The Carnival

This piece (below) is written by Johnny Righini, a male ED survivor and activist living in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is passionately pursuing a path of peace & recovery. He enjoys gardening, walking barefoot, creativity, his German Shepherd and avocados.Johnny has created Transcend-ED as a support & shop fundraiser to help benefit Project Heal during National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (Feb 22-28 2015).  WHY TRANSCEND-ED? Transcend means to “rise above” and “ED” is an abbreviation for “eating disorders” so by merging the two together we are fighting to RISE ABOVE EATING DISORDERS!  Transcend-ED is a week-long public & interactive eating disorders support style jewelry party through Facebook. Transcend-ED will be conducted as a FB group.  Every item from his store that’s purchased through Transcend-ED will go towards his donation to Project Heal. 50% of ALL personal earrings from Transcend-ED will be donated!  ALL are welcome to join!  You can find out more and Transcend-ED HERE jrMy fingers shake while words anxiously wait. I hold my breath and anticipate. Hectic & poetic. I’m playing green-light, yellow-light and red-light with my thoughts because the idea of trying to articulate a 20+ year battle with eating disorders leaves me in a humble head-spin. Oh boy, where to begin?

I was twelve years old when my Mother first questioned me. Her anxiety provoked approach is part of a monumental memory I have yet to forget. She came to me that day, concerned and clammy, in a room of mauve-filled-madness looking for answers I was not prepared to give. She was gentle & giving but I surely was not ready or receiving. “Are you anorexic?” – left me with a rush & flush of blush. My emotional reaction was beyond my own reach. I gave her a nonchalant “NO!” and walked off – secretly shocked, angry and offended. Back then “NO!” as more like “AS IF!” with a swift shift of a limp wrist! “Charmed, I’m sure.”

It wasn't until two years later, at age 14, that I revisited this question. A realization happened in the mirror one day – details disclosed to avoid triggers. The voices from the outside world were telling me one thing but my eyes were seeing another. I had been living in my own world – my own unconscious carnival of funny mirrors and soon to be distorted disasters. In hopes of getting better, things got severely worse. My carnival ticket to “perfection” is beyond measurable equation. What I’m about to share is only a fraction of the subtractions – all the things I've lost to this disease. The perpetuating prices I've paid – condescending conundrums.


The next X amount of years can best be described as a “living hell”. That’s exactly what eating disorders are – a detrimental death trap – a daring dive & drown into the deep end of danger – selfishly sinking into quixotic quicksand. My trip to the carnival was not teddy-bear-terrific or cotton-candy-cute. It was more foul fairgrounds with polluted paths of hunger pains & games, euphoric episodes of ritualistic binging & purging, outlandish OCD outbursts, doctors & doubts, hospitals & IVs, medical & legal threats, uncountable trips to the ER, organs failing, countless comments –“Dude you’re going to die”, severe bodily & dental damage and endless nights laying on my death bed with a hopeless heart and complete loss of self. Loss is an understatement. I became severely seduced into the sick satisfaction of being alone with this disease – my “safe place”, my “security blanket”, my “numb and run”, my way of not having to deal with what I knew was REAL. I lost myself in my own self. It became my identity. I cradled it like a mother to a baby. I fed it my soul and it began to eat me alive like a flesh eating demon. Year after year after year; waif & weak, playing hide & seek.


Life became a gaunt game of shame & blame which only invited unwanted thoughts to carelessly creep in and wrap me in a web of addictive threads. Pressured. Pushed. Provoked. A Puppet – pulled by its strings while anorexia sings, bulimia clings, I surrendered my wings. My voice became asphyxiated as my world came crashing down – like London Bridges. Closer and closer. Lower and lower. A consistent cycle of a downward spiral. Enough was never enough. Enough is only enough for ED when you are DEAD. I had convinced myself to believe that I had no way out while I was desperately awaiting a death that was not meant to be.


There comes a point where you realize YOU HAVE CHOICES. I now understand the saying, “You have to get SICK of being SICK.” I got sick…sicker…sickest and then I woke up. I still had a pulse, I still had a purpose. I realized it was not my time or place to die so why not REALLY GIVE recovery a TRY (again) but this time with a warrior win! Recovery is a chance to reclaim. It’s a way to stand up and take back your raw revolution. Sure it’s scary but living with eating disorders is even scarier. When you feed your body you feed your brain but when you feed the disease you feed your pain.


I’m 32 as I write this. I’m not equipped to be ripped – instead I’m more like pink-tutu-twirls and flamboyant-swishy-swirls. The last two years I have been undergoing what I pray to say is my LAST attempt at re-feeding. I am working on getting where I need to be and grateful that I am no longer where I once was. It’s a challenge but I've always told myself that every step forward is never a step back and every step back can always become a step forward. So ED, ta-ta as I cha-cha!



I stop, fee-fi-foe-fiddle my thumbs and tell myself that the dinner I just gratefully ate is an accomplishment not a failure. It’s nourishment not punishment. The last 18 years have been a roller coaster ride of recovery & relapse. I've had my highs. I've had my lows. I've had my “GET ME OFF THIS RIDE NOW” days but I've kept my safety belt on because I’d rather experience chills and thrills than be stuck on the ground – wishing, wondering and waiting for my seat of defeat. Anorexia, bulimia and orthorexia do not define me. They are not me. They are things I have dealt with – cold cages, empty rages, life wages, scribbled pages. I have come to believe there is no picture perfect recovery but there is recovery. Recovery is an always available choice. I am still learning. I am still forgiving. I am still transcending. Every day I wake to see another I am blessed with the choice to CHOOSE LIFE. I did not choose this disease, perhaps somehow it chose me? But what I can do is choose to set myself FREE. I am only a victim as long as I allow myself to be.

I’m a one man show, cleaning up the carnival with smiles for miles. Whatever was dusty, whatever was rusty is now being polished not demolished.

RecoveryErik NiellsComment