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17 Songs That Have Saved Me in Eating Disorder Recovery

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Music saved my life. It continues to save my life on a daily basis. No matter how down I’m feeling, how lonely I am, music is always there. Some days I listen to the lyrics, sometimes I just turn it up so loud I can’t hear my own thoughts, and even just for a moment, I forget why I’m feeling so bad. Ever since I first set out on recovery, I’ve been building a playlist of songs that make me feel better or at least a little less sad. These songs have seen me through some of the darkest nights and the loneliest days, and I really hope they will mean as much to other people as they mean to me.

1. “Carry On” — fun.

“If you’re lost and alone or you’re sinking like a stone, carry on. May your past be the sound of your feet upon the ground, Carry on.”

This song reminds me that no matter how hard it gets, I have to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Even when everyone else has given up on me and it seems there is no way out, I have to do this for myself.

2. “Last Hope” — Paramore

“It’s just a spark but it’s enough to keep me going. And when it’s dark out and no one’s around it keeps glowing.”

This is really important because it emphasizes that there is always hope. Hope that one day, maybe not tomorrow or the day after, but one day, it will get better. After all, hope is the only thing stronger than fear.

“And the salt in my wounds isn’t burning anymore than it used to. It’s not that I don’t feel the pain, it’s just I’m not afraid of hurting anymore.”

When I question whether I’m strong enough to get through the day it helps to remember I have been through worse days than this, and I have survived every single one of those bad days. I can survive this too. It has not killed me, it has helped me make myself stronger.

3. “Swim” — Jack’s Mannequin

“You gotta swim for nights that won’t end. Swim for your family, your lovers, your sisters, your brothers, your friends.”

I’m not just doing this for myself. So many people want me to get better, so many people have helped me along the way, and on days when I can’t do it for myself, I do it for them. And yes, sometimes it feels like there is no way out, but carrying on when everything inside you screams not to — that is true strength.

“I swim for brighter days despite the absence of sun — Choking on salt water, I’m not giving in.”

Even without a light at the end of the tunnel, we have to keep moving forward.

4. “Warrior” — Demi Lovato

“Now I’m a warrior, now I’ve got thicker skin. I’m a warrior — I’m stronger than I’ve ever been and my armor is made of steel, you can’t get in. I’m a warrior and you can never hurt me again.”

Every day, we get a bit stronger. I hate the phrase “everything happens for a reason,” but I do believe surviving mental illness makes you on of the strongest people in the world. I also have a huge amount of respect for Demi Lovato as a person and an artist, and I believe she is a truly great role model. After battling an eating disorder, self-harm and bipolar disorder herself, she speaks out to raise awareness and give hope to those still fighting.

5. “Fight Song” — Rachel Platten

“This is my fight song, take back my life song, prove I’m alright song. My power’s turned on, starting right now I’ll be strong, I’ll play my fight song, and I don’t really care if nobody else believes. ‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me.”

This song gives me strength when I am at my weakest; it’s like a battle cry. This is one to blast on full volume, to sing to, to cry to, to fight to.

6. “Never Give Up” Sia

“And I won’t let you get me down. I’ll keep gettin’ up when I hit the ground. Oh, never give up, no, never give up no, no, oh.”

It doesn’t matter how many times you fall, just make sure you get back up again.

7. “Recovery — Natasha Bedingfield

“Been torn apart, got so many scratches and scars. Maybe they won’t all go away, but they’ll fade. Maybe time can mend us together… again. It’s not what we’ve done but, how far we’ve come.“ 

“We will recover. The worst is over, now. All those fires we’ve been walking through, and still we survive, somehow. We will recover. The worst is behind and it hurts, but in time, I know that we will recover.”

It is so hard to choose my favorite lyrics from this song. Just listen to it all the way through, and you will see what I mean.

8. “Quicksand” — Tom Chaplain

“But if you crash land in the quicksand, I will pick you up, I’ll pull you out. And if the world shakes, your brittle heart breaks, we will patch it up, we’ll work it out.”

No matter how broken you feel or how much you feel that you are beyond help, there is always a way to find yourself again.

9. “Keeping Your Head Up” —Birdy

“Hold tight, you’re slowly coming back to life, I’ll be keeping your head up, darling. Let go of all your haunted dreams tonight, I’ll be keeping your head up.”

“Everyone keeps a darker place to lose control, you’re not alone. And when you come looking for embrace, I know your soul, I’ll be your home. ‘Til you can breathe on your own.”

Some days I am full of fight. Some days, others have to fight for me. Some days, I am not well enough to make my own choices, but I have to trust those around me. And that’s OK. Accepting help is one of the bravest things we can do.

10. “Breathe, 2 a.m. — Anna Nalik

“And breathe, just breathe. Oh, breathe, just breathe.”

“There’s a light at each end of this tunnel, you shout, ‘cause you’re just as far in as you’ll ever be out. And these mistakes you’ve made, you’ll just make them again if you only try turning around.”

Everyone is entitled to slip ups, but each time you stand back up stronger. And when you feel like the world is going to end, just breathe.

11. “Gravity — Sara Barellies

“Set me free, leave me be. I don’t want to fall another moment into your gravity.”

I’ve spent far too long letting my illnesses define me. I want to be free. When the eating disorder tries to tell me lies and I believe it is trying to help me in some way, this song reminds me it is lying to me and I’m not going to fall for its false promises.

12. “Keep Your Head Up — Ben Howard

“Keep your head up, keep your heart strong, keep your mind set, keep your hair long.”

“Now I saw a friend of mine, the other day and he told me that my eyes were gleamin’. Oh I said I’d been away, and he knew, oh he knew the depths I was meanin’. And it felt so good to see his face. All the comfort invested in my soul. Oh to feel the warmth, of his smile when he said, ‘I’m happy to have you home.’”

I can relate to this very much. It reminds me of when I came home from inpatient, and I found who my true friend are, the ones willing to look past my imperfections and support me no matter what. It also helps when I remember all the awful things I did to people around me while I was at my sickest by emphasizing that I wasn’t myself, but that now I’m finding my way back to the “real me.”

13. “Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself” — Jess Glynne

“Don’t be so hard on yourself, no. Learn to forgive, learn to let go. Everyone trips, everyone falls. So don’t be so hard on yourself, no.”

Stop beating yourself up. Everyone makes mistakes; you’re only human. It’s OK. I promise, it’s OK.

14. “The Middle” Jimmy Eat World

“It just takes some time, little girl, you’re in the middle of the ride, everything, everything will be just fine. Everything, everything will be all right.”

Play. Repeat. Play. Repeat.

15. “I Believe” — Christina Perri

“I believe in the lost possibilities you can see and I believe that the darkness reminds us where light can be.”

“‘Cause I have been where you are before, and I have felt the pain of losing who you are. I have died so many times, but I am still alive.”

“I believe that tomorrow is stronger than yesterday, and I believe that your head is the only thing in your way. I wish that you could see your scars turn into beauty, I believe that today it’s OK to not be OK.

“This is not the end of me, this is the beginning.”

One of the most beautiful songs ever written.

16. “Fix You” — Coldplay

“Lights will guide you home, and ignite your bones, and I will try to fix you.”

People who care about us want to be able to “fix” us more than anything, and though they may not be able to make everything OK, the fact that they are willing to try is enough.

17. “King of Anything” — Sara Bareilles

“Who cares if you disagree? You are not me. Who made you king of anything? So you dare tell me who to be? Who died and made you king of anything?”

Anorexia, depression, anxiety, whatever else you’re battling. Tell it to f-off and leave you alone. It’s not welcome here.

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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Originally published: March 17, 2017
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