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What 6 Years of Choosing Eating Disorder Recovery Means for Me

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Editor’s note: If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741741.

Do you ever think back a few years and feel like that life wasn’t yours? Like you don’t remember that part of yourself, or you’ve disconnected from your past? Or does it haunt you? Does your past stay with you every day, perched on your shoulder, reminding you of things that have been missing? Or do they happen simultaneously, tugging you back and forth, having you wish you’d just split apart instead. My past will probably forever feel like sandpaper.

Six years ago, I remember walking into the back office of my ballet teacher, dressed in my oversized sweater with my tights and leotard on underneath. I walked in to ask my instructor a question, and he looked at me and after a brief conversation he told me that I needed to stop losing weight, and if I didn’t then he was going to call my mom. Aside from being caught off guard from that statement, my entire body lit up and my brain congratulated me.

You’re actually losing weight. The scale isn’t lying. Keep going. He won’t actually call her.” My brain said.

Many might assume that a comment like that would hit harder than it did, and at least have some bearing on my actions; that maybe it would make me stop doing what I was doing to myself. It didn’t.

When you’re wrapped in a world of numbers, outside threats seem empty. The only thing I believed in at that time were calories and numbers on the scale. I only believed in things that my eating disorder told me.

But eventually everything caught up with me. My body got tired. It became hard to walk up the stairs. Everything seemed to slow down. My mood got bad. I couldn’t stop crying, I was miserable. But the thought of losing weight calmed me down, just as much as it tore me apart.

Some people see their school counselors or social workers to help them to get through school. So did I. But where most people saw the social worker about once a week, I sometimes saw them three times in one day (no exaggerations).

I hated school, but I loved that it was a perfect place for me to restrict my food without anyone to hold me accountable. It was a perfect place for me to restrict, but it was also the perfect place for me to fall apart. I had all those hours to sit in class and just think about food.

Eventually though, sitting in class got to be too much. So I stopped going. It started with getting up a lot to pace the halls, to going to the social worker’s office during those times, to just straight up not going at all. I would hide in the halls or walk around the entirety of class time, and I even started to just leave the building altogether. I hardly went to school. I would ask my mom or grandma to call me out, which they usually would; but even when my mom wouldn’t, I would just leave. I would call her after I left and tell her she should probably call me out so I wasn’t marked truant. She didn’t like that very much.

When people couldn’t or wouldn’t pick me up, I would walk home. I lived about a mile and a half away, and because my greatest goal in life at that time was to lose weight, I didn’t mind it. Even after I got home I would go out for walks again.

I remember being up in the middle of the night because my funny heartbeat decided it needed to wake me up. There were some times it felt so weird that it began to scare me, but I quickly calmed down when my brain reassured me I was totally OK: it’s normal, I’m fine, I’m overreacting.

Eating disorders play with your logic and they play with it well. Every thought process I had was so altered and messed up. At first, eating can feel so wrong and it physically aches and your whole being just begs you to stop doing it. And re-feeding is definitely one of the worst pains I have ever felt. But it’s literally a choice of life or death. Your eating disorder doesn’t let you choose both. Not in the end.

But choosing recovery is actually so cool — it’s so cool to watch yourself reappear. Watching your eyes light up again in the mirror. Having more hair to wrap up into a bun in the morning. Feeling your real smile come out after having been in hibernation for who even knows how long.

I’ve been in recovery from anorexia since I was 16, and I am now 22. Every day isn’t always a struggle, but it sometimes can be. Sometimes I can be OK for a long time and certain foods don’t set me off into severe panic. Other times, I feel like some foods just have it out for me.

Sometimes eating lunch with my therapist grinds to a halt in the middle of the sandwich because I no longer can allow myself to pick my hand up to grab it. But all of the days I’m doing well are so much more worthwhile than the ones I spend crying over food. Recovery doesn’t hand you your life back, but it does give you more strength and more tools to go get it and build it yourself.

Being on this journey for so long sometimes results in me forgetting important milestones I’ve reached in recovery, and I can feel like I’m more stuck than I am. That is why I would recommend journaling to literally everyone, because looking back on my own journal (when I can handle reading hard things), I can really see how I’m so much more different.

You start to notice that watching movies with friends, or reading a funny book, or scrolling for new memes makes you so much happier than not eating that cookie. In fact, eating the cookie may even make it a bit better.

I want to look back on my life in the next six years and see recovery, be recovered, be living. And I will. 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.

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Originally published: April 10, 2018
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