(DISCLAIMER: I understand not everyone’s recovery is the same. Everyone struggles with different problems. But I think it’s important to tell our stories of recovery and share our experiences to help others. Thank you!)
I don’t even know where to begin when i start to write this. Recovery is such a tricky subject, for every person it looks different, but it’s never pretty. I’ve seen too many instagram posts sort of announcing being completely recovered, and I look at them in awe because i know that’s not true. No one shows the ugly parts of recovery. So here I am, ready to show everyone my good, bad, and ugly. I’m not going to sugar coat it and say “everything gets better and it’ll go away” but I will say it gets easier. I guess to understand this you need to know my pre-recovery story. I’ll give you the short version because I might save this story for another post.
I have always been really open with my struggle with mental illness so I forget that a lot of people that only know me on the surface have no idea. A lot of people keep that part of their life a secret, and I get that, it’s not an easy thing to admit or even talk about. But I find when I talk about it, it not only helps me but it helps other people. So let’s begin.
Growing up I was an anxious little kid. I was worried about EVERYTHING. I remember making myself sick over the thought of going to school in the morning and would give myself a full blown panic attack. My parents had no idea then that it was anxiety, they just thought it was normal 7 year old tantrums. We didn’t realize till later on that that was the beginning of my anxiety.
Later on in life I didn’t see many symptoms, I was always paranoid or worried about something but i thought that was just my personality.
it wasn’t until my freshman year of highschool that it all hit me.
it came slowly. Every girl at 14 is gaining weight and losing weight, that’s the age where girls bodies change and its completely normal! But of course no one really tells little girls that…
I can remember every comment anyone made about my weight that year. I can remember their faces. The way it made me feel. Everything.
14 is when i became anorexic.
I was in an aerobics class my freshman year of high school. it was a class of about 50+ girls. One day the teacher introduced to us something she said we’d be doing once a month. She gave us a paper with an in depth chart on it. it had a spot for our weight and then spots for us to write our measurements. Then bags with pens and measuring tapes were passed around. The only other time I measured myself was for a ballet costume when I was 7.
We were shown how to measure every part of our body from our waists to our wrists, our freaking WRISTS. After we logged all of that we had to stand on the scale in front of the whole class and weigh each other. All I heard around me were young girls criticizing themselves. “I need to lose weight” “ugh I’m so fat” “how are you so skinny??” That was how it began.
Now i’m not here to give you the gory details of my eating disorder. im not here to romanticize starvation but i’m going to try and describe my feelings because I think that’s the most important part.
After being forced to weigh myself for a grade I became extremely self aware, i began hating my body. Panic attacks came nightly. I began hating going out with my friends but forcing myself to do so so they wouldn’t know what was up. I was starving myself and i was depressed.
After a few months of being absolutely miserable, I was given an ultimatum by friends who knew. I told my parents and they got me the help I needed. Getting the help wasn’t easy. I went to doctor after doctor.
Finally, I was put into an intensive outpatient program, where I was diagnosed with anorexia, an anxiety disorder, and major depression. I had to stop going to school and switch to an online school. I was going to online school while going 4 days a week to an all day iOP.
Here is where I begin my road to recovery.
I was ready to learn about change but not so sure if i wanted to commit to it. I was comfortable where I was. Even though I was miserable and unhappy, it felt comfortable, it was my new normal. I didn’t remember what it felt like to not feel like this. So thinking about changing how i felt seemed impossible.
This part of recovery is weird. Your family expects you to just all of a sudden want to eat or expects you to be happy. it’s the in between. You are in treatment and you think you want to get better but the symptoms are all still there, taunting you and tempting you. Doctors weigh you everyday and monitor everything you eat. They ask you a million and one questions. I felt like a case they were studying instead of treating.
There is no privacy during recovery. At the doctors they watch you eat your food. You have to sing or talk while you use the bathroom. At home you get asked a million questions all over again. You can’t sleep more than a normal amount (even though you’re exhausted from all the anxiety) or everyone is worried if you’re “depression sleeping”. And forget taking any medication by yourself.
Of course all of this is because these people care about you and want you to live and be healthy, but in that moment it’s overwhelming.
After the 3 months in treatment, I was finally able to go back to regular school. Going back was hard. I had kids ask me if i moved, teachers ask if i was pregnant, all of it.
The most frustrating part was not being able to practice my disordered actions. There was no more skipping lunches at school and going home to tell my mom i had a big lunch and wasn’t really hungry for dinner. Everyone knew now. My boyfriend would sit and make sure I ate my lunch, my mom would pack my lunch and ask my boyfriend sometimes if i was being honest about eating it. There was no trust anymore.
That’s the worst part. No one you love trusts you anymore. I mean how could they? I had just spent months lying to them in every way I could think of to hide the fact that I was depressed and not eating. Everyday was an interrogation of “what did you eat?” Or “did you really eat it or are you lying?”.
Eventually it got easier. The interrogations stopped, but to this day I can’t take a nap without being woken up and asked what’s wrong or if im okay.
Eventually the questions stop coming and everyone kind of lets it go. Except for you.
I told you I’m not here to tell you it goes away and everything is okay again. Mental illness doesn’t just go away. I go through periods (these periods are in the span of months) of life where I feel on top of the world, like I can do anything I want. And then I go through periods where im so down that I can’t see anything to live for and i’m just down all the time.
Once you’ve been doing okay for a while people forget that you’re still going to have symptoms of your mental illness. I still get panic attacks out of the blue or days that I cannot leave my bed and loved ones forget that this is my normal. This is something I have to deal with forever.
No I don’t have a diagnosed eating disorder anymore, but I don’t have a good relationship with food at all. Everytime I pick up a fork i feel guilt, Emotions go rushing through me. I’ve learned how to let them pass and to continue eating, but the thoughts linger with me all day.
Anytime I go to the gym I hear every negative thing anyone ever said about my body. Sometimes every meal is a struggle.
Sometimes I can’t get out of bed. Sometimes it physically hurts me to try and function that day. Sometimes i’ll get panic attacks for no reason. Sometimes I feel so anxious all i can think about is how to fix it with my old vices.
Everyday is a struggle when you’re in recovery. None of it is easy. No one tells you about how things change. No one tells you about the guilt. No one tells you that the world won’t look the same anymore.
But I can tell you its all worth it. I am alive. I am healthy. I am here to tell my story.
Sure everyday is a struggle, but everyday you learn how to handle the struggle. You learn how to fight the thoughts and feelings. It can be tiring and it can feel never ending, but the more you learn how to handle your illness and give yourself tools to handle it, the easier it gets.
Much love x
Here are some helpful websites and hotlines i’ve used in the past!
NEDA (national eating disorder association)
Lots of info on eating disorders, free screenings, how to get help, and events!
NAMi (national alliance on mental illness)
information on all kinds of mental illness, how to get help, info on public policy and research, and lots of personal stories.
National suicide prevention hotline 24/7
Crisis text line 24/7
Text HOME to 741741