Written by: Morgan Blair, founder and creative director of Unpolished Journey
In honor of NEDA Awareness Week 2018 and all those battling eating disorders.
Let’s turn the tables for a second. Take a positive outlook on the insidious diseases that eating disorders are. In AA they have a saying that eventually those who struggle get to a place where they can declare themselves a “grateful alcoholic”. Meaning, they can look back at the disease and see the strength and blessings that have come from their journey. I have been thinking a lot about this concept during this NEDA Week. How am I grateful for my battle with my eating disorder?
First off, my eating disorder has taught me about resiliency. Not just the ability to bounce back from circumstances that have happened to me, but also from the cruel abuse of my own thoughts. My eating disorder would beat me up on a daily basis, telling me I am worthless and no good. It was a bully leading me to believe that I deserved the punishment of my eating disorder behaviors. Through my recovery, I have learned how to search inwardly for a new sense of validation. I have braved the cruelty of my own mind and rewired my thoughts to spew out compassion instead of abuse, love instead of hatred, hope instead of hopelessness.
Second, my eating disorder has brought amazing people into my life. Yes, I have been to treatment. Yes, I have been in hospitals. Yes, yes, yes. At one point in my journey I was extremely ashamed of these facts. I would hide them from people, laughing off comments about me being MIA for long stretches of time. I would fail to connect with others because how could you if you weren’t being authentic and truthful? But, I am slowly coming to the realization that these bumps in the road weren’t bumps at all, but rather detours that God took me on so that I could meet some of the most amazing people. Never have I encountered more genuine, compassionate, loving, and empathetic humans than those I met inside treatment. Those people know struggle, they know pain, they understand, and therefore they love you unconditionally. And, that is true and authentic connection.
Third, my eating disorder has taught me about patience. Like I mentioned before, I have been to treatment. At one point I thought that these treatment stays completely messed up my life, that those were months I could never get back, that I was a failure for taking this time for my healing. Now I am beginning to see the beauty in my alternative path. I didn’t graduate college on time. I have had to take two separate breaks, one my sophomore year and the other my senior. I felt like a failure. What I didn’t realize was the blessing these breaks would become. I learned patience with myself, with my journey. My eyes were opened to the possibility of doing things differently. I didn’t have to be on a traditional route like everyone else. I was Morgan and I was on my own journey.
Fourth, my eating disorder taught me about determination. When I was engaging in behaviors, my eating disorder took over my mind and body. I would starve myself to the brink of collapse and still wouldn’t quit. I was a machine, a winner, a champion…. well, not exactly- that is just what my eating disorder told me. But, let’s be real, eating disorders take a lot of determination and commitment. After all, they are miserable so to stay in them is clearly a sign of one, addiction, and two mental dedication. Finally I came to the place in my journey where I thought to myself, “if my eating disorder can push myself to the brink of exhaustion, then why can’t I channel all that energy towards recovery?” This was a game changer. Channel that determination towards recovery and I became unstoppable. I mean people with eating disorders are extremely strong willed and intelligent, give them a goal and they are sure to get themselves to achieve it.
Fifth, my eating disorder taught me empathy. Because of my own struggle and painful journey through addiction and healing, I now have a greater understand of the pain of people around me. I feel a sense of connection to people’s stories and hangups. I feel compassion instead of irritation, love instead of impatience. My eating disorder gave me a gift that I cannot thank it enough for placing in my hands. This gift allowed me to create Unpolished Journey and, as a result, connect with hundreds of people’s stories.
So, yes eating disorders are deadly and painful and horrible. Yes, treatment and help are necessary to find recovery. Yes, recovery is possible. Then, maybe some day in recovery you too can find reasons to be grateful for your eating disorder as well.