It’s been seven years since my eating disorder took over my life; seven years of a complete and utter roller coaster of emotions. And as weird as it is to say, I wouldn’t change anything. I wouldn’t magically go back in time and replace that chapter of my life with one written in a prettier tone. The experience I went through with recovery from a mixture of anorexia, orthorexia, and bulimia caused me to see the world differently and forced me to retake control of my life.
With pain comes growth and understanding; there are several ways surviving my eating disorder has made me a better person today.
1. I Became More Understanding Of People’s Struggles
When you silently struggle for years with something, you can convince yourself that you’re broken and no one understands what you’re going through. But that’s the sad part about illness in this country: We don’t speak about it enough for people to know that we’re all struggling with something. When I opened up about my eating disorder, I received a flood of support and stories similar to mine.
Now I know not to dismiss someone as being a generally mean person or to ignore that they’re going through something—instead, I dig a little deeper and offer an ear to listen because I know that’s what I needed when I was in the thick of recovery.
2. I Began To Understand How Pain Manifests Into Diseases
In the eating disorder community, a common phrase is thrown around: “It’s never about the food.”
What this means is that a person doesn’t develop an eating disorder because they genuinely want to forgo eating or just want to be thin. There’s underlying pain beneath the disease that manifested into control, or lack of control, over food.
The same goes for alcoholics, OCD, PTSD, and many other diseases/disorders. People are in a lot of pain, and the way their coping manifests looks different than others, even though it’s all rooted in the same cause: pain.
3. I Became More Patient
At the beginning of my recovery, I was hard on myself. I’d slip up and be convinced that I was eternally damned to a life of battling with food.
But just like the idea of how controlling my food would comfort me took time to develop, rewiring my brain to let go of those beliefs and habits took time too.
The butterfly cliché is often overused, but it’s true. Beautiful things take time. And it’s better to accept the caterpillar/cocoon phase than to fight it.
4. I Forgave Those Who Hurt Me
Grudges are a sure-fire way to cause yourself pain that benefits no one and only hurts yourself.
I had a boyfriend that was the catalyst for my eating disorder (and later encouraged the behaviors), and for a long time, I blamed him for everything. Just the thought of this man could send me into a fury.
And although he wasn’t all to blame for my eating disorder, I did end up forgiving him for the pain he caused me. Not necessarily to his face, but inside of me. I learned to let go of the anger because I realized that holding on to something like that wasn’t doing me any good.
5. I Forgave Myself
This part was the hardest. I hated myself for being “broken” and lacking self-control and detested my appearance for so long. I honestly thought I messed up my own life, and I loathed myself for that.
But through recovery, working on building my self-confidence back up, and learning more about my authentic self, I learned to see things differently. I didn’t mess up my life, I was simply victim to shitty circumstances. And just like I would forgive my friend or a child that made a mistake, I needed to show myself the same kindness.
And when I did, it was magical. I no longer felt at odds with myself, and I learned to apply this to everything I went through in life.
I was never meant to be perfect, and I learned to love myself through it all.