In Honor of National ED Awareness Week: Reflecting on the Realness

Hey BRAINIACS! (don't mind me and my cool new FONT)


Photo taken summer 2016. This was my life. Every morning I would sit in front of this space heater (yes, even during the summer) because I was so cold from being so underweight. I tore through novels more than I ever had before. They were my escape, my friends. I had pushed aside too many of my real ones.



It is officially National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, and it is my honor to share with you the transformation I began almost two years ago. 

As many of you know but have probably forgotten because it has absolutely nothing to do with you, I suffered from anorexia and exercise addiction for three years. In March of 2017, I had hit rock bottom with my self-abuse and denial of it. I had been wafting through life like a ghost. I was no longer living. I was just existing.

In retrospect, my eating disorder was something that had been manifesting my entire life. For as long as I can remember, I have been someone who buries my misery. I grew up surrounded by depression and addiction, but it wasn't something I understood as a child. 

Depression looked like adults unable to get out of bed and face life, and I could never figure out why. I internally vowed to never let it bring me down, and my coping mechanism became not talking.

Of course, you wouldn't know that by looking at me. I've always been a big talker, someone who loves to make people laugh and smile at everyday life. But underneath my smile were a lot of issues, issues related to my body and sexuality so deep-seated I did not even realize they were there.

Sometimes we think it's impossible to lie to ourselves. I mean, how would that work? We're the only ones who know what's going on in our brains and hearts. But my experience with eating disorders and my subsequent recovery taught me that we can be complete strangers to ourselves and not even know it. 

It got to the point where I just didn't want to experience humanness anymore. I didn't want imperfection. I didn't want to cry or talk about anything that might have made me weak. I figured if I didn't give it any attention, then it didn't exist.

Man, was I wrong. There is no such thing as pushing aside your problems or saving them for later. Instead, they wait. They bubble under the surface and then rear up and absolutely destroy you, in a way you never thought possible. 

It took me 22 years, but I finally began to confront my demons on March 4, 2017. And every little thing that was stored in my mind as disappointment, trauma, and self-hatred came out. I wanted to die. 

And that is recovery. It is feeling again.

Your eating disorder was this grand, theatrical, MASSIVE effort to run. You are so desperate to escape the mental warfare living in you that you will do anything to make yourself go numb. To begin recovering is to feel again, more colorfully, intensely and frighteningly than you ever have. It is the accumulation of years of feeling that was not addressed - years of insecurity and doubt and fear. So much fear. Fear of living without bounds, taking up space and making your mark regardless of what anyone has to say.

Much of recovery has been hell. It has been a lot of me wanting to give up, and having to talk myself into giving it just one more day, just one more meal. It is going to feel like a never-ending climb up a steep mountain, with no end in sight, until one day you have made it. 

Today, as I approach the two-year anniversary of my recovery, I am reflecting on the very beginning: when I made the decision that was going to change my life forever.

There were so many beautiful moments that went into my decision to recover, starting with when I ate half a carrot muffin, the first (yes, I mean FIRST) piece of bread I had eaten in three years. I was so high from the sugar rush and the calories I wasn't used to that I ran around my front yard doing cartwheels. I still wonder what my neighbors might have been thinking, peering outside and seeing this 86-pound 21-year-old woman flipping around on the grass and giggling like a maniac. But I didn't care who saw. For the first time in a long time, I felt free.

And the colors. I remember walking onto my college campus a few days into eating normally and being unable to hide the wonder and amazement in my expression. Friends were talking, laughing, eating, living. Experiencing normal life and not being terrified of it or in denial of it. The breeze felt a little stronger, the sun shone a little brighter, and those colors. I will never forget how radiant and tactile the colors of the world were when I decided to look upon it with hope. 

Lastly, I will never forget the amount of strength and determination that swelled within me when I first became public about my anorexia. 

Initially, I had no intentions of sharing this incredibly intimate facet of my life with you. I was embarrassed at how far I had let myself stray and didn't want anyone to know. However, I decided to open up about my experience a few months into recovery for one purpose only: accountability. I figured if everyone in my life and on social media knew about my struggle, there was no way I would relapse, and I was definitely convinced that I would at least try to.



Relapse never happened, and it is because of you. Above is the first post I ever created about my struggles. After posting it, I was absolutely sick with anticipation and worry. I was terrified people would say awful things about me, or look down on me for letting things get so out of hand.

Instead, I was met with the power of love and humanity. I received nothing but support from friends, family members, acquaintances and even people I had never met before. I was lauded for my honesty and encouraged to keep fighting for my health and happiness. I went into this expecting maybe a few of my closest friends to reach out in support, and instead felt the love of an entire army.

Thank you for believing in me. Thank you for those who reached out when they noticed I was struggling, and an even bigger thank you to those who reached out and checked on me when I was silent. Thank you to this beautiful community of eating disorder recovery support, because without you I am confident I wouldn't have made it this far.

And I cry as I write this post because recovery is an everyday process, and this is still mine. Writing is cathartic for me - it is what keeps me sane when I feel on the verge of losing it, time and again. 

We all have the emotional tools to be the best version of ourselves. It is up to you to discover yours and utilize them. But until then, start recovering. Stripping away the numbness, as painful as it is, will help you discover what it is that you need to be happy. Reach out to me - use me as a resource. I am here to be anything you need me to be in this journey, whether it is eating disorder-related or not. 

I have seen both extremes of life, and believe me when I say that the only one worth living is not in black and white. It is in color. 

Comments

  1. Fabulous, little sister. I'm so proud of you for your willingness to share and be vulnerable.

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