In the throes of my anorexia, I was too blind to see that I had a problem. I was convinced that my eating disorder was a friend—not a foe. My eating disorder brought me comfort, joy. Yet it also brought heartache and disappointment. Why wasn’t I thin enough? Why couldn’t I stop eating long enough to please these voices screaming in my head? I couldn’t see that I was scaring my loved ones, many of whom thought that I would die at the hands of this illness. I remember brushing off those concerns. Anorexia was my friend. I could stop any time I wanted.
Boy, was I wrong.
When I lost weight, I was so happy. But when I gained even a tiny amount, all hell broke loose. It was either eat or starve. Binge or purge. There is no room for happiness in an eating disorder. It robs you of all joy, and you become some automaton with no feelings. The line starts to blur between who you are as a person and who the eating disorder is. Suddenly, you’re not you anymore. You’re a walking, talking eating disorder. The eating disorder has invaded your mind and every part of your body. You think you can stop at any time, but that boat has long since sailed. You are no longer in control. You can’t stop now. The eating disorder won’t allow it.
I spent several years in the throes of my eating disorder. I dropped out of college because of my eating disorder and depression. I attempted suicide. I thought I’d take a semester off and get better. That’s not how recovery works. It’s a process and a choice. No one can make that decision for you. Recovery is something that you have to want. You have to fight for it.
I get that it’s not easy. I’ve been there. I spent too many years with one foot in my illness and another in “recovery.” Reality of it is, you can’t have both. You have to choose. Still, I thought I could do it. Despite the threats of having to go away for treatment or get nasogastric tubes, I still wasn’t deterred. Anorexia was still my friend. We had unfinished business. Yes, I wanted recovery, but anorexia’s grip was so much tighter. It wasn’t letting go without a fight. As much as I wanted recovery, I wasn’t ready yet. I was too afraid, so I stuck with what was familiar.
If there’s anything I’ve learned through this entire journey, it’s that there is always hope. I’ve been in and out of treatment. I’ve seen numerous therapists. I was so sick when I ventured to see yet another therapist, I told myself that this was it. This was my last resort. Honestly, I was at the end of my rope. I was starting to think that recovery was for other people, not me. But then I started to encounter support from some unexpected places. Those people gave me just enough to hold on a little bit longer and a little bit more.
It took me a full year in treatment before I decided that I truly wanted recovery. It hasn’t been all peaches and cream. I’ve fallen down. I’ve relapsed. Yet, I’ve gotten back up off the mat to try again. I was so malnourished, so depressed. I honestly thought anorexia would kill me. I’m so glad that I had enough strength to try again, to seek help for even a small possibility of recovery. I know you may be tired of hearing this, but it’s true: Recovery is possible. You have to make the decision who you’re going to listen to: those who love you and have your best interest at heart or the eating disorder whose only endgame is you dead in a hospital bed somewhere.
I’ve been in recovery for a year now and while it hasn’t been easy, it is worth it. I’d take bad days in recovery over the crappy days at the hands of the eating disorder any day. I am no longer a slave to the scale. I no longer cry over food or obsess about calories. I’m back in school. I have an amazing boyfriend. I have a wonderful support group. The real beauty is, I’m alive. No one is threatening to send me anywhere. No one is afraid I’m going to die at the hands of this illness anymore.
Right now, in this moment, what is one thing you can do to take a step toward recovery? It doesn’t have to be big; it can be small. Just do something. Do one small thing every day. You are not alone. Recovery is possible, and you deserve every chance to get better and live a beautiful life.