In honor of National Eating Disorder Awareness week, I have decided to share my own story with you. Writing this down for all of my followers to see is perhaps the most vulnerable post I have yet to share on this blog, but if it gives hope to just one person that overcoming an eating disorder is possible, my risk will be worth it.
You abide by the rules you live by, and for me, I chose to follow the rules that would lead me to perfection. If I could be perfect, I could be happy, safe, successful. But I had no idea of the consequences that came with the quest to find this illusion of perfection.
It started with my outward appearance. As a dancer, my life outside of school was surrounded by mirrors on all sides, a gateway to inner destruction. Every flaw was displayed to me in every step I took, and my confidence began to suffer because of this. So I changed. But my lifestyle changes in my eating and exercise became extreme, and I fell into the depths of an eating disorder.
At the beginning, I was proud of my ability to follow through with my goal of being skinny. The comments about my weight only encouraged me to continue my restrictive eating habits. I was in control of myself, and I was embodying my ideal image of healthy. However, in the process, paradoxically, I was undermining my health. My hair was brittle and falling out in clumps, I shivered even in the direct rays of sunlight, my bones shone through my thin, pale skin, and I had no energy besides the motivation that kept me in the cycle of my eating disorder. I knew I needed help, but I wasn’t ready to leave my newfound sense of self behind.
Then one day after dance, I realized that this had gone on too long. Despite the eating disorder’s objection, I confessed to my mom that I needed help. My mom promised me that she would not give up until I was healthy on the inside and out, and at the time, I was furious. I had asked for help without truly wanting it with all of my being. My eating disorder had hijacked my brain, and my healthy conscience was not powerful enough to defeat it. But deep down, I knew that I couldn’t live in this constant state of energy depletion, that I couldn’t obtain the life I wanted if I was internally miserable.
The next few weeks were the most challenging of my entire life. The misconceptions that a person can be healed from an eating disorder by just eating are prevalent in the media, but they are distant from reality. Every food I deemed unhealthy was daunting and extremely painful for me to eat. In the process of recovery, where I was supposed to be reclaiming my health, I felt dejected, isolated, and utterly hopeless.
These feelings went on for weeks and months to come, but with time, my perception of self began to heal. I no longer winced at my own body when I glanced in the mirror. I was able to taste and enjoy the food on my plate. Guilt no longer hindered my concentration at school and at home. I was rediscovering the person I used to be.
I still have days where my eating disorder takes a strong hold over my thoughts, but my true self is able to overcome these hardships. The process of recovery has been grueling work, but I am forever grateful for the insight it has given me. By disobeying the rules of perfection, I opened the heavy doors to self-acceptance. I left behind an identity that I thought I couldn’t live without, only to find that I am more confident, stronger, and happier without it.