I have been in recovery for quite some time. Though the urges to restrict have decreased significantly, I still remember the pain of my eating disorder all too well. Most days, I don’t think about it. I consume my time with more meaningful activities than dwelling on my previous illness. However, this week, National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, hits right where it hurts the most. I know I’m not alone in feeling bittersweet about this week. I’m writing to share my thoughts with you, so that you may relate and find strength in unity.
For me, it always starts the same way. Each year, I feel empowered on Monday, as if I can take over the world. I think, “Wow, I am invincible! I beat the very thing that tried to kill me for a decade of my short life. I am amazing”. Then, Tuesday comes around, and I start to feel conflicted. I know I have a lot to be proud of, but the pain of my past tugs on my heartstrings, playing them like a sad, lonely violin. I want to feel empowered like Monday, but Tuesday finds me smiling through the pain.
On Wednesday, I hit a low. The pain of my years of battling anorexia feels too heavy and threatens to crush me. I go through the motions of class, only to collapse into my bed at the end of the day with tears streaming down my face. I hug my teddy bears and cry, allowing myself to grieve all that my disorder stole from me as a child and teenager. Then, I pick myself up and glue the pieces of my broken heart back together. I am okay with the pain because I have risen above it. Tomorrow will be a better day.
And it is. Thursday brings a new determination to re-commit to recovery. I refrain from looking in the mirror when I can help it because I know I am more than the lies Ed still tries to feed me. I listen to my body more sensitively than ever before, nourishing it through intuitive eating and cozying up in blankets to give it some rest after yesterday’s intensity. I am so excited to see what the next year of recovery will bring!
By Friday, I feel peaceful and content. Despite the painful memories that come with this week, I feel grateful for the awareness it brings to the disorder that kills so many. I feel strong and capable because I am one of the lucky ones– I am in recovery. My past does not define me, but because of my intense personal growth, I am better able to understand myself and others. There is always a sunrise, even after the darkest night.
If you also find NEDA Week to be bittersweet, please know you are not alone. It’s okay to have feelings, even intense feelings– just allow yourself time to process them and practice self-care. You are braver, stronger, smarter, and more persistent than you know. You are my inspiration.