People often ask me why I left sunny San Diego, my home of eighteen years, to move to Fresno for college. I usually tell them that I got a scholarship, which is true. But there’s more to my anorexia eating disorder recovery story. Truthfully, I wanted to get as far away as possible from all the places and people that reminded me of anorexia and everything it had taken away from me.
For one, it took away a promising swim career. At the peak of my performance (and before my food restriction caused my muscles to atrophy), I was competing with the fastest swimmers in Southern California and was planning on swimming in college.
It took away friendships. It must have been hard for my friends to watch my decline and feel helpless, not knowing what to say or do to make it stop. I mistook their hesitation for rejection, leaving me feeling angry, betrayed, and hurt.
It took away my energy and excitement for life. I remember being tired all the time—not only because I was actively depriving my body of nutrients and fuel, but also because I would fight hard to stay awake at night obsessively planning my meals for the next day.
In treatment, my weight was restored within a matter of months, and intensive therapy brought about physical and mental healing. It took a long time to extricate my own thoughts from the ones that were trying to kill me and to recognize the voice in my head as the enemy. Slowly but surely, I learned how to feed myself again.
Slowly but surely, I rebuilt my life—my body, my relationships, myself.
As they say, time heals (so does intensive therapy, weight restoration, a strong support system, and medication). With each year that passes, I get a little more confident, a little more independent, and a whole lot happier. These years in college have been the best of my life. My time with anorexia is fading into the rearview mirror.
But as everyone in recovery knows, anorexia is never really gone.
It still comes to visit every once in a while. It visited briefly this past winter when I was packing for my trip to Africa.
“I probably won’t need a bathing suit anyway.”
“It would just take up room in my suitcase.”
Fast-forward a couple of weeks: I am sitting on the edge of the pool at our desert campsite in Namibia with my feet dangling in, watching everyone else in the group—all ages, all shapes, and all sizes—swimming and cooling off in the heat.
I realize my mistake. How could I have fallen for it? That voice in my head had crept up again while I was packing, trying desperately to pull me back into its grasp. It caught me off guard; it had been such a long time since it last came to visit.
I bet it’s scared…I’ve been so happy lately, so satisfied with life.
It knows it’s losing.
When we get to the next town, I find a department store and grab the first bathing suit I see in my size.
A couple days later, our tour guide takes us to a secluded rock quarry filled with rainwater in Botswana. I am the first one to jump in and the last one to climb out.
Anorexia may have taken things away from me, but fighting it gave me infinitely more strength, confidence, and wisdom than I ever had before it entered my life.
To anyone still on his or her journey to recovery, I wish you this:
May the energy and nutrients from food fuel your body.
May kindness, love, and forgiveness fill your heart.
May your experiences and the people you share them with feed your soul.
And to my eating disorder, I say this: I won. I have found my happiness, and I’m never giving it up for you again.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Published on February 26, 2018.
Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on February 26, 2018.
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com