The Recovery of a Lifetime

Do you know someone with an eating disorder?

I hope you answered yes, because you know me. I am a survivor of anorexia nervosa for life. This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week and I hope you all have been bombarded by posts, news segments, and other materials about eating disorders. Kate has been doing some awesome informative posts about all types of eating disorders to break myths and bring awareness. I have been participating in Awareness Week since my first year of recovery, and this week is one of the most meaningful weeks of the year for me and my family. It is because of this week and the efforts of many organizations like NEDA that eating disorders have finally left the closet and people have started talking about it. So let’s talk.

Eating disorders are a mental illness, each eating disorder is individual and unique. Yes this illness shares similarities between cases, but no eating disorder is ever the same. I know a large majority of people believe that eating disorders are about appearance and dieting, but that isn’t the case. Those who develop eating disorders don’t necessarily want to be thin. It took me a long time past reaching my goal weight to recognize that this mental illness 1.) doesn’t go away just because I look healthy again and 2.) the reason for my obsessions with food, diet, and exercise were really just a way for me to deal with other life stressors. Turning to food and restriction and compulsive exercise was/is a way for me to block out the rest of the world, escape from things I wasn’t happy doing.

Now my eating disorder, or my life in recovery really, has taught me how to live my life for me- taking care of myself physically and mentally in order to live a healthy and happy life. I resisted recovery for longer than I would like to admit. Even when I had reached my goal weight there was still a piece of me that wanted to go back. You see, eating disorders take over your brain, they have a separate voice, and it is a strong voice with the potential to ruin your life if you aren’t strong. Recovery gave me strengthonce I accepted it. The day I chose recovery became the day I started to live again. I began to live a life that didn’t revolve around food. I started to challenge my perfectionism. And most importantly I began to see the real me again.

Because of recovery, I know who I am. I know how to deal with the stressful moments of life, and I have the tools to recognize when I need to ask for help in any situation. Recovery is more beautiful than any life in an eating disorder ever was. There is no perfection in recovery. There is fear in recovery. There is no escape from life in recovery, because recovery (the good and the bad) is life.

I have found hope in recovery and wish that for anyone suffering today. If you know someone who might be suffering or you are struggling yourself reach out. Don’t stay silent, because one more day of saying and doing nothing is another day you are not living.

For more information on Eating Disorders check out these resources:

10 thoughts on “The Recovery of a Lifetime

  1. This is a great message for anyone struggling with an ED or not. Do I wish I didn’t have to deal with one? Absolutely. But do I regret it? No. I learned so much about myself from having one and I’ve grown into who I am today because of it. That’s pretty amazing and you can look back and deal with all of the what ifs. I am who I am and that’s all there is to it. Recovery IS life. It’s a lifelong battle. I love the way you put that. It’s not just a means to an end, it becomes the way you live.

    • And it is a great way to live. We see the “little” accomplishments as the big ones they really are. Recovery taught me that even the toughest times have light at the end of the tunnel.

  2. What a great post. What we are trying to develop on campus is showing students (with eating disorders or not) that it is a mental illness. It doesn’t necessarily deal with just food, diet, exercise and it goes so much farther beyond that. I’m hosting an informal seminar tonight for students where we are showing the documentary thin and just chatting. I’m pretty excited to just strike conversation.

    • How was the seminar??? I hope the students saw that it really is a mental illness and not a diet. I know it is hard for the general population to see beyond the weight and food aspects, but spend a day with a person who has or is suffering from an ED and you begin to see that the food is just how this mental illness presents itself to the world.

  3. Yet another great, emotion-filled post. I think that many people tend to overlook the fact that an ED is in fact a mental illness. I believe that your views on recovery are exactly how one should look at life after ED – recovery really IS life, especially because it permanently transforms the way you live/view life post-ED.

    • EXACTLY! We all have parts of our life that shape us, mine was an ED. Maybe another person’s is different and hard in its own distinct way. We are not given struggles that we will not be able to handle. I understand that it is difficult to see past the body image and food struggles that come along with an ED, but that is just it they occur because of something deeper. Our bodies use everyday things like food and exercise to express our emotional feelings and concerns.

  4. This brought tears to my eyes, love. Your words about recovery being scary and life are so true…probably the hardest thing I’ve done up to this point…but also the most rewarding when all is said and done….what’s more precious than our lives? I love you darlin and I am so proud you.

    • I love you dear 🙂 I agree that it is the hardest experience of my 21 years on this earth so far. But it has shaped me and made me stronger and confident in myself, something I never had before. So while I never wish for anyone to suffer an eating disorder, I know that I was given one for a reason and I recovered for a reason. I never appreciated life before, now every minute I spend living is precious.

  5. This was beautiful – I couldn’t have put it better myself. Recovery is SO hard, but going through it really teaches you a lot about life and about yourself. I know that I’m a much stronger and more resilient person for having gone through it, and I have a lot more to offer the world. It also really helps you see LIFE in such a different way – as something scary, beautiful, tough at times but worth it – and you only get one, so you better not waste it! Even people who’ve never had an ED, I don’t think many of them see life that way. It takes almost losing it, I guess, which in a way you do with ED, whether or not you come close to physically dying.

    • My therapist constantly reminds me of the wisdom I have gained because of the experience. She turns something I am constantly hating on into something beautiful. How many 21 year olds have the ability to recognize when things are a little off in life AND know what to do to help them find the right track again? Not many.

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