When You Can't Imagine Having Had an Eating Disorder During Recovery

Last week, a good friend was visiting from home, and a group of us were hanging out together. When I walked in, my friend laughed and said, “I was just telling them how you ate so many carrots you turned orange!” She’d made these kinds of comments before, and usually I didn’t mind. I laughed it off, but I started to think about the reasons behind it. You see, carrots were my safe food when I was in the throes of my eating disorder. I ate bags and bags to satisfy the hunger pains, knowing exactly how many (or should I say how few) calories they had. My palms and the soles of my feet did indeed turn orange, and I couldn’t eat carrots for a long time. It seems funny in retrospect, but all her comment did was remind me of how far down the rabbit hole of anorexia I had been.

Honestly, it was an intense sort of wake-up call, because lately I’ve been grappling with this idea, this notion in my head that I didn’t have an eating disorder. There’s no way the girl I look at in the mirror who eats dessert every day, who no longer fears pizza and bagels, who accepts her curves and her natural body size could have ever struggled with such a horrific disease. But I did. I was there, in the thick of it, at war with my body and my mind.

It honestly feels like a different life sometimes. I was a shell of a person, a fraction of who I am today. I feel almost detached from that “before” life. Before I knew all foods were good. Before I realized exercise wasn’t just to have abs by a certain time of year. Before I realized there was more to life than the calculator on my phone. I can’t even fathom going back to that place.

Which is why I also can’t imagine ever having an eating disorder. Because how could I have ever sacrificed my freedom for a monster of a disease? How did I find the courage to break free from the crushing hold my disorder had on me? How am I able to be so positive and reassure myself time after time that life with an eating disorder is not worth it? It astonishes me really, this hidden strength and bravery I have. I’m not being sarcastic; I don’t remember where it came from. What motivated me to fight and push and conquer?

All I really know is I’m so grateful I did. I don’t know where I would be without recovery and everything about it — the tears, the arguments in my head. But also, the pure love I was able to build for my body, my mind and my soul. I believe everything happens for a reason, and I embrace all that’s happened on my journey.

Image via Thinkstock.

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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