My eating disorder used to be my best friend; to me nothing was as important. I couldn’t count on anyone or anything more than it. For years and years, I held on to the fact that I could get through anything as long as I had my eating disorder, I thought it helped me “feel better.”
I believed it was saving my life, when in fact, it was slowly doing the opposite. Years of treatment and hospitalizations were spaced out between brief periods of “semi” efforts at recovery. Basically I was trying to find a balance of being able to live life and survive with an eating disorder. The thing is, “surviving” is not the same thing as “living.” I merely existed, if even that. I was exhausting myself and the people around me in my futile attempts to hold on to the very thing that I needed to lose in order to really start living.
It wasn’t until I became a preschool teacher that I even began to appreciate and understand what life is about. I watched one of my students battle (and survive!!) cancer. It was then that I realized that I had a critical choice to make. I could honor my body and take care of the only place I have to live life in, and start appreciating it for all of the wonderful things it could do. Or I could continue to abuse it, which was all I had ever known. It was a tough decision, but I decided to stop the cycle of abuse.
Here are some of the amazing moments of that decision: I got into graduate school and am currently pursuing my Master’s degree in Social Work so that I can help others. I ran my first half marathon in 2011 and my first full marathon in 2012. Talk about being in awe of what a HEALTHY body can do! I’ve inspired others to work hard towards their own recovery and have become an example of “living proof” that it is possible to leave the eating disorder behind. I have made more room in my life for things that bring me joy; things that I never had time for when I was busy with my eating disorder…things like singing in a choir, having “Pinterest” dates, trying out new recipes with friends, and learning to play the piano! Being in recovery hasn’t been a perfect course, but as one of my favorite treatment providers used to remind us, “It’s an upward spiral!”
I have learned to truly hold myself to a standard of grace and NOT one of perfection, and that has made all the difference. I go to bed every night trying my best to believe that regardless of anything I am absolutely worthy of love and happiness. I work hard to cultivate relationships through authenticity and vulnerability, and have, in turn, been blessed with some of the most amazing friendships, working relationships, and therapeutic relationships. Throughout my recovery journey, I’ve consistently tried to improve not only my ability to be genuinely compassionate towards others, but towards myself as well, and that certainly is a process.
Why am I sharing my story? If I am able to show compassion for my struggle and my journey, I can more clearly see that it has shaped who I am, but doesn’t define me. I am NOT just “the girl with the eating disorder.” I AM, however, “the girl who has been to hell and back” and has wounds to prove it. The girl who understands how it feels to be hurt in almost every way possible, the girl who desperately searched for ways to get rid of the pain, and who almost killed herself in those attempts. I used to be the girl who knew how it felt to look at a mirror and not recognize the face staring back at her. I am the girl who, despite feeling unworthy and hurt, scared and hopeless, NEVER, EVER gave up. I didn’t give up, and because of that it made all the difference.
If you’re reading this, you haven’t given up either. Never once have I claimed this journey to be “easy,” because it isn’t. In fact, it’s one of the toughest things I have ever done. But it is SO TOTALLY WORTH IT. I gave up my eating disorder, and in return, learned what it means to TRULY LIVE.