I’ve always been a searching soul, never having felt at home in the world or in my own skin. An anxious child growing into an insecure teenager who felt that she had to carry the world on her shoulders I always made sure everyone else was doing well, taking on responsibility upon responsibility, and, of course, getting the best grades.
The smile on my face did not tell the truth. Inside I felt insecure and afraid people would not like me. I was not in touch with my own needs because I was always busy pleasing others and trying to live up to expectations.
During high school I experienced a lot of rejections, something that only continued when I started college.
The loss of friends meant the loss of safety, and feeling invisible led me into a desperate search for a confirmation of my worth…
This led me to men who abused me both physically and emotionally, leaving me disgusted with myself. In order to cope and establish a sense of control, I turned to food and exercise.
Severe restricting combined with hours upon hours of exercise numbed me and offered me a shelter where I did not have to confront my pain.
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As we know all too well, what a disordered mind perceives as being in control is in reality a complete and dangerous loss of control.
Eating disorders pose a threat to our survival, and after over three years of punishing myself for being hurt I was so ill the health officials wanted to force me to go In-Patient because they feared for my life.
It was a controversial decision, but my mum insisted I stay at home and made an agreement with therapists and doctors that she, with their help, would take on the responsibility of nourishing my weak body and dark mind. She saw her daughter underneath the layers of anorexia, believed in the free spirit within me.
For over a year she forced me to eat and go to therapy. The gratitude I feel is impossible to describe through words. She had food thrown at her, was forced to hold me in a tight grip when I tried to run away from our home, trying so desperately to run away from the pressure. From myself.
What we both came to understand over close to four years of recovery is that this process cannot be reduced to weight restoration alone.
Anorexia was my way of communicating, and one challenge has been to connect with and process the experiences I carry within. Opening up to our inner suffering hurts, but through pain and struggles we become stronger and grow.
We cannot heal without feeling the pain. Not run or starve it away, but actually feel it. Confrontation is the key to progress.
I view recovery as a difficult, but nonetheless a great learning process. I’ve learned to sit with feelings, not hide from them. Learned that passion matters more to me than perfection.
When it comes to food, I now understand and believe that food is not dangerous – food is not the enemy, the eating disorder(s) is. Nutrition is not our entire medicine, but it is a crucial part of recovery. By eating we nourish ourselves and get the mental and physical energy required to think rationally and battle disordered urges.
For a long time eating made me feel disgusting and caused intense anxiety, but there is no way around it: We have to eat.
What I have told myself during the darkest of moments is that recovery does not necessarily feel good because it involves confronting everything we’ve come to fear, but it does good.
It does so much good!
In no way would I call myself recovered, but after four years of fighting with several major relapses included, I have come a long way in terms of breaking free from self-hatred. Step by painful step.
Today I am accepting myself and starting to believe in my own worth. I know that Hedda should be viewed as separate from ED. None of us are an illness. We are beautiful human beings.
Through recovery we win back ourselves.
When anorexia darkened my mind and dictated my actions, I thought all was lost. This was how my life was to be-and to end. However, my mum wanted it otherwise and decided to get me help. Looking back, I realize that my story is one of hope. Change is indeed possible.
At the end I want to ask you one question. Has ED actually helped you heal your suffering? For me it only intensified it. That is why I chose, and continue to choose, recovery.
No matter how challenging and scary it is, I believe recovery leads to something better.
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Originally published January 25, 2013 on our old Tumblr blog.
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