Transforming my eating disorder into a learning experience

Oftentimes I wonder what was the purpose of my ED (eating disorder)? What lessons has it taught me that turns this challenge into a learning experience? How did I grow emotionally from having this ED? Having started the process of recovery over a year ago, and still working on it, I reflected back to the past year and have seen the ways I've changed and grown because of my ED.

The first and foremost thing that I think everybody gains in ED recovery is learning to love your body. It's impossible to recover if you are still hating it. I still have a while to go in that area, but compared to a year ago, the love I have for my body has definitely increased. One reason I began to love my body  is because I have learnt all the amazing, wondrous things my body does for me. It supports me and allows me to live. It allows me to wake up in the morning, get up, walk around, breathe, go to school, everything. Everything I do, every second of the day is supported by my body and the only way my body is able to do that for me is if I nourish it with food. Having this realization that my body is necessary and supports me, and not something that's a burden and just takes up space, has allowed me to slowly start loving my body. 

Another thing my ED has taught me is to be honest. When ED had his grip on me, lying became my second nature. Whenever I was asked if I was hungry or if I had eaten already, the lies would roll off my tongue. "I'm not hungry," "I already ate," and "I'm fine," were non-truths that I had no problem saying. In recovery however, I don't have the liberty to do that, I have to say the truth. I had been being dishonest to everyone around me about my wellbeing but in order to recover, I can't lie anymore. I have to be  honest and hence my integrity returned.

I have also developed an immense sensitivity to others. People oftentimes don't realize that some things they say so innocently, can truly affect another person. Comments said without thinking like, "I'm starving," and " She's so skinny. She's anorexic," can really hurt someone struggling with an ED. Having been hurt from comments like these, it has caused me to be sensitive to others. You never ever know what anyone is going through, so I've learnt to be extra careful with the words that leave my mouth. You never know who you are hurting with your innocent comments, so I stopped saying them.

In addition I've learned to focus on internals and not externals. The first session I had with Iris, she drew a flower. In the center of the flower she wrote "my body," and in each petal I had to write something I liked about myself. We then discussed how no one notices the center of the flower, but they pay attention to the petals. The petals are what matter and what make you, you. Ed blinds you from seeing this, and only allows you to focus on the center of the flower, but in recovery I'm learning to focus on my petals and helping them to flourish. I'm learning that in myself and others, it's the insides that count. It doesn't matter if you are tall or short, heavier or thinner, have blonde or brown hair, or any other external feature. It's the inner person that shines through and matters. 

When I was in the midst of my ED, I felt so alone and like nobody cared about me or about what would happen to me. I felt that nobody would blink twice if I kept on restricting, because they didn't love me or care about me. I now realize how foolish I was and see how many people truly love me. When people found out about my ED, most of them didn't abandon me. On the contrary I got an immense amount of support from my family and friends. And those that did turn their backs on me, I realized they never really loved me to begin with. I have never felt so loved and cared for in my life, and I thank all those that support me along my journey. For all those out there reading this and you know who you are, I thank you from the bottom of my heart and love you forever and always.

Another effect of my ED was I became in touch with myself and my emotions. Ed numbed me from feeling anything and now, in the process of recovery, I'm learning to truly feel and be mindful of my emotions. I became a lot more self aware of my feelings, and I'm better able to express them. I am now in touch with my inner self, which I never was before. 

ED recovery is hard. Very hard. And there were many points along the way that I felt like giving up. But I didn't, and this showed me I have an inner strength I never  knew I had. This inner strength will not only help me get through my ED but will also aid me as other challenges crop up in life. It's a power I was never aware of, but will now be my companion for the rest of my journey in life.

Recovery has also helped me regain my positive thinking. Ed causes you to only focus on the negative parts of yourself. It feels like a dark cloud has descended over your world and you can only see the bad. It makes you feel that you are worthless and a nothing. Recovery chases that cloud away and brings out the sun. It makes you realize your worth. It helps you to be positive about all areas in life again.

The last thing I've learned in recovery is what is important and what isn't. My appearance and the number on the scale are NOT important. My insides and character traits ARE. My family and friends are not worth giving up, but my ED is worth letting go of. It's important to spend my time enjoying all the little wonderful things in life and not get stuck on number of the calories I consume and the scale. For too long I've been focused on all the wrong things, but now it's time to bid them adieu. Ed is a robber who steals all the important components of my life but now I'm getting them back, and I'm going to enjoy them.

I will never be able to know the exact reason why God has given me this challenge, but I can overcome it and learn from it. I can confidently say that my ED has made me a changed person for the better, and however hard it gets, I know it's worth it. 

LR