Learning to Live
Todays post come from our Raleigh Chapter Co-Founder, Cara Downey. She is 17 and a senior at Raleigh Charter High School.
When I first admitted to myself that I had an eating disorder, I didn’t know what to do next. I remember previously thinking that I’d never have to worry about anything like that; I was under the impression that I was somehow immune from eating disorders. I was so wrong.
I didn’t know how to address my illness. My mom forced me into therapy, but I still didn’t realize what I was going to have to do. I didn’t understand how bad eating disorders are and how important recovery is.
After a few sessions with my therapist, I began to realize the difference between the new me and the old me. The new me was plagued by anxiety, isolation, over-perfection, and self-pressure, which was completely contrast to the old me, full of happiness and energy. My eating disorder had not only taken hold of me physically but also mentally. It controlled every aspect of my life.
My biggest question was how was I to recover? What did recovery even mean? Even though I had these questions, I knew I had to proceed. I didn’t know how far I had to go, but I knew that it was a long way. That distance was terrifying. It seemed as if I was tiny and my eating disorder was huge. I didn’t know what was going to happen to my body. I didn’t trust it to do its own thing. I thought I had to control it when in reality I wasn’t even doing so--my eating disorder was. It was convincing me that I was ugly and that nothing I was doing was enough.
I had to train myself to make the deliberate decision to do the exact opposite of what my eating disorder told me to do. When I felt like I was supposed to deny myself something that I used to love like a cookie, I had to go against my instinct and instead eat that thing. That didn’t come naturally. It only happened when I realized how badly I wanted the joy back that my eating disorder had taken from me. My eating disorder stole from me viciously. I was angry. I didn’t understand why my eating disorder had taken hold of me. It felt so unfair. I had to learn that I deserved to be free from its grasp.
I had to realize that I was (and am) so much stronger than my eating disorder in order to recover. Believing that I had the capacity to overcome it in even the smallest ways was so essential. I gained this confidence from many small victories of doing the opposite of what my eating disorder said. I slowly learned to trust my own body again.
My recovery path was not easy; it was messy. I struggled and relapsed. I wanted to give up so many times, but now I’m on the other side. I’ve made it! I’m here! That news is consistently amazing to me. I have my joy back and that’s something I didn’t know if I’d ever have again. I enjoy being with my friends and even eating ice cream. I don’t lie awake at night planning my meals for the next day anymore. I’m free!
My recovery has given me the ability to experience life fully. I’m still learning how to do that, but I’m loving each step of my journey, despite the ups and downs. I’ve learned that it’s only human to feel sad sometimes, but happiness is always on the way. Life is all about that, isn’t it? Experiencing the crazy roller coaster but seeing the love laced through it? My recovery allowed me to see that love. Recovery is… discovering more of who I am. Recovery is… having the courage to pursue my dreams. Recovery is… the ability to be adventurous and find the joy associated with it.
Please, if you are reading this and are struggling from an eating disorder, do not fall into the lie that your disorder is bigger than you. Remember that it’s NOT a part of you. It has instead victimized you. You have the power to defeat it. You’re stronger, no matter what you may think. You can make the choice to defy it at every turn. Full recovery is so worth it. Know that there are people who love you and believe you can do it. I don’t know who I’m speaking to right now, but know that I’m one of those people. Don’t give up. Please.