When I was a sophomore in high school I was diagnosed with an eating disorder, an anxiety disorder, and a depressive disorder. It was the most lost I have ever been in my life. My friends had drifted away from me, I wasn’t doing well in school, and I lost sight of who I was and what I was living for. Spring forward 5 years, I’m living independently, healthily, and happily as a rising senior in college, and I have so much to look back on and learn from since the day I started this journey. Here are 5 things I learned during 5 years of eating disorder recovery.
- People are not going to understand this disease. With diet culture so ingrained in our society, disordered behaviors have become extremely normalized and widespread. However, people who are used to disordered eating and who do not have eating disorders are used to a much more surface level version of the issue you are dealing with down to your core. You’re going to get “just eat” from everyone you know and love when you first open up, and it’s going to be very annoying. But as time went on and I became more comfortable talking about my eating disorder, I did my best to explain what EDs really mean and be a source of experience and information for people to learn more. Nowadays, I encourage people to ask their “taboo questions” because they don’t bother me anymore, and they genuinely thought I didn’t eat for like three months straight. So I like to help them understand more now, but back in the day when I was first beginning my recovery, it was the last thing I wanted to do, and that is O K A Y.
- Sometimes people around you can’t handle what you’re going through. Especially when you’re young. This is NOT your fault, but it’s not always fair to blame them either. When you’re young and something throws your life upside down, you probably don’t know how to deal with it. Well, guess what? Your friends probably have no idea how to deal with it either. I lost a lot of friends when I left school for treatment. They were overwhelmed, scared, and didn’t know how to help me. I was really angry for a long time because I felt betrayed, alone, and like they didn’t care enough to stick around when I was at my worst. But as I got older, I realized just how young we were, and just how serious my situation was. Looking back, I can’t be angry with them over decisions they made when they were 15 and I was ill with something none of them could understand. Letting go of the conflicts that my ED caused (not me, not my friends) was one of the best things I did for myself during recovery.
- Health is so different for everyone. It includes body, mind, and spirit equally, and sometimes that means something you think is “healthy” for your body might be detrimentally unhealthy for your mind. However, over the years I’ve met so many people who behave so differently. For me, healthy will always be eating foods I want, when I want, wherever I want. I can’t handle calorie counting, skipping meals, or diet-talk without compromising my health. But I’ve learned that not everyone’s the same as me. Some people can skip breakfast without having it spiral out of control — but that’s just not me.
- You can do so much more than you think you’re capable of. Five years ago, I genuinely thought intuitive eating was impossible. I thought I would be counting calories in my head for the rest of my life, and afraid of guacamole and ice cream forever. Is full recovery possible? What does that mean? I didn’t know, but I didn’t expect to ever get there. But 5 years later, I’ve achieved 99% of the things I thought I never could. In only 5 years. I thought I would be sick for the rest of my life — and I now call myself fully recovered. Don’t get me wrong, though, I still encounter ED challenges every day, and sometimes I still fail. But the amount of space it takes up in my brain is almost nothing. And I’d confidently call that fully recovered.
- Something that feels like the end of the world right now will not feel like the end of the world in 5 years. You have the power to change your own life, and if you want it to look different in 5 years, it can. Take it from me:)
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