You Are Enough
For a long time, I kept silent about it all. About the years I spent monitoring my food and exercising all the time. About the revolving doors of treatment and the time I took off from college. I wanted to move forward, so I did. I clung to the pretense that I was “recovered”…even though I was really only part of the way there. I’m a normal person now, I told myself. I was better. All my struggles were in the past, hidden behind a curtain like something I should be ashamed of. Because of course an eating disorder was something to be ashamed of. It meant weakness. It meant I wasn’t perfect.
Whoa, there. Hold the phone, stop the tape, start again. Did you see that word? Perfect? See how it kept popping up in my brain, in my life, even after I called myself recovered, even after I claimed to have left my eating disorder behind?
“Perfect” was still there, hiding in the corner of my brain, ready to inch out and darken my thoughts. “Perfect” was still there, as I finished up college, as I changed careers, as I got married and had kids and tried to make my world a perfect world. Because I was recovered. Because I had made progress. Nope. That’s not how it works. Many of you may be realizing this same thing—that even after you gain weight or halt all your behaviors, even after you go through therapy, and use your supports, and follow your meal plan—even then, if you haven’t confronted the reasons your eating disorder began, part of it will still remain inside of you. Even after all that hard work, the voices may still ring in your head. They may not be screams anymore—they might be whispers now, wisps floating through the air, barely able to be touched never mind recognized—but they still will be there, inching their way into other areas of your life. I think that in some ways, we’ll always hold onto the seed of what grew into our eating disorders. Even if we’re not watering that little kernel, it’s still there. It always has the potential to grow into something else, because it’s part of us. That’s what my perfectionism is to me. It’s something that could sprout the creeping tendrils of an eating disorder again.
But it’s also something that, if I water it, and take care of myself, could flower into something wonderful, something that benefits the world. That realization is what made me start looking closer at my garden.
What made me start to transform my pretense of looking perfectly recovered into actions that meshed with my desire to actually be recovered? I confronted my thoughts and behaviors. Why was I still engaging in certain routines? Why was I still examining certain parts of my body? Was I really exercising an appropriate amount? That’s when I started to talk about how I wasn’t perfect at all. I figured that if trying to be the “ideal recovered person” had gotten me stuck in that “almost recovered” limbo, then maybe I should do something different. Maybe I could admit that things were hard. That recovery was more than simply going into a treatment program or eating certain things. That it’s a journey that spans years, that travels a road filled with ups and downs and potholes and hills and loop-de-loops.
Maybe if I felt this way, others might feel the same way, too. I started a blog about my journey. People responded. I posted on social media about body image and stressful parenting moments. People responded. They reached out to tell me that they felt the same way. That they were afraid their kids would someday feel that same “I’m not good enough” feeling, too. I kept talking. I kept writing, too. You see, before my dreams were hijacked by my eating disorder, my dream was also to become an author of children’s books. When I finally regained myself, I regained my love for words, too. In my books, I draw from and talk about my own struggles. And I want kids and teens to know that they can do the same.
That it’s okay not to be perfect. It’s okay to struggle and reach out for help. It’s okay to be flawed. To be you. They are good enough, just as they are. And so are you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: JEN PETRO-ROY
Jen Petro-Roy is a former teen librarian, an obsessive reader, and a board game fan. She lives with her husband and two young daughters in Massachusetts. She is the author of P.S. I Miss You, Good Enough, and You Are Enough: Your Guide to Body Image and Eating Disorder Recovery. Jen is an eating disorder survivor and an advocate for recovery.
On February 19th, Macmillan/Feiwel & Friends released two of Jen’s books, both about eating disorder recovery. Good Enough is about twelve-year-old Riley, who struggles with recovering from anorexia nervosa while also dealing with a gymnastics star younger sister, parents who don’t understand how she’s feeling, and complicated relationships with her fellow patients. You Are Enough is a self-help guide for tweens and teens about eating disorder, body image, and self-esteem, covering not just “traditional” populations, but also males, the LGBTQIA+ population, and the fat acceptance movement. You can find out more information about Jen by visiting www.jenpetroroy.com or at @jpetroroy (Twitter and IG).