A young woman from Virginia has published a book about her Eating Disorder and the role Jewish faith played in recovery.
Lucie Waldman started struggling with her mental health as a young child. At first restricting her intake was purely to respond to the stomach aches she would get when her anxiety was high, but as she entered adolescence and started becoming more aware of body image and nutrition it quickly spiraled out of control. By the time she was 12 or 13 it had become a full-blown Eating Disorder.
Lucie struggled for several years with her Eating Disorder before she got any professional help. She went to treatment for the first time when she was 15 which was the start of many rounds of unsuccessful attempts at recovery. It wasn’t until she was 19 that she finally decided to fully commit to recovery and give it her all. “It took a lot of pushing from my doctor and treatment team to really have me commit to recovery,” she remembers.
Although her recovery has been far from linear, Lucie now considers herself fully recovered. At almost 21, she no longer struggles with Eating Disorder thoughts or urges and is passionate about telling her story so that other people who are struggling know that full recovery is possible. “It just goes to show that you can have had multiple rounds of treatment but it doesn’t make your case hopeless,” she says.
Lucie attributes her recovery to having a good treatment team, but also to staying committed to the process no matter how uncomfortable it felt. It took her a lot of effort not to revert back into old patterns when life got hard, especially with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. “It took me so much tenacity and accountability,” she says. “I remember every time I had a slip or a lapse I wrote a journal entry about when I thought it started, what caused it and read it to may parents and my treatment team, which took a lot of vulnerability. I just sort of had to remember that in order to recover I had to do everything differently. Even if I didn’t like it, I had to make myself do it.”
One thing that really helped Lucie along her recovery journey was connecting to her Jewish faith. She says it was hard having an Eating Disorder in her small Jewish community because there is still stigma around mental health. Lucie says the rate of anxiety is high in Jewish communities because of intergenerational trauma so in that way it is hard to feel heard when being anxious is the norm. The Jewish religion is also one that is based largely around food despite the fact that diet culture is rampant in many Jewish communities. “It’s just a lot of mixed messaging,” she says. “I used to think Jewish people didn’t develop Eating Disorders, that it was just me, until I went to treatment. I think out of like 13 people there were four Jewish clients.”
Lucie says when she was deep in her Eating Disorder she used Jewish holidays as a way to restrict. With Yom Kippur being a fasting holiday and Passover having a lot of dietary restrictions she definitely used the opportunity to limit the types and amounts of food she was eating. When she fully committed herself to recovery, she really started to take the true meaning of these holidays to heart and realized that she was using the holiday to fuel her Eating Disorder and that was not what the scripture intended. “I realized that it would actually be more in spirit of Yom Kippur to do my meal plan exactly as it was written,” she says. “The whole idea of fasting is it’s like a sacrifice that you’re making. It’s supposed to be something that’s hard and it’s supposed to be something that is taking away the distractions from other things so that you can focus on the Torah. For me I know fasting would not do that at all.”
Lucie would recommend that anyone struggling with an Eating Disorder over the holidays remember that their health comes first. “If it’s going to make your Eating Disorder stronger, increase your urges to restrict or heighten thoughts it takes away from the traditions themselves because there is a Jewish law that says do not harm and our health does come first,” she says. “So, it’s actually the more Jewish thing to not do it, to not keep to the traditions if it means sacrificing your health.”
Lucie’s book is called The Jots of Becoming: a journey of hope and recovery, and features many of the journal entries she wrote during her recovery journey. She says she was inspired to write a book that would serve as a helpful companion and guide for recovery that didn’t focus specifically on Eating Disorder behaviours that could be triggering for some people. “When I wrote my book I wanted to try to prove that you can tell an effective story without using numbers or explicitly listing any behaviours,” she says.
The Jots of Becoming is now available on Amazon. For more from Lucie you can find her on Instagram under living.as.lucie.