In the past, I found myself asking: “What is life like without an eating disorder” I didn’t know what it was like to feel alive and free of the disorders I’d had for as long as I could remember.
For those of you asking the same question, wondering what it could possibly be like, here’s a glimpse into my life as someone fully recovered from an eating disorder.
Day in the life of full recovery
“Did you just take the first slice of appeltaart?” asked my cousin. “I sure did”, I said with a huge grin across my face.
Then I step outside the house and am immediately greeted by the Dutch winter chill. I wandered around the city listening to the music of my favorite composer, Ludovico Einaudi.
As I’m walking I notice things I’ve never seen before, like the last name of a friend written in tiny black letters on the top of a canal home I’ve passed many times before. I can smell the tulips lined outside the shops and hear a strong gust of wind through my headphones as rain drops against my skin.
I begin to feel butterflies of anticipation as I get closer to the spot where I’m meeting a friend; we haven’t seen each other in awhile.
Upon arriving, I see my friend welcoming me with a smile. He bends over as we embrace.“It’s been a long time”, I say. “A year, maybe?” he replies. “Longer, I think.”
After that the two of us keep walking and take an immediate right, eager to get away from the bustling main street of Damrak. Walking along the narrow paths, we cross the canals until we settle at a quaint coffee shop.
It’s cold and the waiter hands us a thick blanket. “Twee mint thee, alsjeblieft,” my friend says to the waiter (that’s, “Two mint teas, please” in Dutch.)
We catch up on each other’s lives, reminisce about the fun times we’ve shared, and watch people march by when curiosity strikes us: Can we tell the tourist apart from the locals?
Sitting outside on this nippy Saturday afternoon, I’m reminded that my mind is no longer consumed by eating disorder thoughts.
A cyclist quickly passes by.
“Tourist!” We simultaneously yelled. (The red bike gave it away.)
The next cyclist whizzed by.
“Local!” I shouted.
“No, that’s a tourist,” he said with one of those smiles that indicated he knew his tourists apart from his locals.
Later, we said good-bye. I don’t know when I will see him again, but I carry with me this great experience I wouldn’t have had if I was still be consumed by my eating disorder.
I wake up the next to morning to the sound of trams outside. As I get out of bed I put on some warm clothes before heading downstairs to place two slices of bread in the toaster.
When my toast is ready I spread a generous amount of butter across it and reach for the De Ruijter Chocolate Sprinkles and pour some in the center of my bread. I use my finger to spread the tiny logs of chocolate across my toast like I’ve seen my cousin do several times before…
Was getting here easy?
There were several times in recovery where I wanted to throw in the towel. In those moments I was often left with two choices:
1. I could go back to the life I already knew…
2. I could discover the possibly of something new.
When fear crept in, I wanted to run back to the safety of my eating disorder. Retreating to old behaviors and patterns was familiar. It was a habit I had to break.
But when I challenged my eating disorder — did something that went against its will — it became a massive barrier to overcome. It felt so gigantic that it sent an automatic message to give up.
However, the more I stayed true to my course the stronger I became. Until one day, I realized I’d built a new muscle, one that seeks rather than retracts.
If I had stopped when things got tough, I wouldn’t have lived to experience how life could be without an eating disorder – and how amazing it is to feel alive.
Now, I can eat what my heart desires. But more importantly, I’ve learned that there is much more to life than the size of my body, the amount of food I did or didn’t eat, the way I ate it, and so forth. As a result I have been rewarded with the gift of time.