Recovery Story – Carolyn Labrie
Eating disorders are hard work. They take discipline, energy, and willpower. Looking back, I don’t know how, at my lowest weight, I was able to find the energy to maintain the illness. You have a strong constitution,one doctor told me. I guess that’s what has kept me alive for the past 19 years, because I did not think I’d live to see 30.I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa at the age of 15. Spread out some pictures from various stages of my life, and you can see the illness evolve right before your eyes. I go from a chubby, happy baby to a smiling, outgoing child to a pale adolescent with a sadness in her eyes that has never left. There are very few pictures from the height of my anorexia. Skipping over those missing years of my adolescence, the pictures resume at my high school graduation party. There I am, smiling, just healthy enough, sticking my finger into the frosting of the party cake. That defines me now: just healthy enough.This is an eating disorder in recovery. I maintain the low end of a healthy weight. I eat six times per day, like clockwork. I exercise. I rest. I have friends, a job, schoolwork, bills, and responsibilities. But despite my healthy habits, my body reminds me daily of what I put it through for all those years.I no longer have anorexia to fall back on. The illness has left me. I beat it, I recovered. But that has meant developing the ability to fight off the intrusive thoughts about food that I still have. I will maintain this in-between for the rest of my life. I will have happy times and sad times. I’m great in a crisis; it’s the mundane tasks of daily life that drive me crazy. I will exercise daily because it makes me feel clean and refreshed. I will maintain my strong constitution- it defines me and saved my life.Since my recovery, I have wanted to find a way to educate people about the importance of developing a strong sense of self. I fully believe that if I had been able to do this as a child, I would not have developed anorexia. Eating disorders are about control. My anorexia came out of a need to feel in control of something. My home life was hell, and I had nowhere to turn but within. Once I did that, I felt that I finally had control. My Dad might drink, my Mom might be depressed, but I could control what I put in my mouth and what my body looked like. The turning point came when I realized that the anorexia had done nothing to change my life. My Dad was still an alcoholic. My Mom was still depressed. The only person I was hurting was myself. So I started to eat. And I started to allow myself to be the person that I had been hiding all that time.Think of all the energy it took to maintain the anorexia. Think of the energy it takes to maintain any kind of negative behavior. What could we accomplish if we would put that energy into work, or family, or relationships, or helping others? There are no limits to what we could do! In 2009, a college colleague and I founded You Part Two, a website dedicated to helping people with eating disorders through blogs written by individuals who have been there. The site is always in progress, and always trying to grow, but it is a start.You Part Two is about recovery. It is about creating a strong foundation. When you allow yourself to be who you are, when you can trust yourself and count on yourself, you have developed a strong foundation that will be the starting point for great things. This website is my chance to get this message out there. You can start over from whatever point you are at. You can have that turning point- this isn’t hurting anyone but me.The contributors at You Part Two are real people who have struggled with a variety of issues- depression, low self-esteem, eating disorders, substance abuse. All have a desire to show the world that recovery is possible, and to provide support for those who are seeking a new start. I could have used this kind of support. I hope to be able to provide it for even a few people.