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How I'm Learning to Forgive Myself for Who I Was With My Eating Disorder

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When I first entered treatment for my eating disorder, my therapist and I began the tedious process of teasing out the true Emily from the Emily  consumed by an eating disorder. I was given the metaphor of my brain as two tangled balls of yarn; to recover, I had to untangle my thoughts from the eating disorder’s messages. Initially, I struggled with this concept immensely. How could there be someone in my head other than me? When I was met with comments of “I hear ED speaking right now, not Emily,” I was infuriated. Why could no one accept I was who I was?

As my recovery progressed, I began to look back at things I had journaled while in the early stages of treatment, only to feel confused and alienated by the statements I read. ED believed “skinny” was synonymous with “powerful,” that food determined morality, and that my weight was a significant aspect of my being.

This discovery made me question my idea of myself and my values. I had always prided myself as being open-minded, as being compassionate, as being a feminist. I began to believe none of those things could hold true if I had been so full of disordered thoughts. I felt guilt and shame because I believed I had discovered I was shallow and simply ridiculous.

While in this hole of negative self-talk, a good friend told me, “You are not a bad person for having an eating disorder. Would you call someone bad for having diabetes? Your illness is valid.” I did not choose to believe the things I did. What I am choosing is to distance myself from those beliefs.

If you’re struggling with shame about the person you were in your eating disorder, remind yourself every day that ED is not you. You are not your disease. You are a person of infinite strength and value, and I fully believe one day we will all be able to untangle the yarn for good.

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.

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

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

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

Thinkstock photo by demaerre

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Why I Don’t Want You to Call Me 'Pretty'

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I grew up being pretty. I was what some would call a cute child. I had dimples, big bangs, and wore the most ridiculous floral dresses. I sported a small gap in between my painted on smile. I got complimented frequently on my “cuteness.” “Oh, what a pretty child,” strangers would say. My mom would smile and thank them, and I would unknowingly develop the idea that I better live up to the expectation of this or else they would stop telling me those things.

I was a bright little girl. Insightful at a young age. Cautious. After all, I was the oldest and was already more responsible than a lot of children years older than me. I was girly. I played in the backyard and played sports early on. I was impressionable at best. I took in what others were saying at Godspeed. I could feel what they felt. I could sense when they were angry or when they were happy, and somewhere along the way I developed the core belief that I had everything to do with how they felt. I was responsible for their feelings.

I will not be another flower – picked for my beauty and left to die.

I spent my life getting straight As, being on the principal’s honor roll, overachieving by being on the newspaper as a writer, the yearbook editor, on the KAY committee, National Honor Society, volunteering on weekends, playing volleyball and basketball, cheerleading, high school dance, and competitive dance. I worked after school at a local trust company. I was many other things besides pretty. I was intelligent, creative, kind, open-minded. I was cheerful; I took initiative. I was a leader. I was a college student as a junior in high school, yet all that consumed my mind was that I needed to be pretty. And boy did I try.

What they didn’t know is they could say whatever they wanted to about me, and it still wouldn’t be worse than what I called myself.

For the last 12 years, I have been at war on and off with this inner voice that tells me I’m not pretty, that I’ll never be pretty, that in fact, instead of pretty, I am ugly. I am fat. I am worthless. And because of those things, I am unlikable and no one is going to want to love me. This quickly led to many different types of disordered eating. It first started by restriction. If you’re not familiar with this term, it means restricting calories. I had a pattern of specific foods and times I’d eat. This lasted for a good five to six months beginning in eighth grade. I decided to be pretty, I had to be skinny. And if I wanted to be skinny, I couldn’t eat very much.

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

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

People wouldn’t ask too many questions, thought I often wonder now if they knew. My thoughts went something like this during lunch:

“Oh that smells good.”

“No, Robin, you cannot eat that.”

“But I’d really like to eat that roll and some chocolate milk.”

“Really? Who do you think you are thinking you can eat that?”

“You’re not like them.”

“You’re not fat, you’re big-boned.”

It wasn’t until I began having health problems and passed out in health class in high school that I thought I’d better do something differently. To this day, people still think I went unconscious and slid out from my folding chair in the commons area because I couldn’t handle the drunk driving video and the surgery the man was undergoing because of his actions. Yes, that bothered my significantly; however, if I had eaten in the last week, I think I would have stayed conscious.

This pattern came and went until sophomore year. I remember a peer stating her “light” weight. Everyone liked her. She was pretty. She was popular. Everyone wanted to be her friend. In my head, I thought if I could be that weight, maybe I would illicit the same response. After all, I was close to that weight. And you can imagine where I went from there.

During the end of my junior and beginning of my senior year of high school, I changed. Instead of restricting, I binged. I think my body was trying to make up for the last few years of not eating much. I didn’t do this publicly though. At school, I still didn’t eat. At home, I may not have eaten much in front of my family. But what they didn’t know was after school when no one was home, I ate as much as I could. I could eat a lot of sugar or leftovers. And I ate. And I ate. And I felt less hateful toward myself for a while. And then I felt worse. I felt ugly. I felt fat. I felt even more not pretty.

To fast forward, I have found out that restricting is how I deal with stress. Maybe it’s because I feel in control of something in my life when nothing seems to be in my control. Maybe it’s because I’m punishing myself for not being perfect. I have been so focused on being pretty and being liked, that I forgot about all the other parts of me. Being told I was pretty was the goal. When I lost weight and people told me how great I looked, this reinforced what I was doing. I remember this happening in college when I went through a stressful period of relationship problems.

I have always struggled with low self-esteem. It wasn’t until recently where I developed the insight that being called pretty obviously hadn’t been enough. I was missing something more. I was missing relationship. I was missing connection. I was missing being real with people. I was so consumed with putting on the energetic, carefree, happy Robin mask that I somehow missed the most important lesson.

Perfection is a disease.

As women, there are thousands of images in magazines and on television that show us we need to look a certain way to be pretty. We see messages that if we aren’t pretty, we aren’t going to get our dream job, we aren’t going to get married. We see messages that if we aren’t a certain way, we aren’t good enough.

I took these messages to heart. I still struggle with not needing to be pretty all the time, but I am working hard to look at myself differently. Today, I don’t want to be called pretty. I don’t want you to tell me I look pretty in my clothes or that my makeup looks good. I don’t want you to tell me my hair is pretty curled. Don’t call me pretty because I am so much more than that. Don’t call me pretty because I’m creative. Don’t call me pretty because I’m excited about life and opportunities. Don’t call me pretty because I’m a hard worker. Don’t call me pretty because I’m passionate. Don’t call me pretty because I’m kind.

So I ask you this: What makes you pretty? It’s not your weight. It’s not your makeup or your hair or how put together you look today. What about you makes you a pretty person?

You are more than the mistakes you’ve made. You are more than how many pounds you weigh or the number of followers you have. I believe you are everything God created to you to be. You are everything you are supposed to be. You are the first thoughts you have when you wake up in the morning. You are what you do when no one is looking. You are how you speak to yourself. The world has already told us what we’re not. Let’s start telling ourselves what we really are.

Don’t call me pretty. Call me Robin.

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.

Follow this journey on My Rise Story.

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When I Realized I Hadn't Been (Truly) Committing to My Eating Disorder Recovery

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“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole stair case.” — Martin Luther King Jr.

Although I’ve struggled with disordered eating and hated myself for as long as I can remember, it wasn’t until I was a sophomore in college that I was diagnosed with an eating disorder. Flash forward to now, the summer after I’ve graduated college, and for the first time ever, I’ve made the conscious decision to fight back.

I’ve been in and out of treatment. The past three summers have robbed me of spending time with friends or gaining internship and work experience. Instead, I’ve been sent to residential programs, day programs, and outpatient programs. This week was the week I said no more.

During a meeting with my therapist, it hit me: it’s either taking a leap of faith and trying this thing they call recovery or it’s going back to treatment. Treatment for the fourth time? Treatment as I’m about to enter the “real world,” get a job, and one day, start a family? No thank you. This week was the weekend I realized there was more to life than the misery of my eating disorder. This week was the week I realized what I had been doing for the past four years hadn’t been working for me. So why not take a chance on recovery? Surely, it couldn’t be worse than this.

For a long time, I thought living with my eating disorder was the better way to live. It was like living with the devil I knew. It was familiarity. It was comfortable (kind of). It was what I was good at. But then again, who wants to be “good” at having an eating disorder?

So this week I committed to following a meal plan for 30 days. My therapist told me to think of it as a “diet” I used to follow for a month. Of course, desperate to lose weight, I’d do that. So why not try this? A different kind of diet. A healthy kind of diet.

It’s been two full days since I’ve started the meal plan. I am constantly full. Full of food, full of anxiety, full of self-doubt. There’s physical pain, mental pain, and lots (I mean, lots) of tears. There’s daily — sometimes hourly — texts to both my therapist and nutritionist complaining, explaining that I just can’t do this.

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

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

But then, as if by miracle, the pain passes. The guilt lessens. The reassurance and confidence from my support system begins to slowly live within me. That misery is replaced with strength, empowerment, hope, and a yearning for a better life.

It’s certainly not easy. Every morning I wake up, I have to make the decision to eat. I have to make the decision to give recovery a try. I have to promise myself to withstand the pain, the torment, and the sadness, trying to believe there are better days ahead.

Today is day three. Three out of 30, a tenth of the way there. The road ahead seems never-ending; I continuously doubt whether or not I can actually do this. I don’t know what will happen in 30 days. I don’t even know what will happen tomorrow. I do know, though, that today I made those decisions. I made the decision to fight, to fuel my body, to nourish my soul, to be kind to myself, and to try my best — even if my best isn’t perfect.

I take it meal by meal, step by step, day by day. And today, today, I choose recovery.

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.

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Changing How We Think and Talk About Food

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We have such strict narratives about food. There is good, there is bad. There is healthy, there is unhealthy. Allowed, not allowed. Clean, dirty. Fattening, bad for the waistline, cheat meals. This is how we talk about food. The question is why?

Food isn’t good or bad; it doesn’t have a moral compass. There are foods that are good for your body and foods that are good for your soul — you need both. You need nutrients and vitamins from your fruits and veggies and chia seeds but you also need pizza and cake. You can have it all. Who’s to say you can’t be healthy and still eat pasta? What makes dessert the enemy?

It doesn’t have to be. For me, before anorexia, there was orthorexia. It’s a form of disordered eating focused on “clean” eating. Does that mean washing your vegetables really well or something? The idea of clean eating is about not eating processed foods. There’s nothing wrong with that. Sure, if that makes you happy, then 100% do it. Do what’s good for you body and for you mind and soul. If you’re like me and eating clean stresses you out, makes you feel like food is scary, or makes you feel like a bad person for eating a cookie, maybe it’s time to reconsider. Health includes your mind; that’s why it’s called mental health. Food is not the enemy. It’s a source of life.

What makes a food good or bad? All foods are good foods, but if we’re really keen on grouping them, instead of good or bad consider: good for body or good for mind.

Broccoli, quinoa, carrots, chicken, apples, grapes, oats —  these are good for your body.

Cake, cookies, muffins, pizza, fries — these are good for your mind. You can eat all these things in moderation. Sure, you probably shouldn’t eat fries for every meal of every day, but who’s to say you can’t eat them whenever the mood strikes? Food shouldn’t be restrictive or disciplined to the point where you feel anxious because of it. Both groups of food have their place in your diet.

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

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

Each time I would try to restrict myself by not eating sugar, not eating wheat, not eating dairy, whatever, I would feel panicked and stressed. I would worry I was headed back to anorexia, and the thing is, the second I started restricting my foods, all of the eating disorder patterns flooded right back in. The voice in the back of my head was back instantly. Then I would fight it, do the opposite, and binge on chips and cookies and pop. Then I would panic about eating those foods, and the cycle would start again.

When I started eating foods when I wanted to, not when my eating disorder said I had to, I felt so relieved. It means I can eat cake at my cousin’s birthday and the world won’t end. I can go on to eat “normally” the next day. I can eat my veggies when I’m craving them and have good fruit, nuts, seeds, and grains. I can — and frequently do —  also stop for fries when a craving strikes me. It is balanced.

Food also isn’t something you have to earn. It’s a right. It’s a necessity. You don’t have to go to the gym to deserve a cookie. You can have a cookie, then sit right down on the couch. You don’t have to make up for it by eating less for the next few days. You don’t have to work for it. Work out because you enjoy it, not because you have to after what you ate. You don’t have to punish yourself for “cheating.”

Food doesn’t scare me anymore. It used to. It used to scare me more than absolutely anything on this planet. Without my ED I can see food for what it is. Food isn’t evil or bad or fattening or terrifying. Food is just food. It has no power over you. Frame your thinking differently. Don’t let the narrative of good and bad, healthy and unhealthy, clean and dirty, run your life. Don’t let food take away your happiness, don’t let food make you feel like you’re missing out. Enjoy it, savor it. The same goes for life. Taste the cake, eat the pizza, take the cookie. It will not hurt you, I promise. Have your carrots and quinoa and chicken, too. Have it all.

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.

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Coping With Societal Beauty Standards in Eating Disorder Recovery

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Our culture revolves around looks. Magazines are plastered with those caught-off-guard pictures of celebs with harsh captions about their weight. TV commercials are all about the newest diet fad. Instagram is full of “fitness promoters” who boost detox teas and diets. New Years rolls around with promises of magically losing 10 pounds and finally fitting into those jeans you bought a size too small.

We wonder why millions of people fall victim to eating disorders. Not only do genetics, upbringing, and many other factors contribute, but living in a world where bodies are so misrepresented has a severe impact.

We see a couple different types of body that are “good bodies.” There’s fit people with abs and toned muscles — but not too muscular, “that’s gross.” There’s slim people with delicate arms and small thighs — but not too small, then “they look sickly.” There’s curvy girls with big butts and tiny waists — but definitely not too curvy, then “they’re just nasty.”

Here’s the thing: those bodies are real bodies, but so is yours. There’s no such thing as too much anything when it comes to bodies, as long as you’re healthy. Health does not always show on the outside or on the scale. Health is about how your body works from the inside, not how it looks outside. Any body is a good body — plus-sized, petite, tall, curvy, disabled, athletic, slim, short. It doesn’t matter. They are all good bodies. Just because you don’t see celebrities or models who look like you doesn’t mean your body isn’t OK. Your body is fine. It’s great, even if you don’t like it right now. It might let you run, work, play, walk the dog — or maybe it doesn’t let you do those things, not every body is completely able-bodied, and that’s OK. Regardless, it is your home. You will never be inside another body, so treat this one well.

We need to stop comparing ourselves. Appreciate your body for what it is, not what it isn’t. Your body might never be a size 2, and that is not a bad thing. Who decided that being slim was the end-all, be-all of attractiveness? Who decided that attractiveness was simply looks? I won’t feed into it. Sure, I’m a pretty slim person, but I’ve gained weight in recovery. I’ve gained lots more squishy bits and I jiggle in ways I didn’t when I was sick. I also smile lots more and laugh in ways I didn’t when I was sick. Which is more important?

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

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

Work out because it feels good, if you like to. Being active is supposed to be fun, not a chore. If you hate your 6 a.m. runs, then ask yourself, why? Maybe you like to dance, or lift weights, or ride your bike, or walk the dog, or play with your kids at the park. It doesn’t matter. Find something you actually like to do, and do it because it’s good for your body and your soul. Stay active so you can live a long life, not because the voice in your head screams at you to run faster.

Life is about balance. Life isn’t about the Atkins diet or the Dukan diet or the paleo diet and who’s thinnest and who’s lost weight and who’s gained weight and, and, and. The list goes on forever in a stressful spiral. Those things don’t actually matter. What I realized in recovery is this: in the end, no one will comment on how light my casket is. They will talk about the good memories we have together — summers at the cottage, high school, weddings, birthdays, parties. You aren’t remembered by your body, you are remembered by your heart and your personality. When people talk about you, they probably talk about your sense of humor or your kindness or your intelligence. I can guarantee they don’t talk about how many calories you eat in a day or how impressively low your carb intake is.

In recovery, it’s hard (read: nearly impossible) to tune out everyone blabbering about this diet and that workout regime. Remember the facts you’ve learned along the way — a slice of cake won’t kill you, calories aren’t the same thing as nutrition. Remember that as someone in recovery, you aren’t restricted by not being “allowed” to diet — you are free from the pressure to be on one. Remember that weight loss is not the key to happiness — were you happiest at your lowest weight? From personal experience, I’d guess the answer is no. Did you like your body at your lowest weight? Again, I’m guessing no. I know I didn’t. I hated my body more when it was lighter than I do now. That’s what eating disorders do. They make you hate yourself and how you look. Recovery means learning to live in the body you have, no matter what size it is or what shape it is. Remember these things when it seems like diets are the only thing anyone wants to talk about. Remember that your body is not everything; you are a whole person. You are kind, you are funny, you are smart, you are witty, you are clever, you are caring, you are supportive, you are empathetic. You are so many beautiful things — your weight and pant size only graze the surface, and they certainly wouldn’t be on the list of reasons your friends and family love you.

You are more than your caloric intake, more than your jeans, more than the scale, more than the measuring tape. You are so much more than the foods you eat and the clothes you fit into. You are not better or worse for not being on a diet or not trying to lose weight. You aren’t a better person or a worse person. You’re just you, and that’s a perfectly good thing to be.

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.

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An Apology to Myself in Recovery From Anorexia

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Editor’s note: If you live with an eating disorder or self-harm, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741-741.

Kinleigh,

It’s been clear to me for quite some time that I’ve owed you an apology.

Firstly, I want to apologize for putting off writing you this letter, because I felt you weren’t deserving of it. I now realize all of the beautiful things in this life and universe you are in fact deserving of.

I’m sorry I let you believe the parasite assassin of purging anorexia had to rule your life since you were 5 years old. I’m sorry I taught you how to purge away your pain at the age of 7 — allowing this to become not only a coping mechanism for everything in your life but also your best friend and most loyal companion for 20 years.

I let the bullies win. I let them rule your childhood and adolescence, robbing you of the joy and laughter you deserved. Instead, I consumed your mind with thoughts that seemed factual about how fat, disgusting, ugly and terrible you were. Looking at yourself in the mirror, screaming those words back at you, causing you misery and shame. I’m sorry since day one I taught you to poke and pull and prod at your skin and body, wondering just how and why you were born such a “monster.”

I’m sorry I told you love was only found in the form of abuse, judgment, shame and guilt. I’m sorry for letting you fall into the arms of so many abusers who never saw your worth or deserved your love. With thrill, I allowed you to be physically, emotionally and mentally harmed in so many ways, convincing you it was good for you and just what you needed. I’m sorry for compromising the relationships with those closest to you or allowing you to cultivate healthy relationships, by telling you the most important relationship was with your eating disorder. So self-destructive and intimate, but I know you can let this go for good this time.

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

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

I kept you up at night panicking about food and numbers and everything you felt you were out of control of. I convinced you the only thing you could control was your body and what it looked like. I also convinced you that meant safety. I provided mirror reflections for you to fear and hate — to not be able to know the girl looking back at you, the power she embodied and what she was capable of. I know you look inside and you search for that child you were never given a chance to know. I know I took away the voice of that little girl before she was even given a chance. I’m sorry I caused you to hate little Kinleigh, unable to look back on her, even in your adult life, and offer her compassion. To tell her she didn’t deserve the things that happened to her, and they didn’t happen because she was a bad person. I know you think she is dead, but she did not die. The child in you is alive and she is waiting to show you the world in a different light.

I’ve turned you into a glutton for pain and punishment. I told you substance abuse, purging and restricting and over-exercising were the only things that could provide you with validation, love, success, acceptance but most importantly safety in this universe. I told you that you needed to destroy yourself and your life to be worthy, deserving and to be safe. Instead, I’ve left you with an extremely lonely, self-loathing life, with a love for self-destruction. For that I truly am sorry.

I’m sorry for allowing you to fall into a lifestyle of bodybuilding, obeying the orders of an abusive coach and boyfriend. Putting your body through pain, torment and suffering for six hours a day, abusing cocaine and steroids because I said you’d never be enough on your own. As if the voices in your head weren’t enough, I allowed you to listen to a man who believed these things about you, and only pushed you through more physical and mental pain, providing you with nothing but misery. Trophies, judges, coaches and men’s opinions don’t dictate your worth, and I wish I could take back having you believe that.

I’m sorry for minimizing your experiences and telling you the weight of them meant nothing compared to the painful experiences of others. By doing this, I never allowed you a chance to be open and honest about your pain; which would provide you with an opportunity to heal. Instead, I told you to hide behind destructive, abusive relationships, dishonesty, self-harm and your eating disorder.

Since you were 5, I never allowed you to celebrate a birthday. I told you cake, ice cream and food alone were the devil, and you must get rid of that shit. I never gave you the opportunity to celebrate your life. Especially last year, on your 25th birthday when you were so excited to have been in recovery and given a cake for the first time in years — with “Fuck Anorexia” written across the top — I wanted you to enjoy it. I wanted you to be proud of yourself for enjoying it. I wanted you to celebrate with your family, but I just couldn’t let you. Both Mom and Dad bought you cakes, with excitement in their eyes that this year would be the year. The cakes were served and nothing but horror and terror came to break you down just once more. You left in hysteria with a plague of shame and guilt overwhelming you until you couldn’t breathe or see. I didn’t even let you get two minutes down the street without having to pull over, and rid yourself, yet again, of the celebration of your life.

I let you believe emptiness equated comfort and worth. I told you to internalize your pain and allow it to manifest in you cutting up your body. I’m sorry that in previous weight restorations I never left you alone to heal and find acceptance within your new, healthy body. Once again, telling you to cut it up because it was shameful, unsafe and undeserving of love. Causing you to relapse again and again, keeping you in hospitals and treatment centers, rather than allowing you to go out there and find the love, acceptance and happiness you truly deserve. All of this seemed exhilarating to me at the time, but now I realize I was doing nothing but nearly costing you your life every day. I’m sorry for not allowing you to give a shit when doctors told you how you were at risk of a heart attack or death.

I’m sorry I nearly cost you your life on several occasions. I’m sorry I told you “healthy” meant weak and was something to be scared of. I’m sorry that whenever you saw a sign of improved health in recovery, you became so afraid and felt so weak, it kept you so petrified of recovering. I’m sorry I ultimately wanted you to be perfect, but to me, perfection from you equated death. I’m sorry for not giving you a voice in your previous recovery opportunities to speak up and ask for help, not letting you know what your needs were. Depriving you of self-accountability, rather I let you struggle in darkness and silence. I allowed you to dishonestly go through so many treatments, outpatient and day programs, lying about your symptoms in fear of what might happen, in fear of the reality of what you were actually going through. I never allowed your head to be in a space to entirely let go and go all the way. I had a latch on you and held you hostage, dangling the key in front of you, yet always out of reach.

So here you sit again, on a bed in an inpatient program for eating disorders, trying to gain a life and a true sense of identity. I can’t apologize enough for costing you your teens and 20s in nothing but a struggle, where you wished every day you could just lie your head down and not wake up the next. I never allowed you to have a sense of self, or even gave you the opportunity to know or find yourself. I’m sorry I constantly had you convinced you were never enough and never could be, turning you into the most self-centered person you’ve ever met, where nothing else mattered more than killing yourself to survive. I gave you a big fake smile to hide behind, wrapped with a pretty bow on top, when behind it all you couldn’t stand being with yourself or stand to be alive. With nothing but elation, I’ve watched you struggle through agony and drown in your own sorrow.

I’m sorry just a few weeks ago — when you had reached your goal weight and were trying to be accepting of your new body — I pointed out the cellulite you now have and had you then question whether or not this recovery thing really was for you — if you could really do it. I’m done convincing you cellulite or a number on the scale makes you a bad person, or unsafe. And it certainly doesn’t make you any less deserving or worthy of anything in life, especially recovery. For you, cellulite means life. I want you to know you’re capable of everything you aspire to be and I won’t allow the simple fact of cellulite to tear you down anymore. You deserve to be proud and feel safe in your body, your mind and everything about you that you challenge on the daily. You are working so hard.

I know you’ve heard ample “sorrys” in your life, and to you they mean nothing. I wish I could fix that. After all, apologies mean nothing without action. This time, I promise you that action. “I’m sorry” doesn’t even begin to cover the pain I feel when I think of what I put you through, and what I owe you. I promise you, you don’t need those things to exist. You needed those things to endure. I could call you a survivor, but surviving wasn’t an option. I don’t want you to just endure or survive anymore; I want you to live. I want you to flourish, mentally and physically. I want you to run so fast in the direction of happiness and fearlessness across the bridge you’ve built by your own desire to heal. I want you to look in the mirror and be able to recognize the girl looking back at you, not as broken or as a monster, but as a beautiful woman who deserves to live. I want you to treat her with the compassion and love she deserves. I want you to be proud of her for all she has done for herself and continues to do for herself. I hope you’ve noticed I’ve given you a voice this time in recovery, and I’m so proud of you for beginning to use it. I know pride in yourself is something I’ve never allowed you to have, but this time, I want you to run with it. I want you to be proud of yourself for letting your guard down, being vulnerable and actively trying to get better. This time I promise to let you know how much you deserve to smile – real genuine smiles — rather than smiles you use to hide your pain behind.

I’m done with not allowing you to believe you were enough, and I’m done watching you endure.

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.

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

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Thinkstock photo via domoyega

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