My eating disorder was a dark and severely self-destructive journey. One that I am, even now, uncomfortable sharing in detail. It’s hard to find the words, to be eloquent enough to do it justice. But it is a story worth telling, as are all battles against mental illness. They help spread the awareness that our world is in desperate need of. And so I will continue searching for the words to tell my story. But for now, I will just tell you what I am comfortable discussing, and that is my recovery.
Of course, it did not happen overnight. Recovery took years and years, it was a slow process. One full of pain, anger, and the burning desire to understand WHY I felt this way in the first place. I started with the usual courses of treatment, antidepressants and therapy. But they didn’t help much. I still longed for the answers I was seeking.
What I did know was if I was going to live, I wanted to be happy and enjoy my life. Not be miserable and struggle as so many others with eating disorders did. I couldn’t be anorexic AND live a happy life. I had to choose. Life or death? Happiness or misery? I had chosen life, but happiness? Finding happiness meant I needed to find my self-worth and learn to love myself. But how? I hated everything about me. How could I learn to love myself? I had to make another choice. The choice to try, as impossible as it seemed. And so began the biggest challenge of my life.
So how did I start? By looking for reasons to exist and be happy. First, I had family that loved me and needed me to recover. Second, I already had this amazing man in my life who loves me to this day. He sees something worthy in me. I love and respect him and so I knew he couldn’t be all wrong. I had to try and see what he saw. Then there was school where I was an excellent student. And then my career in which I have been successful. All these things gave me some feelings of worth, some reasons to be proud of myself.
Next and best of all came our babies. These beautiful little human beings that I love so fiercely. And they came from me! I couldn’t be all bad and worthless if I was able to help create such amazing little people. Motherhood has never been easy for me, but regardless, I enjoy it and am good at providing for them.
Over the years I kept finding these little things in life that I was good at. Even if I had a hard time admitting them to myself at first. I knew that being good at things was not a requirement of loving myself, but it was somewhere to start. I also learned that I didn’t have to be the best at something to be good at it or to find joy in doing it. I definitely wasn’t good at loving myself at first. But all I had to do was keep trying. And in time, persistence paid off.
Life, as it often does, has thrown many more stressful situations my way over the years. I have continued to look for different and healthy coping mechanisms. I have tried many things, some that have made a real difference. Like surrounding myself with positive people, and eating and exercising in a healthy way. And even though it has been the challenge of a lifetime, I have not resorted back to anorexia for over 10 years.
Through more therapy, meditation, and lots of soul-search, I’ve finally found the answers to why. These answers have helped the most. And through them, the realization that, despite common thinking, I did not do this to myself. My eating disorder was not intentional. It was not my fault. It was how my young mind coped with the difficulties of life. But I had the power to change it.
This journey has taught me that I am not only in control of my actions, but my thoughts as well. It wasn’t, and still isn’t, easy but I can retrain my thoughts to be positive instead of negative. In so doing, I learned to change how I feel about myself. I learned to turn my weaknesses into strengths. I now use that perfectionism towards useful and constructive things instead of destructive ones. I’m finding all the things I’m passionate about in life and channeling that energy into them. I am learning to love myself and be happy simply by trying and not giving up.
And I will continue to succeed because I refuse to fail.
I am Melanie and I love and accept myself.