Written by: Gracie Mayer, Contributing Writer and Facebook Manager at Unpolished Journey
Just yesterday my friend sent me a message with a quote: “I realized that if I was brave enough to feel my pain, then I was brave enough to do something with my pain–this was the moment I became a badass”.
My reasons for recovery have fluctuated so much over the years. I have tried to rush recovery to go back to school. I have tried to recover for my friends and family. I have tried to recover because I was embarrassed or ashamed that I was still struggling. I know that my reasons for remaining in recovery will constantly change. I will set new goals and intentions and enter new phases in my life where my responsibilities and my life center around other things. But now, my reasons for recovery are very clear–I fight for recovery because I realized that if I was brave enough to feel my pain, then I was brave enough to do something with my pain. My eating disorder used to bring me so much shame that I would hide it at all costs. I was always very reluctant to reveal my struggle for fear of judgment or being labeled as “the crazy one.” I was afraid people would see my mental illness as a choice or as something I could snap out of if I would just eat a damn sandwich. I was afraid people would become hyperaware of my weight gains and losses. I was afraid people would automatically dissect and judge everything I ate or didn’t eat. And even more so, I was afraid to admit my struggle as I slowly began to step into recovery and embrace a full and healthy woman’s body.
As I stepped into recovery I didn’t want to reveal my struggles because I didn’t feel strong enough to deal with the… “but you don’t look like you have an eating disorder,” “well it looks like you’re doing better,” and “yeah, I mean sometimes I think I have an eating disorder too.” I didn’t know how to express the severity of what it is like to wake up every morning with the goal of destroying yourself. I didn’t know how to let people know just how panicked I felt when a friend asked if I just wanted to go out to lunch or grab a quick bite. I didn’t know how to relay the feeling of being completely isolated at family events, celebrations, and parties because I was consumed with a battle of calorie counting, self-loathing and disgust at my choices. I didn’t know how to explain the feeling of wanting to crawl out of your skin, of entering a recovery center and allowing a team of professionals to control your body weight, shape, size and food. I didn’t know how to explain that every time I tried to push myself to recover a fear came over me that told me I would be safer in a smaller body and that controlling my food and my body was a way of showing myself that I was in control of anything bad that could happen to me.
I didn’t know how to just tell someone these things, and I wasn’t sure that everyone had earned the right to hear it. But just recently I have been pushing myself to embrace the pieces of my identity that I had tried to hide for so long. I have felt that it is even harder to reveal my struggle when I do not currently fit the narrow-minded view of what society thinks a person with an eating disorder looks like. But the fact is, this is exactly why I need to speak out. It is important for people to realize that eating disorders do not look like anything. Just because a person eats does not mean that they don’t or haven’t struggled with an eating disorder. You never fully know a person’s story until they tell you.
I remember when I first got diagnosed, I was having a conversation with my mom where I said, “maybe my eating disorder isn’t even for me, maybe this illness is giving me the skills, strength and experience so that one day I can help someone else–maybe it’s not even for me.” Well I now know that part of it was for me. I have learned so much and grown so much as a person. At the same time I have seen my eating disorder work in mysterious ways allowing me to connect, empathize and truly lift others up through a shared understanding. I can understand what it is like to not want your own life. I can understand how dark some days can get and leaving this earth truly seems like the best option. I can understand the pain of feeling like you have failed and let everyone down. I can also feel the joy of coming through on the other side. I can share the truth that life is abundant and always working for us, not against us. I realized that my pain was greater than me. I realized that my pain was made to heal–to heal myself and to heal others. I realized that pain is a common denominator, something that every human will feel. I also realized that as much as our pain connects us, our pain is also transformative and capable of bringing the most sincere joy and love of life. I know that if I am brave enough to feel my pain, I am brave enough to do something with it. I recover because I have walked through fire and proved that it is possible to be still standing. If I was brave enough to look my eating disorder in the face and tell it politely to “fuck off”, then I am brave enough to share my story for the possibility that it might help someone else.
Help someone realize they are worthy.
Help someone realize that it’s okay to struggle.
Help someone realize it’s okay to not always have it together and not always smile.
Help someone realize that they deserve to take up space and celebrate the space they have been given.
Help someone else realize that if they are brave enough to feel their pain, then they are brave enough to do something with it.