I truly thought I would spend my entire life obsessing over food, health, and weight. I clearly remember the intense pressure I felt to eat “perfectly” and follow all of the rules I set out for myself. My eating disorder took the better part of a decade away from me, and looking back I have immeasurable anger at my eating disorder and immeasurable gratitude for my choice to recover.
My eating disorder thrived on my intense need to be perfect. I lived with persistent fear of not being “good enough” in any area of my life. No matter what I did, how many foods I cut out, how hard I worked out, how “perfectly” I ate, or how many rules I followed, I could never be good enough for my eating disorder. She was my worst critic, and she was loud. Born from childhood bullies, my sensitive nature, and my fear of never being good enough, my eating disorder was my worst nightmare and my best friend. Every vivid memory from 12-18 years old involves my eating disorder, but it was my best kept secret. My parents never knew, my teachers all remarked on how polite and quiet I was, and I was known for my discipline and “will-power”.
Choosing recovery was terrifying. My eating disorder had me completely convinced that, by pursuing recovery, I would give up everything about myself that I valued. My beliefs, my community, my passions, everything. The part of me that held that fear was wrong, of course. Once I made the decision to recover, I threw my entire self into it. I knew that I couldn’t live with my eating disorder anymore, but I didn’t remember life without it. I came of age with a mental illness that warped my view of reality completely, and my recovery was spent re-learning what a healthy relationship with food is like. I can’t accurately quantify the hours spent crying into a bowl of food that I now eat every day, or the amount of times I had to remind myself that eating is a morally neutral activity. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
Now, when I think about my eating disorder, I think about it in the past tense. My life now is full of color and joy in a way I never thought was possible. I’ve given up the parts of me that I held so dearly during my eating disorder – the ones I was so terrified to lose. Now, I’m a little less quiet, and my life is a lot more vibrant. My resilience brought out the best in me in ways I could’ve never anticipated. My recovery also let me access a simple kind of joy I never thought was possible – the joy of being content with my life exactly how it is. The joy of putting on clothing I love without thinking about how I could change myself to make an outfit look better. The joy of moving my body because I love it, not because I hate it. The joy of eating in the company of those who love me. And lastly, the joy of knowing that all I have to be is myself, and that will always be more than enough.