Whenever I initially confide in a family member or friend that I am in recovery for an eating disorder, I always receive the same immediate reaction – furrowed brows, solemn eyes, and a voiced “I’m SO sorry.”
Yes, to them I was once one of “those” people. Those people tortured by such deep insecurities and fear that led to the destructive physical manipulation of my body. One of “those” people who would stand out on the street with my sunken eyes and bony frame. I was once one of “those” people who appeared weak, fragile and scared.
I own up to all of that. I was that person for several hard years of my life. And I get it. For people who have never experienced an eating disorder, discussing them with someone previously affected by one can be awkward. Even a little intimidating to be honest.
But there is also another side to having an eating disorder that I want them (and society for that matter!) to understand.
There is a side that isn’t scary…but rather filled with hope, optimism, and strength. The part of having an eating disorder that is actually a great gift.
It’s a phase of this long and crazy recovery process I have been immersing myself in throughout the past year. It’s a phase of coming face-to-face with that former self and recognizing how much incredible growth naturally happens as we work to combat these disorders.
I actually feel grateful for my eating disorder. Does that sound weird? Because it’s the truth.
Now, this first reason might be pretty obvious to some. As we begin to fuel our bodies properly and build more muscle throughout recovery, it is natural to feel physically stronger. Before I knew it, gone were the days of my feeling exhausted and out of breath after walking up a flight of stairs.
As I began to restore my relationship with movement, I spent time on all the levels of the exercise spectrum. Now I really do a mix of all types of movement.
I relearned how to respect my body for all activities it allows me to participate in – whether it’s a yoga class or a stroll in my neighborhood.
I feel ALIVE when I move. I feel the power in my body. A body that has stuck by my side through the good and the bad.
Expansion of Relationships
Isolation is a common by-product of eating disorders.
We retreat from social situations in fear of judgment for our habits or pressure to eat in such a way that makes us uncomfortable. I experienced both of these thoughts, in addition to possessing no energy or motivation to develop relationships.
Today, I consider my relationships to be a key factor in providing the support needed for successful recovery. In return, I am able to actively invest in my relationships and give them the attention they deserve.
Now, I have an increased sense of understanding for any challenges they may be facing in their own lives. I am able to live in the moment with these individuals.
Heightened Excitement for the Future
When I think back to my mindset during those darker days, the overwhelming lack of optimism is a distinct memory. Any thoughts in regards to the future were all anxiety producing – How many calories would I allow myself to consume at the next meal? What time would I have to wake up in the morning to ensure I could squeeze a workout in?
Planning trips or outings filled me with dread as I tried to figure out how to survive outside of my “normal” routine and disordered habits.
There was no spirit of excitement whatsoever.
But with time, and in a beautiful exchange of fate, my apathy as been replaced with fierce passion for the road ahead. Whether it’s moving across the country to pursue my career aspirations or taking that Eat-Pray-Love trip of my dreams to Bali, I can do it! Because I fought to be where I am today, the world is wide open.
And to me, that is so exciting.
And oh this point…it is the most important of all and hence why I saved it for last. While in the midst of an eating disorder, it takes tremendous strength to wake up every morning and face those internal voices head on.
Actively working to beat down those voices and attempting to transform your life…now THAT is warrior-ness. That should give you confidence. That should make you believe that you can tackle any challenge you may face.
Because you are winning one of the biggest battles of your life.
Wherever you are in your recovery journey, I encourage you to own your power. Own your strength. And own your story.
Let it fuel everything you do moving forward – your passions, your relationships, your goals. Find gratitude in this experience.
Your eating disorder has made you a warrior, and no one can take that away from you.