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 that moment of getting in my car and driving 700 miles to South Carolina, because my mom discovered I was attempting to purge at seventeen years young.
But there is no definitive start date or exact moment of when it all really began. Because recovery isn’t linear.
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 labelled.
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 manage 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, a story I believe is important to tell.
It’s an opportunity to sit with the uncomfortable.
I’m able to look at 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. I can look at myself in the mirror with strength instead of terror.
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. And 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 there 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, or moving far too quickly when I wanted 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 disorder.
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.
I’ve learned so much about myself that I absolutely love, adore, and give myself props for.
I don’t like modern rap. I love 90’s female alternative musicians. And I don’t like staying up until weird hours of the night. I thrive in the morning daylight. I genuinely despise olives. And 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 it prominently placed on the little piece of hanging skin next to my armpit. I treasure my ageing hands. The curves along my waist are perfect for holding in the most intimate way.
What I have done throughout my eating disorder 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 I finally was able to see the roots beneath the tree of my disorder; helping me realise what the bigger picture was:
I didn’t love myself. I needed to fix that relationship before fixing any other one I had in my life.
My eating disorder still lingers. It’ll be there for the rest of my life, as it attempts to make its 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 than my inner demons. 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 illness, to feel like they have control over the narrative.
Today, I love myself first.
My eating disorder does not define me or put me into a box. I claim it because I have ownership and control, not the other way around.
I have seen the beauty in recovery and it really is a miraculous, brave, and empowering thing.