People look at me like I’m still suffering from a mental illness when I say that I wouldn’t erase the eating disorder from my life for anything. Perhaps a bit of the crazy does remain, but just the fact that I can say that phrase is because I lived with and, more importantly, recovered from anorexia.
Unknowingly brushing close to death taught me a deep appreciation for life. Gratitude is just one of the many emotions I could not genuinely feel during my disorder. However, it is now one that feeds my replenished life source. Appreciation lights up my life. Recently, I have been reminded by others suffering from severe eating disorders just how lucky I am to be alive. As I travel along that thread of gratitude I once again realize how much the disorder taught me about myself and made me who I am today.
The bulk of my growth and learning came after I pulled away the veil of denial, accepted my diagnosis, and hesitantly stepped into recovery. My illness had wrapped my being tightly in a safe but suffocating embrace of false worth and conditional regard. As I fought the boa constrictor coils holding me together I unintentionally uncovered the insecurities, fears, and holes in my self that the disorder had filled. Thank God! While it was like ripping off a well-worn Band-Aid that had become enmeshed in the skin-essence of my being to reveal an unexpectedly large festering wound beneath, at least the rawness felt authentic. No more hiding behind fake values and desperate attempts at finding self-acceptance and love. Engaging in recovery meant real work using the crude raw material of my bared soul.
Working up from ground zero gave me a chance to truly rebuild myself and for that I am forever grateful. The disorder highlighted areas that needed attention. Like a phosphorescent antibody that attaches itself to certain receptors and lights up under UV light, my eating disorder wormed its way into the most hidden holes of my being and when it was spotted and then flushed out I could see where to rebuild.
It took a lot of hard work and help from so many people who I will never be able to repay with enough smiles and words and love, but slowing I got better. I replaced shame with self-acceptance. I retrained my brain away from automatic negative thoughts and towards positivity and realistic optimism. I learn to sit with uncertainty and discomfort. I cherished emotions again—to feel after such numbness was painful but exulting! I developed self-love and practices of self-care. I embraced authentic experience and deep connection. I accepted mistakes as growing opportunities instead of wollowing in guilt. And so many many more things that make me who I am today.
Recovery gave me the opportunity to explore myself anew. I now love and appreciate myself in a more profound way than ever before. I would never have gotten to this point and would not have the continued growing journey of living in recovery if anorexia had never befriended me.
Thus, while I would never ever choose this experience for another or even for myself again, given it happened to me I must say, with all my heart, “Thank you.”