Every Story Matters.

Image courtesy of nationaleatingdisorders.org

This week we journey through one of the most important awareness weeks: National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. This week acts as a reminder to keep every person who suffers from an eating disorder in our thoughts and prayers. Let us also be aware of this years NEDAwareness Week theme, “Come as you are” where we can embrace that every individual's body acceptance story matters.

To my fellow warriors of eating disorders, wherever you are in your recovery and whatever your experience is or has been, its important for you to know that your story matters.

Nearly ten years ago I began this war with my eating disorder, and one of the most important tools that helped me navigate the recovery process is this very idea that stories matter. So, today I am going to share my story, and if you feel up to it, I urge you to do the same someday.

My story began in a dance studio after my teacher told me I was “fat”, and for the next eight years I battled some of the darkest times of my anorexia and bulimia. I was obsessed with the notion of “being skinny” and the number on the scale and many of my dance teachers encouraged me to continue that obsession. The constant thoughts, “You didn’t work hard enough today, you don’t deserve food”, or “If you want to be successful and beautiful, you need to restrict your calories”, or “Don’t be lazy, you can look better than this”, circled through my mind causing me to take drastic measures. Eventually I became so used to abusing my body that it became comfortable, familiar and something I could use as a method of control whenever I felt sad, uneasy, overwhelmed or scared. Spending so much time in front of the mirror allowed me the freedom to constantly pick apart my body and why it wasn’t good enough. And additionally, having my dance teachers pick apart the faults of my physical appearance and say words like, “I can see what you ate for lunch” or “The fat and flab you have that jiggles is disgusting, don’t you want to do something about that”, really berated my developing self-image. What I didn’t realize at the time was that, none of these statements or thoughts were true and that the number on the scale doesn't define me. Rather, these things were merely elements, not only of my eating disorder, but of the unrealistic and unhealthy appearance ideal that some of my dance teachers demanded of me.

Through treatment, I was forced to confront the voice in my head, and ask myself these very important questions, “Why can’t I take care of myself?” and “Why do I feel like I am not good enough?”. I had to learn how to combat the negative thoughts, to love myself and the appreciate the body I was given.

Through my journey, I have faced dark times and truly hit rock bottom, I have lost many battles, shed many tears and experienced immeasurable pain. I wish I could tell you that once you reach recovery, you may never have to face those dark challenges again, but that wouldn’t be honest. Unfortunately, recovering from an eating disorder is something of a constant process and it may never truly go away. However, I can tell you that with the love of a support team, it will get easier and you will get that hope back.

I may never be able to say, “I don’t have an eating disorder anymore”, but I can say that even though I have faced the dark monsters of an eating disorder, I am proud of who I am today and I know I have the strength to carry on.

My eating disorder may always be a part of my life, but it does not define me just, like your eating disorder may always be a part of your life but it doesn’t define you either. I no longer allow my eating disorder to have constant control of my life because I believe in myself, I am a fighter and I am courageous.

Music is one key element that always helps me, even if it is just a little, through a bad day, so I encourage you to listen to the words of Xtina, “I am beautiful in every single way”.

Even if you don’t feel that way right now, you will. Know that you truly are beautiful in every single way, no matter what others or your eating disorder tells you.