It’s Time to Talk About It: Lessons Learned from my Eating Disorder

I don’t talk about it very often, but since the National Eating Disorder Awareness (NEDA) Week theme this year is, “It’s time to talk about it,” I figured a post was in order. If you want to read my eating disorder story, you can find it here. I wrote that post four years ago. Since then, I’ve had my fair share of struggles, relapses, and lessons learned. I decided to write a little bit of what I’ve learned, because I think a lot of it relates not just to eating disorders, but to life in general. #relatable

Lessons I learned from my ED:
Express your emotions or they will express themselves in unhealthy ways. My eating disorder has never been about the food. I’ve found that for me when i’m feeling triggered or relapsing, it means I’m feeling insecure, I need attention (in the way that I just need to know people care about and love me), or it’s my anxiety manifesting because I’m afraid to face the real world.

TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF: YOU are an investment. The amount of time and care you put into yourself is what you’ll get out of it. If I don't take care of myself, my eating disorder is going to try and take care of things for me.

Always be prepared with a backup plan and a team of people to help you. I’ve had two big relapses in the past four years. The first time, I didn’t see it coming, I avoided dealing with it when it came, and by the time I went to therapy a month later, everything was completely out of control and it took me several months to get out of it. The second time, I had learned from my mistakes, so when I saw the signs I immediately made a therapy appointment and told people who could help me. I did what I could to prevent that relapse from happening, but eventually it still came and it was definitely hard, but I got out of it much much quicker because I was prepared. I was also ready to just admit it was there and face it head on right away.
Being recovered doesn’t mean you’re invincible, it means you’ve learned how to say no and get a handle on your weaknesses. Triggers and relapses might happen, and that is OK. Just be ready when they come, and don't be afraid to ask for help from several different sources either.

Hard things suck, but part of being human is doing hard things. This isn't me telling people to just "get over it," but hard things in our life are inevitable. I wouldn't be half the person I am right now if I hadn't had an eating disorder. So while I wouldn't wish on anyone else or wish it back on me, I'm grateful I had it because I'm a much better and stronger person than I would have been otherwise.

Know your limits, and accept them. This.is.so.hard.for.me. One thing I love about myself is that if I want to do something, I do it. I teach myself how, I find ways to do the thing, I go around the no. I have several interests and I love doing as many different things as I possibly can. This is great until you realize that actually doing everything isn’t possible and will probably just cause a meltdown and force you to then do nothing to compensate (true story, don’t try this at home). I’ve had to learn the hard way how to accept what I can and can’t do and now instead of matching my limits to my workload, I changed it around and I match my workload to my limits. Realizing and deciding that ahead of time has made all the difference for me.

Sometimes you just have to trust. Trust yourself, trust your loved ones, trust your doctors, trust God that things will eventually be okay, better, and easier. No matter how unhealthy or dangerous something is, leaving a comfort zone behind is HARD. For a while, it’s harder to move forward than it would be to just go back. And when I first recovered, over five years ago, I went back and forth on recovery A LOT. The only way I eventually I got out of was by continually trusting, and forcing myself to keep moving forward, no matter how scared or uncomfortable I was. When I think about how long I struggled, and how off and on I felt with recovery, I realize how much of a miracle it was that I was able to recover. An eating disorder feels extremely hopeless and impossible to ever get out of, and I couldn't do it until I started putting every single bit of trust I had into a higher power. I made it out and now I live a fairly normal life. And I know that if I could do it, then anyone else can do.

It is worth it. It does get easier and so.much.better. The Vlogbrothers once said that “bad news happens all at once while good news happens slowly.” It takes time to see progress. I won’t lie and say life is perfect now, because it is NOT. I still get triggered. I can’t skip meals because there's a good chance I'll skip more if I do. Some mornings I wake up and the last thing I want to do is eat breakfast, and I have to pull open the list on my phone of reasons why I can’t just relapse again. Because it was something I did for a long period in my life, it’s never going to stop being an option in my head. I think about it often. I think about the people I’ve hurt, and I remember the hardest, worst, and most horrible days. Those memories don’t leave me.

But it’s worth it when I think about how I don’t get scared anymore every single time I eat food. For five years food was a constant fear and thought in my head, and now it’s just food. When I see a relapse coming, I can recognize it and ask for help right away. It’s worth it because now my life is mine. I’m in control, and I get to choose what I want to do with it. Few things are more freeing than that.

I’m talking about it because I want others to know that they can too. There’s a huge stigma in talking about mental illness, and if sharing some of my story is a step to changing that, then I'm more than happy to do it. Thanks for reading, and if you or a friend would like help or more info on eating disorders, you can go here (or email me!).
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