It’s been seven years since my eating disorder took over my life; seven years of a complete and utter roller coaster of emotions.
And as weird as it is to say, I wouldn’t change anything. I wouldn’t magically go back in time and replace that chapter of my life with one written in a prettier tone.
The experience I went through with recovery from a mixture of anorexia, orthorexia, and bulimia caused me to see the world differently and forced me to retake control of my life.
So as much as the pain, tears, hard work and sadness totally sucked, it all shaped me in many ways to become a better person today.
I Became More Understanding of People’s Struggles
When you silently struggle for years with something, you can convince yourself that you’re broken and no one understands what you’re going through. But that’s the sad part about illness in this country: we don’t speak about it enough for people to know that we’re all struggling with something.
When I opened up about my eating disorder, I received a flood of support and stories similar to mine. It was kind of shocking too; no one talked about disordered eating yet so many women related to me.
Now, I see people differently. I know not to dismiss someone as being a generally mean person, that there is usually something going on deeper or a long history of sadness they went through. And when someone does open up that they’re going through something, I offer an ear to listen because I know that’s what I needed when I was in the thick of recovery.
I Began to Understand How Pain Manifests Into Diseases
In the eating disorder community, a common phrase is thrown around: “It’s never about the food.”
What this means is that a person doesn’t develop an eating disorder because they genuinely want to forgo eating or just want to be thin. There’s underlying pain beneath the disease that manifested into control, or lack of control, over food.
And the same goes for alcoholics, OCD, PTSD, and many other diseases/disorders. People are in a lot of pain, and the way they cope manifests differently for everyone.
I Became More Patient
At the beginning of my recovery, I was hard on myself. I’d slip up and be convinced that I was eternally damned to a life of battling with food.
But just like the idea of controlling my food would comfort me took time to develop, rewiring my brain to let go of those beliefs and habits took time too.
The butterfly cliché is often overused, but it’s true. Beautiful things take time. And it’s better to accept the caterpillar/cocoon phase than fight it. And if you’re willing to be open, there’s beauty to be found in these stages too.
I Forgave Those Who Hurt Me
Grudges are a sure-fire way to cause yourself pain that benefits no one and only hurts yourself.
I had a boyfriend that was the catalyst for my eating disorder — and later encouraged the behaviors — and for a long time, I blamed him for everything. Just the thought of this man could send me into a fury.
And although he wasn’t all to blame for my eating disorder, I did end up forgiving him for the pain he caused me. Not necessarily to his face, but inside of me. I learned to let go of the anger because I realized that holding on to something like that wasn’t doing me any good.
I Forgave Myself
This part was the hardest. I hated myself for being “broken,” lacking self-control and detested my appearance for so long. I was a shadow of my former self.
I honestly thought I messed up my own life and I loathed myself for that.
But through recovery, working on building my self-confidence back up, and becoming more comfortable with who I was outside of the eating disorder, I learned to see myself differently. I didn’t mess up my life, I was simply victim to shitty circumstances. And just like I would forgive my friend or a child that made a mistake, I needed to show myself the same kindness.
And when I did, it was magical. I no longer felt at odds with myself, and I learned to apply this to everything I went through in life.
I was never meant to be perfect, and I learned all my imperfections.