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When a disorder like Anorexia Nervosa creeps in and infects the individual, you lose a lot more than just your weight. If you suspect that you or a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder, contact the helpline (800) 931-2237 or visit NEDA for information on how you can find help, support a loved one, get involved with NEDA, or educate yourself on the signs and symptoms of eating disorder and eating disorder relapse.

*I am not a professional in the mental health field and I do not condone self-diagnosing based on any information I have presented here. Please contact a professional if you suspect that you or a loved one may be in need of psychiatric treatment.*

 

Below I have listed 13 valuable lessons I learned from my experience with Anorexia. Although I wish I could go back in time with this knowledge and save myself the damage, I will now never take my life and health for granted ever again.

Mental illness is not a choice. But there is a choice within mental illness.

I did not choose to be Anorexic. However, recovery taught me that I can choose whether I follow my recovery path. I can choose whether to perform certain compulsive rituals. I can choose what media in which I indulge. I can choose whether to speak up when I witness body discrimination. I can choose to assess whether I am really making progress.

Strength does not equal a remarkable ability to control.

Rather, strength is the ability to face a loss of control without repression. Anorexia robbed me of my ability to cope with a lack of control, much more than it robbed me of food.

 Learning how to face discomfort was one of the most valuable skills I learned in recovery, and it is certainly a skill that many people without an eating disorder can also benefit from.

It is normal to be insecure in yourself. It should not determine what you eat.

Unfortunately, we are all developing in a society that places far too much of a superficial emphasis on body shape and appearance. That being said, it is quite normal for us to be unsatisfied with our appearance, and it is not always out of vanity.

Restoring a healthy body weight in recovery showed me how I will likely always have dissatisfactions with a particular feature of my appearance, but these qualities should never determine my diet or my mood. That being said, it is okay to not be okay.

The female body is truly remarkable.

My eating disorder robbed me of trust in myself. That is, trust in my intuition, my bodily signals, and my healthy thoughts. The strength and resilience my body showed me in weight restoration reminded me of how smart our bodies really are. 

From a biological standpoint, it even seems magical that we have the ability to use energy for the reproduction of another fully-functional being.

Food is fuel. It is also culture, comfort, and community.

Yes, of course, food is fuel. You may know the saying, “you can’t run an engine on an empty tank.” But think about how many relationships, holidays, and happy memories have been centered around a meal for you. We truly are privileged to be able to experience food in a way that transcends physical nourishment.

Words stick with people forever.

I can’t tell you how many statements I have heard in my life that stuck in my mind only to eventually combust. This certainly doesn’t just go for myself or for other people with eating disorders.

Words can be extremely powerful, and we must remember that we don’t always know what somebody else is going through. 

You can’t shrink yourself into a happier version of yourself. Change must come from within.

This one is simple. If you already hate yourself, then shrinking yourself to take up as little space as possible will not change that. Before you lose more weight, reach within and ask yourself what you truly seek to gain.

Food and rest are not earned. They are rights.

This one goes hand-in-hand with self-hate. Our reward system responds to food, but this does not mean it is something that must be deserved. Understanding this is crucial on your journey to finding inner peace.

Your diet is not only what you eat.

Your diet is the people you surround yourself with. Your diet is what you watch. What you listen to. Where you spend your time. What you choose to notice and take in from your surroundings. Treat your headspace well, and the rest will follow.

Change is good, but it brings discomfort.

And this discomfort must be met with acceptance. When we accept discomfort, we learn to radically accept.

You only have limited time on this earth. Don’t spend it at war with yourself.

At the end of the day, I am the only person who has to go to bed at night with myself. If I am not happy with myself, something must change.

You will never be able to control everything.

Once again—the ability to lose control and still stay afloat is freeing. That, in itself, is the very perfection that my eating disorder tried to promise me.

And lastly, but certainly not least… 

No food will ever harm you more than an eating disorder will.

Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. That aside, the amount of blood tests, doctor visits, and shame-ridden confessions to psychologists never felt worth it in the end, to say the absolute least. If I have one chance to live, I want to live as if life is a gift—because it truly is.

“Find ecstasy in life; the mere sense of living is joy enough.” –Emily Dickenson

 

Sources:

https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/help-support/contact-helpline 

https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/281815-find-ecstasy-in-life-the-mere-sense-of-living-is 

Scotland Martin is a junior at Wake Forest University and is currently pursuing a major in Psychology with minors in Writing and Italian. In addition to Her Campus, Scotland is involved with Psychology Club, K-12 tutoring, research in social psychology, and the Delta Zeta Sorority. She concentrates her writing on the topics of ethical spending and psychology.
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