I couldn’t tell you when it all really started. I have memories of looking at a scale and seeing numbers that terrified me as I made my way into high school. Or the time I ran away to South Carolina because my mom found out I was trying to purge. But there is no definitive start date or exact moment of when it all really began. What I do know is that in 2018, I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa and binge eating disorder. That was the moment I was defined and labeled. I was sick.
For the last two years, I’ve been working my way through recovery from my eating disorders. I’ve had to quiet the voices of my inner demons and manage my depression on a daily basis. It’s become easier to navigate as time has passed. Through therapy and help from my own personal Justice League of doctors and supporters, I’ve been able to come out the other end with a sense of optimism; a sense of hope. Hope for a future I never thought I’d have.
Anyone who has an eating disorder understands that recovery is a lonely and seemingly isolating process. But there is also a beautiful side to recovery. It’s an opportunity to sit with the uncomfortable. I’m able to look those same inner demons right in the face and say, “You have no control over me.” Because if I’ve learned anything about the concept of control, one of my biggest enemies, it’s that the only thing in this life I can control is my recovery.
The other beautiful part of recovery is the rediscovery period. My partner at the time of my diagnosis left me. I don’t mean he broke up with me, I mean he got on a plane to Guatemala with the intention of returning back a few weeks later in time for Thanksgiving. But after ten days of radio silence, he finally confided in me that his true intention was to never come back. That he couldn’t ‘deal’ with my disorders or depression. He was happier without me.
At first, I was furious and filled with so much shame to the point that I almost took my own life. To think that someone could reiterate the false narrative I told myself for years: that I was too broken to be loved, that there would never be someone to stick through the difficult times because I wasn’t worth it.
Time took its course, slowing down when I wanted it to speed up and going too fast when I begged for it to stand still. With time, I was able to finally see that I had completely lost myself not only in this person but in my eating disorders. I didn’t know what type of music I liked or the day-to-day things that truly brought me happiness. I was able to fall in love with myself all over again like I was dating someone for the very first time. The honeymoon phase where each and every thing I did was an opportunity for me to decide, for myself, whether I liked it or not.
Here’s what I discovered: I don’t like modern rap. I love 90’s female alternative musicians. I don’t like staying up until weird hours of the night. I thrive in the morning daylight. I genuinely despise olives. I could eat trail mix until my mouth falls apart from too much salt.
As for my body, I love every ounce of it. I love the freckle that is prominently placed on the little piece of hanging skin next to my armpit. I treasure my aging hands. The curves along my waist are perfect for holding in the most intimate way.
What I have done throughout my recovery is not only find a way for me to have a better relationship with food—although that is a major part of the process—but to also see the roots beneath the tree of my disorders, helping me to unveil the bigger picture. I didn’t love myself. I needed to fix that relationship before fixing any other one I had in my life.
My eating disorders still linger. They’ll be there for the rest of my life as they attempt to make their way to the forefront of my mind. But I can manage it because the love I have for myself overpowers the voices. It’s louder and braver. It takes priority and will never fall to the back burner for anyone, or anything ever again. What is most important in this world is to understand that it’s my version of reality—and no one else’s. So if I’m going to live this story from start to finish, I’m going to do it on my terms with no one, not even my mental illnesses, feeling like they have control over the narrative.
Today, I love myself first. My eating disorders do not define me nor do they put me into a box. I claim them because I have ownership and control, not the other way around.
Today, I love myself first.
You are more than a number on a scale or a measuring tape. You are human. Messy and whole, capable of so many good things, regardless of your body’s shape. We encourage you to use TWLOHA’s FIND HELP Tool to locate professional help and to read more stories like this one here. If you reside outside of the US, please browse our growing International Resources database. You can also text TWLOHA to 741741 to be connected for free, 24/7 to a trained Crisis Text Line counselor. If it’s encouragement or a listening ear that you need, email our team at firstname.lastname@example.org.