This past Tuesday while setting up my next appointment with my dietitian I could hardly believe how quickly May has flown by! Recently, one of my closest friends who is someone I met during my time in treatment posted on Facebook about it being the two year anniversary of her admission to TK. It made me realize that my own admission date anniversary for my second stay would be coming up soon enough. Additionally, mid-July will mark three years since I began my recovery journey and I can not help but look back on the path I have taken with curiosity, nostalgia for the good moments (like meeting the aforementioned friend), and wonderment.
It is hard to believe that three years ago I was such a different person from who I am now. It almost feels like a dream to look back at that girl who was so utterly hopeless, broken down, and struggling. I still struggle sometimes, but I have truly come so far. Three years ago when I entered treatment, I truly thought that I would go through a few weeks of therapy and then be fine. I figured I would gain some weight, eat more, and move on with life. I knew that it would not be easy to recover, but I had no idea it would be as challenging as it has been. Thankfully, I also had no idea how rewarding it would be.
Is it fair that I have struggled with anorexia? Nope, but like a former camp counselor of mine used to say, “life’s tough, get a helmet.” For whatever reason, this is the path my life has gone on and although I would never choose to have (and I did not choose this despite what some ignorant people might think) an eating disorder I have a weird sense of gratitude for what I have gone through. This experience has taught me so much.
Three years ago I was in college studying to become a teacher. I absolutely adore working with children, but deep down I honestly was not that happy with what I was doing. My school was not the right fit for me and being in the classroom was not turning out to be what I expected. However, everyone around me was telling me that I would be an amazing teacher, so I went along with it because I lacked the self-assurance to pursue my true desires. I let others dictate aspects of my life because I was too afraid to follow my own path.
Fast forward, and due to my eating disorder, I ended up in treatment where I was in a lot of therapy group sessions all day long. During these groups, I was able to find my voice, and I began to use it to support myself and my peers. Helping, trying to lend guidance to, and being there for my friends seemed to come naturally to me and more than one person, including some therapists, mentioned that I had good insights during groups and that they could imagine me taking my own experiences and using them to help others. In the past, I had had thoughts of pursuing a social work degree, but I backed down from this dream because self-doubts told me “who are you to help others when you are such a mess? You are not smart or capable enough to help others!”
One of the challenges of recovery is figuring out who you are without your eating disorder and during my time in treatment I, thankfully, was able to recognize that my ability to be empathetic, my compassionate communication skills, and my passion to advocate for others were gifts given to me for a reason. I finally gained the bravery to say out loud that I was going to change my major once I went back to school to pursue a degree in social work in the hopes of working with children! Without my experiences in treatment, I would never have spoken up for my true desires.
This journey has been harder than can describe in words and I have had so many days where I wanted to give up. Recovery is absolutely the most difficult thing I have ever done, and I still struggle at times. Sometimes I still do not want to eat, and I still have many days where I am disgusted by my body/weight. I am still learning how to move past this. However, I would never take any of it back if I were given the option to. Last summer while at CFD I read “Milk and Honey” by Rupi Kaur. One of her poems reads, “The world gives you so much pain, and here you are making gold out of it.” At the time, I had no idea that those words would come to define where my life’s struggle would lead me and that my struggle would turn out to be a blessing in disguise. ❤