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All the Things That Eating Disorder Recovery Has Given Me

When I graduated from college, I had a difficult choice to make about my future. In theory, it was time for me to join the workforce and settle into a full-time job. And yet, I knew I wasn’t ready. My life was consumed by my anxiety and my eating disorder. Every choice I made was tainted by it. I knew, as much as I did not want to admit it, that I needed to get it together, once and for all. Not ready for full treatment, I chose to pursue a graduate degree at a college with a dedicated eating disorder team where I knew I would be supported as I figured out my recovery. The journey has been difficult — I don’t think I ever realized how strong my eating disorder was until I started to seriously challenge it for the first (and hopefully last) time — but worth it. Recovery has given me so much, and this is how it shows:

I dance. All the time. Loudly, clumsily, boldly. In our kitchen, at the park, and at 7 in the morning when I’m three snooze-alarms late for brushing my teeth. I place my voice and my happiness above anyone else’s.

I play the piano and ukulele with the windows open. I make mistakes and I enjoy it. I sing off-key. I want people to hear the music that gives me so much joy, so much catharsis and so much hope. I want them to hear me not be perfect and know that I love it regardless.

I go for runs with my roommate. I play catch from a distance of 10 feet, even though it isn’t challenging. I practice my chip shot in the backyard, cutting up the grass and losing golf balls in the holes my dog has dug. I move my body for no other reason than I can and I want to.

I eat whatever I want, whenever I want, for whatever reason I want. I eat to taste new things or to enjoy things I already know. I open up my world as wide as it will go. I give myself unconditional permission to love myself and respect my body.

I learn. Astronomy, geology, embroidery, baking, languages, the latest trend on TikTok. I feed my brain and in return it lets me remember things, absorb things, contribute things.

I make messes. I leave every pair of shoes piled in front of the door and burn things so badly on the stovetop that the dishes have to be washed three times before they’re clean. I accept the chaos I once tried desperately to control.

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I tell people how I feel. I explain the things that hurt me. I vocalize my anxious thoughts. I meet new people and don’t expect them to criticize me. I let myself trust, and sometimes, that means I let myself get hurt. I reject the secrecy and defensiveness I’ve relied on in the past. I let myself believe there are good things ahead.

I am lazy. I spend entire days on the couch making trips to the fridge and back, and I leave items on my to-do list for days before I get around to them. I show up three minutes late and don’t apologize for it. I watch movies I don’t care about seeing because I know I can spare the two hours, and I might end up liking it. I give myself grace and the luxury of slowing down.

Recovery has given me myself back. I live abundantly and vividly and healthily. I am proud of myself, every second, even when I’m not. I grow. I talk. I let people in. I have setbacks. I make mistakes. I experience bad episodes and face the consequences of what I’ve put my body through. And then I put in the work to do better, to feel better, to be better.

Some days, I miss my eating disorder. I miss the control, the certainty, the numbness. The closer I get to recovery, though, the more I know it in my bones that I was meant for more than my eating disorder. The closer I get, the more I know: I deserve everything recovery has given me, and everything yet to come.

Photo by Corinne Kutz on Unsplash