Written by: Gracie who is a friend, spiritual and recovery warrior, and contributing writer to those at Unpolished Journey.
No, I promise I am not going to make this political and try to persuade you to vote for Hillary Clinton.
This weekend at the NEDA walk in Chicago I had one of the most overwhelming moments of clarity. I looked around at my brothers and sisters in recovery. My fellow fighters. My fellow overcomers. My fellow strugglers. Mostly people that were complete strangers and yet people who probably understand the inner workings of my mind better than many people closest to me. This is not at all to say that my closest friends and family do not have a wealth of knowledge and try to understand the thoughts, struggles and behaviors that characterise my eating disorder. However, there is a difference between supporting and learning about an eating disorder from actually living daily with an ED in you HEAD. At the NEDA walk I was overwhelmed almost to the point of tears. I saw fighters, survivors, support people and family members. I saw 80 year olds and 8 months old. I saw people who wanted their lives and were fighting like hell to reclaim them.
That is when I realized. I am not alone. I am in community. WE are stronger together.
When Morgan and I used to talk about Unpolished at our weekly coffee date she would talk about the inspiration for starting her recovery Instagram. Both of us felt a longing for community. A community that was supportive, authentic and hopeful. We wanted a place for fighters to connect and retire their army of ones to join the army of many. I realized that Morgan and I as well as Morgan’s sister, Emily, all dreamed of a space for people to connect and gather strength and hope. Because of this, whenever we would meet up on Fridays, I would always leave our time together feeling refreshed, inspired, and reminded of the reasons why I fight…everyday.
At the NEDA walk, I looked around and I was lucky enough to have two very close friends from my hometown join me, and they also reminded me of why I fight…everyday. For me, relationships and connections are the reasons I fight. To be raw and honest there were times when I haven’t wanted my life. I felt like I had dug a hole too deep. I had watched too many dreams die. My world had been turned upside down and my joy was hijacked by darkness. However, when I couldn’t fight for myself I would fight for those around me. Those who loved me. And those who were fighting the good fight beside me. I have watched the power of Morgan and I’s relationship challenge and strengthen our souls. We haven’t always been shiny and perfect in recovery and sometimes we still find it hard to share the magnitude or reality of our struggles when we have them. However, we are able to talk about the real things. We talk about our goals and our dreams that have nothing to do with living a life consumed with an eating disorder. We talk about the real and unglamourous parts about living with an eating disorder like literally shitting your own pants.
I have been in treatment. I have been in groups. I have seen the sick and often hidden competitive nature of eating disorders. I know few other mental illnesses that hold such a strong and unhealthy competitive nature and it is something that not few like to talk about. Common thoughts through the mind with an eating disorder are…
“I’m not sick enough to deserve help..I’m not as bad as her or him”
“I am stronger if I am sicker. I have to be the sickest or thinnest in the room.”
“I have to share that I went to the hospital to prove how bad I was”
“I can have more behaviors than her…I can be sicker, I can be stronger”
These thoughts are rampant, destructive and a perfect example of what the eating disorder wants. The eating disorder wants each person to isolate, compete and fight on your own…because on your own you are more vulnerable…weaker…slowly living you life with and for the eating disorder. But we are truly stronger together. When we aren’t comparing bodies, behaviors, trips to the hospital or medical complications we can have the space to lean into our true strength. We begin to focus and reflect for each other the reasons we want to live. The dreams, the goals, the possibilities of our lives when we are not consumed by a parasitic mental disorder.
Personally, I saw all of the children at the NEDA walk and I was reminded why I want to live. I want to be a mother. I want to raise daughters and sons who know their inherent value and worth first before they ever think about their bodies. I saw women who were fighting through shame and stigma to come together and fight for a new life. I saw friends who have supported me and walked with me through my good days and bad.
I saw why I fight.
I saw who is fighting alongside me.
I saw my army, my overcomers, and I began even more convicted…
WE ARE STRONGER TOGETHER.