if I didn’t tell her. I was going to be in Intensive Outpatient Programming (IOP) for four nights a week, so I thought my performance at work was on the line. At the time, I was convinced that my worth was defined by the performance rating I got each year, and I was not sure I could continue to perform and exceed expectations. If I performed anything less than exceptional, I was not worthy. And I’d get fired. So I told her.
This past summer, after I had been on my recovery journey for two and a half years, I had the opportunity to share my story publicly for the first time. It was as if I was taking back the driver’s seat. I was telling the world for the first time that my eating disorder did not define me. I am worthy simply because I am a human being.
An eating disorder convinces you that you somehow aren’t worthy, so you go about proving that you are worthy in so many other ways—in your job performance, your job title, your bank account, your address, your vacation spots, your relationship status, your circle of friends, the busyness of your calendar. It’s exhausting work to keep up that image. I did that for my entire adult life until it all crashed.
I’m incredibly thankful it crashed. Life after an eating disorder is rewarding. I have hobbies now. I have a healthier relationship with my husband. I gained three really dear friends and made my friendship with my bestie of now 36 years even closer. I no longer get my worth from my job title or my performance review. I’m a better mom, wife, daughter, sister, and friend. I allow space for things I truly enjoy and am pursuing a passion (coaching) that I once only used to dream about on my worst corporate days. I can truly say that I make a better coach having been through this journey.
My dreams are coming true. I had to put in the work—not the work of keeping up an image, but the work of finding worth beyond that image. I had to value my health, my recovery, and my life over my job, my performance rating, my title, my accountabilities, my calendar busyness. . .
I had to put recovery above everything else.