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The Promise I’ve Made to Myself In Spite of My Physical and Mental Illnesses

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In November 2012, my amazing father picked me up in my little red car and drove me home from yet another hospital. This stay lasted 11 and a half months.

You see, I started my battle with anorexia my freshman year of high school. What began as a mental health battle quickly turned into a physical one as well. As my father and my new healthier self made the drive home from the hospital in Florida to New Jersey, I made a promise to myself I would only give attention to the things that made me happy. I swore I would only surround myself with people who made me feel safe and I promised myself I would speak up and say what’s on my mind instead of using my anorexia as my words.

Ever since leaving that rehab so many years ago, I can say I have done just that. I moved to the place of my dreams with my amazing parents who have quickly become my friends. I only give attention to people who I trust and feel safe with. Some people would even consider me blunt sometimes. But hey, at least I can speak up!

These last eight years have not been easy and there have been so many struggles and slips along the way. But with the frequent reality checks from my amazing parents, I have been brave enough to pick myself up after each setback they bring to my attention.

I remind myself of those promises daily, as they have been my focus to staying on the right path. That was until last week when the doctor told me I need to undergo surgery to removal all of my large intestines.

My life has been good. No scratch that, my life has been amazing. Everything I dreamed of accomplishing in my eating disorder recovery has either come true or is very close to becoming my reality. And the best thing is I found love — honest, true, unconditional love. This is one thing I never dreamed I would be so lucky to find but I am blessed every day for this man. He will never truly know just how much I love him. But with all the good in my life, I have also had one negative. My health is falling apart again. Only this time, not my mental health but rather my physical health.

This year, I have been battling chronic digestive issues, which first led to surgery to remove my gallbladder. When the problem got worse, they removed 5 inches of my colon. When that didn’t work and my pain and nasty symptoms were too much to bear, they gave me an ileostomy bag. I have been living with the bag for four months now.

I hit a little slip of depression and started to fall back with my anorexia, using the excuse of the weight I lost from the surgeries I had. But I reminded myself of my promise and staying home and hiding with my anorexia goes against my first promise to myself: “Only give attention to the things that made me happy.” But my ileostomy bag did not make me happy.

So when my boyfriend tried for the last time to drag me out of the house on a Friday back in July, I finally let him. I am so thankful he did because it wasn’t until then I started to regain my mental health again. One thing people do not realize is physical and mental issues can often go hand in hand. For me, it’s almost impossible to have one without the other.

But hearing those words one week ago that I have to go back into the hospital to have my fourth surgery this year (one that comes with a lot of risks), and that I would need to yet again put my life on hold to find my health and happiness again, is all too much for me to process.

If I sum up all the hospital stays, trips and rehabs for my anorexia and my digestive surgeries combined, I have spent 30 months or 2 and a half years of my life in a white room, with doctors and nurses. 2 and a half years fighting to get well. 2 and a half years either trying to heal my mind or heal my body. 2 and a half years of putting the people I love through hell and back. And I just found out it’s still not over.

The woman that stands before you today is able to speak her mind, something she could not do for a very long time. Sometimes, she even says too much but she is still finding her balance. Today, the woman that stands before you devotes her energy and time with people and things that bring her happiness, motivation and safety — as she lived too long without it. And as far and as strong as this woman has become with the help of so many beautiful souls along the way, she is struggling to find the words to describe her fears for this last surgery. She is struggling to find the strength left to fight through this. She is struggling to find a positive outlet of knowing she is going to be placed in a hospital bed with her name written on a manila envelope at the bottom. She is struggling to find any sign to make her feel safe as she approaches this last surgery.

Regardless of whether your battle is mental or physical (I have unfortunately battled both), if you cannot find the strength you need to keep going, don’t give up because a change is out there. You just might not have stumbled across it yet. And sometimes, it’s right in front of your face but your too close to see it.

I am making myself one more promise today. I promise I won’t lose hope. And if you are battling anything mental, physical or emotional, I invite you to honor this same promise.

Getty Images: m-gucci

Originally published: October 18, 2019
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