alessia cara's scars to my beautiful music video

Music is powerful. For years, music has been used as a way to express emotions we can’t seem to speak. Music brings both the strength of lyrics and musical harmony that has a way to touch our innermost being. Music not only helps us express our emotions, it has the ability to help us make sense of them. It holds the magic of bringing us back to a fond memory or provide us the strength to get through a tough time.

Throughout my recovery from an eating disorder, I often felt lonely. I often felt like I couldn’t put into words what I was going through, or process the emotions I was feeling. I wanted to share this playlist with a few songs that resonated with me during this time. It’s important to find a way to express these feelings. Music provided this for me. These songs not only helped me understand I wasn’t alone, but they also helped me know things will get better. They will. I hope you find your playlist.

1. “You Can’t Rush Your Healing” by Trevor Hall

“You can’t rush your healing.
Darkness has its teachings.
Love is never leaving.
You can’t rush your healing.”

I love this song for reminding me we can’t rush our healing, and darkness has meaning in our journey. This song reminds me to hold fast during the hard times. I am healing, and healing takes time.

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.

2. “Recover” by CHVRCHES

“I’ll give you one more chance
To say we can change or part ways
And you take what you need
And you don’t need me.”

This song is so powerful. I relate it to my eating disorder. It depicts the relationship and struggle one has with an eating disorder.

“And if I recover
Will you be my comfort
Or it can be over
Or we can just leave it here
So pick any number
Choose any color
I’ve got the answer
Open the envelope.”

3. “Crucify” by Tori Amos

“Why do we
Crucify ourselves?
Every day,
I crucify myself.
Nothing I do is good enough for you.
Crucify myself,
Every day,
And my heart is sick of being in chains.”

This song reminds me of the abusive relationship one has with an eating disorder — the ever-tiring struggle one has with his mean and vicious voice. No matter how much we try, it’s never good enough for him.

4. “Scars to Your Beautiful” by Alessia Cara

“She just wants to be beautiful.
She goes unnoticed.
She knows no limits.
She craves attention.
She praises an image.
She prays to be sculpted by the sculptor.
Oh, she don’t see, the light that’s shining
Deeper than the eyes can find it.
Maybe we have made her blind.”

This song really hits my core. It suggests that it’s not us who need to change, but it’s the world that needs to change. She continues on to say,

“But there’s a hope that’s waiting for you in the dark.
You should know you’re beautiful just the way you are.
And you don’t have to change a thing.
The world could change its heart.
No scars to your beautiful.
We’re stars and we’re beautiful.”

This song gives women and men empowerment to fight through the darkness and attempt to see the true, unique beauty that is them.

5.“One Step At a Time” by Jordin Sparks

“We live and we learn to take
One step at a time.
There’s no need to rush.
It’s like learning to fly
Or falling in love.
It’s gonna happen
When it’s supposed to happen,
And we find the reasons why
One step at a time.”

This song reminds me we can only take one step at a time. Keep one foot in front of the other. Continue forward. There is no need to rush.

6. “Who You Are” by Jessie J

“I stare at my reflection in the mirror.
Why am I doing this to myself?
Losing my mind on a tiny error,
I nearly left the real me on the shelf.”

She continues on to say,

“It’s OK not to be OK.
Sometimes it’s hard to follow your heart.
Tears don’t mean you’re losing, everybody’s bruising,
Just be true to who you are!”

This song helped me realize it’s OK to not be OK. Everyone is battling their own demons.

7. “Follow The Sun” by Xavier Rudd

“Breathe, breathe in the air.
Set your intentions.
Dream with care.
Tomorrow is a new day for everyone,
Brand new moon, brand new sun.”

He continues on singing,

“When you feel life coming down on you,
Like a heavy weight.
When you feel this crazy society,
Adding to the strain.
Take a stroll to the nearest waters
And remember your place.
Many moons have risen and fallen long, long before you came.”

This song reminded me as big as our problems are it helps to step back and retreat to nature, to become balanced and realize and remember what truly matters.

8. “Breathe Me” by Sia

“Help, I have done it again.
I have been here many times before,
Hurt myself again today.
And the worst part is there’s no one else to blame.Be my friend, hold me.
Wrap me up, unfold me.
I am small, and needy.
Warm me up, and breathe me.”

Describing that feeling of loneliness and hopelessness, this song speaks up for those who can’t express they need a friend, someone to help hold them up.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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Exercise is something that is considered healthy. Not only does it benefit us physically but also mentally. It is a good tool to use for stress management and can also help people manage various types of psychological issues. The adrenaline produced by exercise can bring out the competitive nature in exceptional athletes and motivate others to live a healthier lifestyle.

Even joking about having an exercise addiction is something most consider to be admirable. The drive and determination it takes to train multiple hours a day for a certain sport is a quality that is both respected and envied. It can be hard to understand that even too much of a good thing can be negative. I’ve struggled for years with an exercise addiction, and it’s something that’s been terribly difficult to admit. There are multiple signs that have shown me the amount of exercise I was engaging in wasn’t healthy, and the steps I’ve been taking the past several months to put an end to it has definitely been more of a challenge than I thought it would be.

When I started running, it came from a healthy place. I was a freshman in high school who just wanted to be in better shape. The first running loop I created in my neighborhood was two and a half miles. I remember liking the feeling when I was done, exhausted but proud of what I had accomplished. I liked the way my body felt, my muscles were tighter and being dehydrated made me feel lighter. My clothes began getting baggier and the compliments started coming in.

“You look great!”

“Have you lost weight? I’m so jealous!!”

“You’re such a fast runner!”

The praise motivated me to run harder and eat less. I liked feeling small and light. My mood started to become dependent on the endorphins from running. If I wasn’t able to run that day, then I would become depressed, irritable and angry. Two and a half miles turned into five miles. Five miles turned into 10 miles.

Once I started my sophomore year of high school, I was running 10 miles. Every. Single. Day. The compliments stopped and instead people were starting to worry. My doctor placed me on exercise restriction, but this wouldn’t stop me. I would do anything to exercise. Before school, I would run up and down our stairs 100 times while my parents were still sleeping. I would come home from school and immediately go down to the basement to do aerobics. There were even Sunday mornings where I would find an empty room at our church to run laps in while my parents thought I was sitting in the service with my friends elsewhere.

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.

The need to exercise consumed me, and the amount of calories I was burning coupled with the amount I wasn’t eating was taking a toll on my body that I was in denial of. My self-worth was 100 percent based on how many miles I ran that day, how little I ate (or how long I could hold off eating entirely that day) and the number of ribs I could count that were protruding through my skin.

After being diagnosed with an eating disorder the middle of my sophomore year, I began the road to recovery the summer going into my junior year. I was eating again, but I was not willing to stop running. It was the only thing I still felt like I had control over, and the thought of giving that up terrified me. As I started to eat normally again and put on weight, my doctor was OK with me running as long as I kept my weight up.

I continued to run 10 miles every day, only allowing myself a day off once every 3 weeks. I dreaded every minute of it, but I couldn’t let it go because it was the only thing that allowed me to eat. Although I looked healthy on the outside, I was still fighting a difficult battle with myself on the inside. I told myself once I went to college, I wouldn’t exercise as much because I would be too busy. I was convinced going away to college would make everything better, but it actually made things worse.

By the middle of my freshman year at Purdue University, I was running a minimum of 11 miles every day. Some days I would run 20 to 22 miles with some upperclassmen who were training for the Chicago marathon. Three days a week I would run at least twice per day. Whenever I had a chance between classes, I would exercise.

The cross-country coach saw me run by the athletic complexes, and impressed with my pace, invited me to join the team. Again, I thought joining the team would give me more discipline to run only the amount my coach told me to. Nope. I became worried that the workouts were too short and would run extra on my own, sneaking in treadmill runs at the Co-Rec and running off-campus so I wouldn’t get caught.

The stress on my body lead to multiple stress fractures and other injuries that would put me out of running for months at a time. I didn’t know how to cope with stress and emotions without being able to run, and every injury was a trigger for relapsing back into my eating disorder. I coped with binge drinking, blaming my thrown up dinner on the tequila shots I took that night.

During my last year of undergrad I was finally injury-free and impulsively decided to sign up for the Chicago marathon. A reason to run excessively without giving a cause for people to comment that I was running too much?! Sign me up! After completing the Chicago marathon at a respectable time of 3:29, I decided it was my first and last. Two years later, I made another impulsive decision to run the Arizona marathon (only because the entry fee was only $15 more than the half-marathon. I thought, why not?).

Running that marathon seven minutes faster than my first, I had qualified for the Boston marathon twice and decided to go for it. I thought Boston would be my last, I had over-trained and was going into the race mentally and physically drained. However, the year I ran in Boston was the year of the bombings. The events of that day were difficult for me to process. So I coped with the emotions the only way I knew how — running. I ran my next marathon less than six months later with another PR.

Then, after finding out I was pregnant, I took a two year break. When Carli was just 14 months old, I ran the Chicago marathon again and then just five months later ran the Atlanta marathon. Having had a lot of success in Atlanta (I placed fourth overall female with a time of 3:16) I immediately signed up for my seventh marathon, which would take place in Columbus, Ind. in September, just six months later.

Letting Go

I was able to surrender my eating disorder and body image issues to God years ago, but I’ve grasped onto my exercise addiction with excuses that allowed me to believe it was OK. It’s been easy to let myself thrive in the success I’ve had with marathon running, and I had big goals for myself when I started to train for my seventh marathon.

I was going to run close to 3:10. I wanted to get faster and faster so someday I could beat 3:00. I believed this drive to be a faster runner was normal because all athletes are motivated to get better. I didn’t want to accept or consider the success I wanted came at a price, not just the price of the relationships with the people closest to me but also the price of my health. Even the price of staying in recovery from my eating disorder. Although I refuse to let myself fall into that place again, I’m realizing training so intensely (the way I have been) can so easily open that door. I’m also learning training for such long distances is a trigger, one I’ve been in denial of.

There has been a transformation in my thoughts over the past several years that has allowed me to be at peace with food and my body. I didn’t allow that transformation to get in the way of my running. I wanted so badly to protect that because I was too scared to give it up. It was the one thing that my eating disorder had left to use against me, to stir up those feelings of inadequacy that food could no longer compress.

I want my approach to running be similar to my approach to food, something that is healthy and well-balanced. I no longer want to use running as a form of punishment or source of self-worth. I don’t want it to be my only coping mechanism, something I’m finding to be quite difficult but rewarding all at the same time.

I no longer want to be defined as just being a hard-working, dedicated runner. I want people to know me as a good friend, a loving wife and a wonderful mother. Running still has a place. It always will. It’s just going to take a backseat to more important things in life.

I don’t plan on never racing again. In fact, I’m running a half-marathon with one of my best friends in early November. I have decided to resign from marathon running. I’m not sure if it’s going to be forever, but I know right now, I can no longer put so much focus on training for a 26.2 mile race. A lot of people who run marathons are able to do so without becoming so consumed by the training. I’m able to train this way for shorter distances, but it’s hard for me to train for a marathon without running an excessive amount.

I decided to drop out of my seventh marathon just eight weeks before I was due to race. Honestly, I’m just tired. I’m only 29, but my body feels like I’m 79 sometimes. It’s worn out and defeated. I enjoyed spending my summer running less and allowing myself to do other forms of exercise. I spent more time with friends and family. I slept in (as much as Carli would let me), and I feel refreshed. Although I felt a twinge of guilt yesterday morning when I looked at the clock and realized I should be running mile 18 at that moment, I was at complete peace with my decision.

This post originally appeared on Chews Mindfully.

 If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

Image via contributor.


After the hospital stays and after the doctors’ visits for regular weigh ins and EKGs. After you stop taking birth control purely for weight gaining purposes and after walking the dog is considered a healthy activity again. After your friends stop hedgingly asking, “How are you feeling?” and after people no longer side-eye you to make sure you finish your meal. After you wake up and aren’t disappointed you didn’t die in your sleep.

You are considered to have survived. You are considered to have lived through the living nightmare that is an eating disorder. You are rehabilitated. You can return to normalcy.

So, for days, for weeks, for months, for years, like everyone else, you ride the bus. That mundane activity, a part of everyday life. Some days, you let your head bob to your music, simply enjoying the scenery. It’s bliss to let your thoughts slip and wave from place to place without ever fully landing. Some days, you are buried in work, your nose pressed into emails. You hastily read memos and organize last minute meetings.

Some days, a familiar duo boards the bus and sits immediately in front of you. They have a conversation so inane and so circular it cuts through your music or your memos. It draws your attention so completely it’s impossible to pull away, to refocus. You try to breathe, using all those techniques they taught you. They don’t work. The words of their conversation drill deeper. They take hold, clawing into every part of you.

“Are your thighs touching?”

“Yeah, but we’re sitting down. Of course, they’re touching.”

“It feels gross. Move them apart.”

“What’s the point? My thighs touch, that’s just a fact.”

“Yeah, but still, don’t you wish they didn’t.”

“No. Well, maybe a little.”

“Look, that lady is basically the same size as us, do her thighs touch?”

“Yeah, I think so, but she seems happy.”

“Yeah, she does, but should she be?”

“Yeah why not, other people seem happy with their size, why can’t I be?”

“Because you can’t.”

“Why not?”

“Well you can try, but wouldn’t you just be lying to yourself? You know you’d be so much more if you lost like five pounds.”

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.

“Well isn’t that just society telling me I should look a certain way?”

“But what’s wrong with wanting to be the best version of yourself?”

“There’s nothing wrong with that.”

“So why is wanting to be slimmer wrong?”

“It isn’t, but we have other stuff to do.”

“Yeah, but let’s do this first.”

You bury your face in your hands wanting to scream that none of this matters. That there are so many other things to worry about. That for the love of all things holy, will you please shut up. You are an onlooker to your own infuriatingly cyclical thoughts. Knowing the how wrong this conversation is doesn’t help silence it. If anything, it fuels it.

“So have we decided if we are going out for dinner tonight? You need to respond to them.”

“I do, but I don’t know.”

“We should look up the menu, see what we can eat.”

“What if they ask me why I’m not drinking?”

“Could we manage one drink?”

“Yeah, but isn’t that just a waste of calories?”

“Yeah, but I love beer. It’s a craft beer place.”

“Yeah well that’s your fault for not planning for it. If you had thought ahead then maybe, we could have enjoyed it. Yeesh, you’re useless.” 

“What if we make lunch smaller?”

“Oh, that could work.”

From listening to them, you come to realize ghosts don’t die. They just sleep. Ready to wake at the slightest provocation. You realize this haunting duo is ceaseless, merciless. They can poke holes in anything. Any glimmer of self-satisfaction and they will smother it so completely you will feel foolish for even dreaming it possible. They exist only to remind you that despite all you have proven to yourself, you have made no progress. At the end of it all, nothing about you will ever be good enough.

The conversation is dizzying and exhausting. It drains you of your ability to focus on anything else. It eats away at everything you enjoy. It makes you feel shallow. No matter what you have accomplished and have done since, all of that substance falls away, is irrelevant.

The bus crawls to your stop. Some days, you get off the bus, and after some sincere positive affirmations, you can move on with your day. You placate the ghosts, cajoling them to sleep, promising you won’t eat too much, that you will work out extra hard.

Some days, you get off the bus, the conversation ringing so loudly in your ears you want to rip your skin off, shed it completely and fling it from you. To run so far and so fast you become a different person, with different problems. That you never have to return to hating yourself so acutely.

Some days, you get off the bus, middle finger in the air, defiantly yelling you are more than this. That this duo is no longer truly in control of you. That you are better than this, that you are more than what your illness left you with. That no matter what they say, you are working on being happy with you who are now. While medical metrics have deemed you rehabilitated, you come to judge your true progress by how you get off the bus.

Image via Thinkstock

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

 If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237


“I haven’t eaten all day!”

“It’s OK to just eat pizza and chips. It’s college!”

“I’m not going to eat so I’ll get more drunk at the party.”

”This is the one time in our lives when we can eat whatever we want!”

If you’re a college student, there’s a good chance you’ve heard friends and fellow classmates say these things. As someone in recovery from an eating disorder and in college, hearing phrases such as these tends to grab my attention. They’re a red flag, I think. Disordered eating talk. Yet, the funny thing is my peers who say these things most likely aren’t struggling with an eating disorder at all, but merely the disordered eating habits of a care-free college student.

So you might be thinking, what’s the difference between them and someone like me? To start, when one of my friends says she hasn’t eaten all day, it’s usually because she’s been doing school work and caught up in daily life. It’s not because of deliberate restriction. She then tends to make up for her calories later in the day, which still may not be considered the most healthy thing.

However, what makes her merely disordered and not struggling with an eating disorder is that she’s carefree about it. She’s not spending every waking moment thinking about food. She is not constantly thinking about restricting, binging, purging or exercise. She’s not avoiding food or binging to punish herself. She’s just living.

So when I’m around peers like this, I tend to think, “Why do I have to eat three meals a day and two snacks? Why can’t I just skip breakfast and lunch?”

In order to answer that question, I ask you to imagine a person recovering from an alcohol addiction. This person, unlike their friends, cannot just enjoy one drink. They must completely abstain. Otherwise, they will risk using alcohol to numb negative feelings, binge drinking or getting back into the habit of drinking daily.

It’s the same for someone recovering from anorexia, bulimia or binge eating. As someone who had anorexia in the past, if I skip one meal, then I run the risk of skipping all my meals. It’s the “all or nothing” thinking of an addict. I also run the risk of falling into other negative behaviors such as purging, over-exercising or binging.

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.

So how do I navigate recovery in college? I stick to my meal plan, despite what my friends and classmates are doing. I always eat breakfast, lunch and dinner. I have to in order to stay well. I’m often envious of my friends who don’t have to live by such strict standards, but I’ve accepted this is how it is for me. That’s quite OK.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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I will always and forever unabashedly share my story of eating disorder recovery, but when I left treatment this last time, I found myself having trouble writing about it. I’ve been through a lot since then, and I am sure to go through more. Recovery is fluid and ever-changing.

It was hardest for me to talk about my recovery when I left treatment because I still didn’t feel like I was “recovered.” I was frustrated that I was in a similiar place to where I had been before. Just on the edge of recovery. Eating and living a recovered life but still hating what I saw most of the time. Always thinking about the possibility of losing weight. I felt so guilty about it, like I was some sort of fraud. I told my therapist about this and she said something I now tell myself every day.

“Arielle, you are learning a new language.”

She explained to me that it makes sense that my thoughts are going to take a little longer to catch up. I’ve never done this before. I’ve never known how to talk to myself with kindness. Of course, I needed to learn this new language. Why should I or anyone feel bad or guilty about learning?

That was about a month and a half ago. Since then, I have been improving every single day. My second language is beginning to feel more familiar on my tongue. I don’t always critique the way my stomach looks when I squeeze my body into a pair of jeans. More days than not, I appreciate my body, and not just bits and pieces of it, all of it.

The vocabulary of this new language is so much more vibrant and beautiful. I’m able to express myself in ways I never could before. I have the room now to not only appreciate my body, but all the other things I was missing out on when my brain was so focused on food and size. I admire the mountains, feel the rocks under my hiking boots, obsess over my dog running up and down a trail, get lost in conversations, work toward dreams that have nothing to do with my body or food, follow politics, watch Wes Anderson movies and laugh with the people I love. I can give as much as I take in a relationship.

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.

The way I feel emotions is different now. I can feel joy radiate through my entire body, uncontaminated by the self-hate in my brain. I also feel pain and sadness, but it’s different. It is real, and it is deep. Yet, I know it is temporary. It’s not the same hopelessness I felt before. It’s not the lingering pain that never goes away. It’s the heart-wrenching sadness I used to run from.

I can take it now. I can take the ugly shame and pain, and I can feel it. I can face it because I know a secret I didn’t before. I know the shame and the pain does not make up who I am. Ignoring it and distracting with calories will never make it go away. It kept me from feeling its full magnitude but this is not by any means better.

It was being cut with a dull knife all day and all night. It’s not having an escape. I have an escape now, and it’s everything I thought it wouldn’t be. I welcome all emotions now because I am human and this is part of the human experience, whether I like it or not.

I never thought this was possible. I’ve never known recovery. I know I have to work to maintain this every single day, but I can’t think of anything more worth the fight. I know I’m lucky. I know how hard it is to learn this new language. We leave our treatment centers and are sent out to navigate life with our box of coping skills, hoping it will be enough, all the while knowing there is no coping skill better than the eating disorder we gave up. There are no smelling scents strong enough or silly putty soothing enough to keep you safe sometimes.

I know that. I also know that with the help of my therapists, my parents and my friends, I didn’t need to distract from my pain anymore. I needed to feel it. I needed to feel it all. I needed to feel it burn through my insides and squeeze my lungs, until it felt like I couldn’t breathe. I needed to know while it was excruciating, I was surrounded by people who will always keep me safe. I could survive it.

I haven’t had to feel pain like this since then, and I am grateful. However, I know if it comes again, I do not need my eating disorder to protect me from it because I have an army of people who love me and will stand with me. I am safe. I am continually in awe of how much better life can get.

 If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Image via Thinkstock.


I don’t like to talk specifics about my health history when I blog. I don’t even like to write out the phrase “eating disorder,” even though I’m sure the vast majority of you have been able to glean from my tidbits here and there that, that phrase has applied to my life in all sorts of ways. The reason I don’t want to do this is because I don’t want to label my struggle, and because I do not want that label to carry on to where I am in my present. But that being said, I do think it is immensely important to reflect on where I’ve been in order to recognize how far I’ve come. When I struggle or have little slip-ups, my mind immediately jumps to things like:

You’re not making any progress.

You’re going to be stuck like this forever.

What’s the point of even trying to get better if your mind will always be like this?

Recovery is fake.

When I was at my sickest, I had an entirely black and white form of thinking. I thought “recovered” meant never having any disordered thoughts or actions ever again. And frankly, I didn’t really believe in recovery at all. I would look at other people who had “recovered” from eating disorders, and I would think, “Who the hell are you kidding? You can’t honestly tell me you’re happier now. You can’t tell me you like your body right now.” And because I didn’t really believe in a full, 100-percent recovery, I didn’t want to do it at all. I had no interest in existing in a space of push and pull between my disorder and health. I thought that sounded miserable, and I didn’t want to have to fight every day to try to achieve something I wasn’t sure existed.

So about once a year, I would have a serious relapse. My body would shut down, and medical intervention would be necessary. Then I would have several months of close monitoring and relatively stable health, only to repeat the same process over again. I never truly gave recovery a chance, but merely waited for everyone to back off, masked my behaviors and once again began the work of destroying my body. This happened for years. And it wasn’t until last year that something really, truly changed.

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.

The other day I was catching up with a friend, and she looked at me and said, “Do you understand what you’ve done in the last year? Do you understand the massive turnaround you’ve done?” And it took me a few minutes to reflect, but she is absolutely right. At this exact time last year, I was exercising between four to six hours a day. I was barely fueling my body, and any time I did eat it was next to nothing and I would rarely keep it down. My weight was plummeting, as was my blood pressure and pulse. I made no time for anyone or anything, because I was always doing something to try to lose weight and I did not want any distractions. Every single medical professional in my life was urging me to leave school and go into intensive treatment. But beyond all of that, I felt absolutely hopeless. No matter how exhausted or miserable I was, I felt like my body was on autopilot, forcing me to work out or compensate for my food. I felt completely engulfed by my struggle and could not see a single way out. There were several instances when I thought I had really done it this time, that my body would succumb to my eating disorder. I remember laying on the grass in one of the fields, talking to my nutritionist on the phone, sobbing, “This is it, this is really it.”

I went home for fall break, locked myself in my room and did some thinking. I stared at myself in the mirror, my skin a pale shade of green, my fingernails broken and frail, my body bruised and battered. What am I doing? How did I get here yet again? I felt I had two options: continue down this path, resign myself to this disease and eventually, be it three months or 13 years later, die of an eating disorder. Or I could, for the first time in my life, give recovery a real try. The latter option was petrifying. I knew it would be painful. I was scared it wouldn’t work. But I knew if I gave it enough effort, if I stuck with it long enough, it might yield something that would give me a second chance at this life. And I chose to stick with it.

It was tough. It was gritty and terrifying and more difficult than I could have ever imagined. Everyday I had to wake up and make a choice to fight the voices in my head, to feed my body despite the inward screeches and protests, to begin to pick away at the mountain of self-hatred I had created, to try to unravel the habits of self-destruction I had cemented over the years. It wasn’t pretty or perfect by any means. But I 100 percent gave myself over to the process. I didn’t give myself an inch of wiggle room, because there is no negotiating with an eating disorder. I committed every meal, every rest day, every workout to recovering, and it was a process of unbelievable blind trust in myself.

Flash-forward to the present. I am full on in my senior year of college. I have made new friends who I am social with. I go out for meals, I take rest days, I skip workouts to spend time with people. My days can be spontaneous because I don’t feel tied to a rigid workout schedule. I’m looking for jobs and planning the next phase of my life. And — it’s been nearly a year since I have performed a single disordered action.

Whenever we go through struggles, I feel like we hear the phrase “you just need time” or “things will get better with time,” and often it sounds like total bullsh*t. We want to know when and how much time and specifics of what this “getting better” will look like. We don’t want to have to wait for whatever we’re going through to mend itself — we want it now. But after years and years and years of struggling with an eating disorder, and having had the year that I’ve had, I can firmly say it really does just take time. It takes time to unravel habits. It takes time to repair relationships. It takes time to work through things — be it a break-up, be it a life change, be it any other life hurt. You cannot hold your healing to an arbitrary timeline; it must happen organically and without force. I believe that is the only way true healing happens.

I still do not believe I will go the rest of my life without having disordered thoughts. I have them daily. But rather than being a constant, incessant stream of self-hatred, the thoughts will pop up here and there, and I am able to rationalize through them and dismiss them. And despite what my former self may have thought, I do think I am recovered. I think I am close to being the best I could possibly be in terms of recovery. I never in a million years would have thought I could be where I am. Even though I am still in the process and there are things I need to work on, where I’m at is so much better than where I was. All of the fight and grit I had to give was so, so worth it. I gave myself time, and it was the best gift I have ever received.

So whatever you’re dealing with at the moment, I encourage you to give yourself grace. Cut yourself some slack, and know that time really does heal. Some days may be difficult, excruciating even, but know if you trust the process and trust yourself, those days will surely pass. Beautiful things lie ahead, my friends.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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