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What Living With an Eating Disorder Has Taught Me

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It’s big-headed, pretentious, conceited and self-centered. But it’s true, and the reason I know this is because no one can ever understand a person’s life or point of view until they crawl into their skin and walk around in it.

Nobody knows what my life so far has been like. People can empathize, and perhaps draw similarities, but nobody knows how they would react in my situation.

I didn’t want to go back to college after those girls did those horrible things to me. But here I am, 10 months away from graduating. I didn’t want to go to the job interview because I didn’t think I was good enough. But here I am, doing the job. I didn’t want to get up today, or yesterday, or the day before or last week. But here I am, getting up and living.

Living with an eating disorder has taught me a lot.

It has taught me that the years of struggling are often the most beautiful.

The worst, most impossible days are the days where I learn the most about myself.

It has taught me how loved I am by my family.

It has separated my true friends from the toxic people.

It has taught me some people are just nasty and that isn’t my fault.

It has taught me I don’t have to be happily ever after — I just need to be happy right now. One day at a time.

It has taught me that even though I feel damaged and scary, I deserve good things. Just like everybody else.

It has taught me that just because I don’t lift weights every day or follow a macro plan anymore I’m not any less of an amazing person.

It has taught me there is no magic cure or special pill. There are only small forward steps. An easier day. An unexpected laugh. A mirror that doesn’t matter anymore.

It has taught me I am smarter and braver than I could have ever imagined.

Having an eating disorder may feel safe, tranquil, familiar and sheltered. But the truth is, it’s a cage, not a cocoon.

I have great days. Sometimes even multiple great days. Then I will have a bad week. However, one definite thing is that even my worst days in recovery are better than the best days in my eating disorder.

While rereading Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mocking Bird,” I realized what my strength was. In the novel, she talks about how real courage isn’t the man with the gun in his hand, but rather it’s the person who confronts something that they know all too well may cause them to fall flat on their face and see it through no matter what.

This is me. Most days I find it a miracle that I have even managed to get up and make it through the day when my brain and body tell me to give up. But I do it, and before I know it, a week has passed, then a month. And I’m still here. Doing what I can, while I can.

Not everybody is happy all the time — that’s not mental health. That’s rubbish. So stop pretending to be someone you aren’t. Stop thinking that just because you aren’t “thin enough” you drop a level on life’s hierarchy. There is no such thing as thin enough. Not with an eating disorder. So look at how far you have come. You don’t need top grades, run a marathon or donate an organ. You woke up today, and you are breathing. That’s more than enough. You are needed, and you are important.

I am the strongest person I know. Be the strongest person you know. Be your own role model because when you’re alone, your voice is the only one that matters, and it is usually always right.

Image via Thinkstock.

Originally published: September 9, 2016
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