Friday, January 22, 2021

Shelly is winning.

August 8, 2009 by  
Filed under Eating Disorders, Recovery

Shelly Guillory, one of the three main women featured in the film “THIN,” has become a regular contributor to my personal blog at mamaVISION, a community of women and girls struggling with eating disorders.

Shelly has shared her ups, downs, heartaches and brutal reality while trying to recover from anorexia in an effort to help others…and trust me, she reached that goal the moment she appeared on screen, and allowed the world to see the day in the life of an anorexic-tube feed-depressed-anxiety ridden-psychiatric nurse facing what seemed to be an impossible climb back to life.

Today, she is victorious. The beast is dead — two years and counting.

Below is the latest up date from Shelly.

Shelly today, kickin’ ass and taking names.

Two years ago I started on my journey of “real” recovery, not that fake, pretend recovery, where I thought I was fooling everyone ( in reality everyone knew I was faking and everyone could see through my BS).

No, this time was the real deal.

So I was off, full of giddiness and excitement because I was going to make my life right. A day later the giddiness and excitement faded. I had no idea what to do with myself.  Food was still on my mind and it seemed like battling my ED thoughts was much harder than just giving in and doing what they told me to do.  It had been one day and I was already tired.  I had THE worst anxiety of my life and felt out of control. I felt like a failure for trying to recover. I wasn’t sure I deserved recovery. I had to keep reminding myself that I had made the choice to recover and I wasn’t going too back down.

When I gave up my drugs and my ED, I was very unprepared for what crept into my life.  I was diagnosed with OCD, panic disorder, and agoraphobia.  I have wanted to give up nearly everyday the past two years.  My OCD is existential, so there are days when I am completely terrified of everyone and everything. Literally.

Things don’t look real to me.

People I know and trust seem weird.

I have days when I can’t leave the house and panic attacks come one right after the other.

I have many days when I wonder if having an ED was easier than facing all this…

But this is real.

This is what I was running from with my ED and unless I face it head on, it will always be lurking around to pop in at the most inconvenient time. I need to deal with it now or I have no chance of living the meaningful life I so desperately seek. There are days when I crumble to the floor and cry.  Crying for everything I have lost and everything I want to gain. Crying because this is way harder than I could possibly have imagined.  Crying because the thoughts are still there and I cannot run. Crying because sometimes it gets to be too much and no one understands. Crying because I want to go back to my ED so bad and I cannot.

When I am done crying, I stand up and keep going.

There really isn’t an outline for recovery. No clear, definitive way to beat an ED.  I am the kind of person who wants a straightforward, clearly defined plan of action. Problem is, there isn’t one. Damn, I had to figure this out for myself. The most important thing I had to do is eat. Ok, I am doing that, but was I prepared for the anxiety and the fight that my ED would put up. Um, no. So I kept going no matter how hard it got.  I kept eating and I found ways that work to battle back against my ED.  So my plan of action was just to talk back to my ED. To get mad at it, to laugh at it. I distracted myself.

I reached out and asked for help.

I recited positive affirmations constantly.

I listened to relaxation tapes.

I took deep breaths. (I still do all these things)

I surrounded myself with people who have “normal” eating habits. I watched them eat (but not that crazy, obsessive let me watch people while I don’t eat a thing). I was doing research. I watched them enjoy the food and they didn’t feel guilty.  I wanted to be like that.

I have had lapses where I dabbled with restricting just to see what it was like because yes, I missed it. Nothing major.  A day or two, a week.  Every time, I was reminded that I don’t miss it.  I don’t want to go there ever again.  I am trying to find out who I am and what I want from life and every time I have a major relapse I lose more and more of myself and I am farther away from living a meaningful life. I have fought everyday minute of everyday for the past two years. I am still fighting and will probably have to fight for a very long time.

The good news…My fight has been worth it.

I am more comfortable around food and two years later, I am enjoying food and the guilt has started to subside.  I still don’t fully know who I am, what I want, what to do with my life and so on, but I feel like I am becoming an entirely different person. One that I might actually like. Many things I thought I wanted when I was sick might not be what I want now. People I avoided when I was sick are now an important part of my life. I am learning to trust people more, and relationships that I thought were beyond repair are now an important part of who I am.  My mom told me the other day how happy she was to have me back.

Now, I laugh more than I cry.

I am venturing out more, trying to learn new things. I started a dance class that I love. I am writing more. I go for walks and instead of thinking of how many calories I have burned, I am looking around and just taking it all in.  I have read an embarrassingly high number of self help books.  I play outside with my dog. I chat with my husband more.

I am scared to be on this recovery journey. I know where anorexia would lead me, but the journey of recovery is different.  I don’t where I am going or how I am going to get there. Perhaps I will never now and this question will remain unanswered, but my life is whatever I want to make it.  It is terrifying for me to not know, but every once in awhile, I find myself getting excited. I can do what ever I want. I have a chance to start it all over. So I try to embrace the unknown, to sit with it and not run. To be ok with it.

I have found more meaning in life in two years of recovery than I did from 11 years of being sick.

It will always be an uphill battle. I think it gets easier.  I am so much more ok than I was 2 years ago. So in four years I have to be more ok than I am now.

It gets overwhelming, sometimes it seems pointless to keep moving forward, but I just have to keep going.  Recovery is not easy (in fact I think it is easier to be sick, but living is much more satisfying than dying), but I will not give up.

My hope is that you don’t either.
It’s worth it
– Shelly


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22 Responses to “Shelly is winning.”
  1. MizFit says:

    Wow Shelly.

    Thank you so much for sharing this. As a mom to a daughter I read it and reread it and keep focusing on the fact that now you laugh more than cry (and yes, that line did bring me to tears—oh the irony).

    I have no more word than thank you for baring yourself to us and sharing your journey with us.


  2. diana says:

    Thank you for sharing your journey. I tend to fall on the opposite end of the spectrum (over instead of under eating), but I understand how you feel (anxiety, ocd, etc.). It’s difficult to face.

    My students (undergrad psych course) brought up your struggles during a class discussion about eating disorders. Your story is truely inspiring and I’m grateful that you had the courage to make it known to people. To be aware they’re there, to help them understand, and hopefully prevent some of the struggles. I’m glad to hear that you’re doing better than ever.

  3. Ani says:

    Also, please note this can be EXTREMELY triggering. As someone in recovery from a life-long eating disorder, this documentary really, really threw me for a loop and made me miss my eating disorder instead of the opposite.

    • mamaV says:

      TRIGGERING: For those not familiar with eating disorders (EDs), sufferers are to avoid images, people, media, etc that they find to be “triggering” or a cause of them to engage in ED behaviors as a direct result (binging, purging, restricting).

      With that said, my philosphy here and on my personal blog dedicated to EDs is plain and simple:


      Therefore, it is the responsibility of the individual to avoid the obvious- such as this movie, pro ana sites, even blogs such as this one.

      Harsh, I know, but at the end of the day I wholeheartedly believe in this POV (this after speaking with literally thousands of ED suferers since 2006).I say this not to hurt but to help.

      I have been asked to post a “TRIGGER WARNING” on posts such as this, which I considered, but ultimately rejected due to the above stated philosophy.

      Bottomline: The sooner you face LIFE, the sooner you will HEAL.

      If not, you’ll never be able to take a step out your front door.


      • lissa10279 says:

        Amen, MamaV! This is reality, and hiding it solves nothing.

      • shinobi42 says:

        Y’know, I think the nice thing about a trigger warning is that it gives the individual an informed choice to make. It is true that life can be triggering, which is why I think sometimes it is nice to help people control the additional stimulus they are exposed to by warning them ahead of time about the content of posts or other things.

        For people who are already dealing with triggers on a daily basis just a little courtesy can keep them from accidentally exposing themselves to yet more. This is especially true when people are visiting areas that are supposed to be places where they can feel supported.

        I think telling people just to “GET BETTER ALREADY” is bad in a lot of ways. Obviously if people could avoid being triggered by triggering things, they probably would.

    • So Be It says:

      My issue with Mama V has always been that she is not an expert on eating disorders but speaks with authority on issues despite any arguments to the contrary. That’s one reason I infrequently visit her sites, despite believing they have a lot of potential. (I believe in opinions and the right of everyone to have them. The way Mama V presents her opinions has frequently bothered me, so I have spent much less time at her blog than I originally thought I would.)

      I agree it would be common decency and respect to let the user make an informed decision and that it is not so easy to just accept life as a trigger and get over it and be ok with it.

      I am not triggered by the images, but I think there is a lack of respect for people who are. That’s one area I agree with Mama V on–don’t come to her sites if you are easily triggered. It doesn’t seem to be an area that will be considered or changed. It’s not worth the trouble to try and change a mind that does not want to be changed-on either side.

  4. ddeebarkz says:

    Despite how ecstatic i am for shelly (truly, i love positive recovery stories – they make me feel less alone), this was hard to read…i know for a fact that anxiety is at the root of my own eating disorder. i have an appointment for an evaluation tomorrow to see if i qualify for meds…i’m so nervous (ha!)!

    • lissa10279 says:

      Good luck, Ddee; anxiety was at the root of my food issues/disordered eating issues, as well. I’ve not gone the medicinal route — I chose therapy and blogotherapy — but I am not opposed to it and might explore it in the future if things don’t feel right later on. Just be honest with your doctor. You’re worth it!

  5. cuileann says:

    I needed this post so much today. Shelly, thank you, thank you, thank you.

  6. lissa10279 says:

    So glad to hear Shelly’s doing so well. I, too, dissected the movie a couple months back and couldn’t watch parts of it without closing my eyes; it was that visceral. But it’s important to realize that this is real. And her recovery — with bumps and bruises along the way — is real. The fact that she’s sharing it here means so much to so many …. she is proof that it CAN be done. It just takes the (difficult, life-changing) decision to make that change, and put the past in the past. Shelly is more than her ED and I am so glad to hear she sees it, too.

  7. Shelly says:

    Thanks for all the kinds words.

    Anxiety is at the core of my eating disorder, so when I stopped taking tranquilizers and started eating, I had no idea what to do with it all! Then I realized there were so many other healthier ways to deal with anixety and I enjoy them much more than starving myself…They work better in the long term as well.

    I think the hardest thing for me was just shifting my unhealthy coping mechanisms with those that were healthier. it took some time before I felt comfortable with these newer ways to deal, but in the long run I am much more happier (some days are easier than others) as are those who have to live with me 🙂

    My update was not meant to scare or frighten anyone from giving recovery a try. Personally, I got frustrated by people telling me how happy they were when the recovered and how they went to treatment center, or got a doctor, or started eating, blah blah blah. I am not minimizing their recovery in any way, I was just getting pissed because it wasnt that easy for me. So I just chose to tell my story because maybe there are people out there like me that I have tried many times and recovery doesnt come so easy.

    Everyone’s story is different and recovery is different for everyone. I have a raging anxiety disorder on top of my ED. Some have to deal with it, others dont.

    Recovery is hard, but it can be done.

  8. val says:

    I just wanted to say thank you to Shelly. It’s inspiring to hear that you are doing so well!

    I have been struggling with an anxiety disorder & agoraphobia for years now, and had been a year out of an eating disorder but have been slipping back into it this past week. I watched Thin yesterday, and today thought I’d look to see what had happened to the people featured. Somehow I got here, and I really feel like I was meant to see this to keep from backsliding.
    I know it will be a hard journey to get back to “normal”, but hearing your story has given me the motivation to try harder for recovery. I’m sure it wasn’t easy sharing your story, but I’m sure it has helped a lot of people. Thank you for your courage.

  9. laurelg1 says:

    Very encouraging.

  10. Yum says:

    This is so awesome. It’s so excellent to have a “where are they now?” for situations like this. We don’t always get to see a happy ending, even if one really does happen. Shelly, you should be extremely proud of your bravery for sharing your story.

  11. Chloe says:

    I’m really sorry that i can’t read this post – one split second look at that image spun my brain out. massive trigger for someone in the early stages of recovery

  12. Shelly says:

    Chloe, I am sorry that the pic used is a major trigger for you, but let me give you a little background.

    I am really sick in that pic. I just checked myself into a treatment center. Before I got to renfrew I had no life. I lost friends, relationships were crap and I chose to hide away in my room and rarely come out. I I was dizzy all of the time and I had panics attacks constantly. I didnt have a job and I was broke. People had to take care of me and I couldnt be trusted to do things that a twenty fve year old should do. I had zero control of my life, I was in and out of the hospital. Miy mind would stop, and I was suicidal.

    Does that sound like something you want? Most of the time when we look at a pic we only see the attraction of thinness. We dont see past what the body looks like and we ignore that being that sick comes with so many consequences. We dont see that getting thin can cost of everything.

    I am glad to hear you are in recovery. It does get easier and you will learn how to handle your triggers. Unfortunately life is one big trigger.

    Never give up!

    • Chloe says:

      Shelly, i’m so glad i came back and read your reply. Thankyou so much for your words – you obviously know how to speak to someone who suffers because your words spoke to my true self. You are absolutely correct. I can now look at that image without the triggering thoughts and i thankyou deeply for that because i know i will carry that truth in my mind next time i see a similar image. I am doing well and i hope you are also. thankyou again, Much love, Chloe xx

  13. julia says:

    Thanks for this post, Shelly.

    I had heard about Thin a while back, but just watched it this morning. It brought back a lot of memories of how sick I was at one point in my life. I’m still occasionally troubled with binging behaviors when undergoing lots of stress, but so proud that I can say it’s been literally years since I purged or was controlled by my ED.

    re: Thin, besides how affecting the subject matter was, I just found it dreadfully depressing that so many of the patients had to leave before they were really ready to because their insurance ran out.

  14. bananaslugs says:

    How is Jen from the film doing?


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