Recovery in the Military

Perfectionism, rules, discipline, rigidity. These words are negatively consistent with my past behavior when I was shackled by my eating disorder, and they also positively describe my life as a military officer. Going through an eating disorder is tough. If you don’t “look” sick then telling someone you need help is even tougher. Who do I tell? What will they think of me? How can they even help me? Do I even want to recover? It took me years to speak up and I started by telling one of my best friends when we were in college at a military academy. I knew this particular friend would help me.

I battled the idea of speaking up for months because I didn’t want to get kicked out of the academy or risk the inability to become a military aviator in the future—my ultimate dream.

But my eating disorder was taking over my happy self and crushing me mentally, physically, and emotionally. My ability to focus was decreasing, my time throughout the day was limited by the perpetual thoughts and actions of my eating disorder behaviors, and my grades were slowly suffering. My emotions were totally out of whack and I relied heavily on friends for happiness.

When I first sought help, the time devoted to recovery made me feel mentally worse before I got better. Getting help initially is so uncomfortable. I felt embarrassed, isolated, weak, and lost. If you are at this point, I beg you not to give up. I was right where you are. I didn’t want to let this part of me go for a long time. I hated “wasting time” going to these counseling sessions, I questioned if bulimia was a real illness or if I was somehow making it up in my head. I didn’t look sick; I could still function and go to class and complete my military obligations.

How did I get from that point to three years as “fully recovered” ? I did so much homework—from my counselor and from sites online. I met with mentors who also went through eating disorders in the military and I talked with one of my close family members. Yoga helped more than anything because I could channel my energy and redirect my perfectionism in a healthy way. I started to see what my body was beautifully made to do. Yoga continually helps to center my mind in the morning or after a long day at work. 

I want to give military members hope. Eating disorders are such a hushed topic most of the time, especially when you are in the military and you fear that you’ll lose your job or limit yourself from achieving a certain career progression.

I’m here to tell you that getting help is the most important part of the equation. Do it for yourself and for your soldiers or sailors.

Recovery has taught me so much about patience and channeling energy in a positive way. It has taught me how to be aware of mental or emotional situations that my division members are going through, and recovery has taught me problem solving. I sought help and I’ve been able to pursue my dream of flying.

I hope I’ve provided a glimmer of light in the dark world that your eating disorder can shackle you in.

Everyone that has made it to the other side will tell you that Recovery is absolutely worth it.

author: Christina Batchelder