Recovering from an eating disorder is without a doubt the most difficult challenge those who struggle will ever face. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, and unfortunately, the statistic does not seem as if it is going to disappear any time soon. Please allow me to share with you a few more statistics surrounding eating disorders, so that you may understand just how difficult it is to overcome such a disorder.
More than 30 million people in the United States will suffer from an eating disorder.
One in five anorexia deaths is by suicide.
The rate of children under 12 being admitted to a hospital for eating disorders rose 119% in the last decade.
As of 2020, 70% of those who suffer with eating disorders will not seek treatment due to stigma.
Why am I sharing these statistics with you, you may wonder?
First, it is for my fellow sisters in recovery, to say this: I am so proud of you, and you should be, too.
Every time you choose recovery over your eating disorder, you are winning the battle against becoming another statistic, and you should be so proud of yourself for choosing life. When I was first released from my two-year long stint of being in and out of treatment centers, I would often look at my family and friends around me and feel a sting of jealousy. In comparing myself to them, I found that I did not quite measure up because of where I was in my life. While many of them had undergraduate and graduate degrees, I barely had finished my general education courses. While many of them were married with children on the way, I could barely trust myself in a relationship, much less another person. While many of them were solid in their careers, I had no idea what I wanted to do in life. I would look at my life during my eating disorder, and regret the decisions I made and the opportunities I did or did not take due to my illness. I thought to myself, “If I had not struggled with my eating disorder, or had not taken the time to seek help, I could be where they are, too.” It was an all-encompassing feeling, overwhelming to say the least, and extremely discouraging.
I look back on that point in my life and think to myself, “If I only knew what were ahead.”
Through my journey of recovery and healing, I soon became the person I was always meant to be. I became strong, confrontational, willing, and motivated. I ended up discovering aspects of myself I never even knew existed prior to my recovery, which lead me on a path of meaningful discovery. I became closer to my family, found out who my true friends were, and discovered that career and passion can go hand-in-hand. I learned to use my past struggles to help other people, which turned out to be extremely rewarding, and also gave me a sense of purpose.
If I had never struggled with my eating disorder, or taken the time to seek help for it, I would 100% not be where I am today. Now, is my life perfect? Absolutely not. Am I still figuring things out? Absolutely yes. The difference now, however, is that I have a sense of where I am going because I know who I really am outside of my eating disorder.
They say that comparison is the thief of joy, and I have never found a sentence to be more true. Every person on this planet has a different path in life, filled with different struggles. Do not for one minute think that you are less than another person because they seem to have everything you want in life.
Think about this for a moment: if you had everything you wanted in life, but were still struggling with your eating disorder, would you be happy? Really, truly happy? I am going to go ahead and say no. So, please do not ever feel ashamed for your struggle or for taking time to heal. As I mentioned earlier, recovering from a mental illness is a huge challenge, and if you are actively seeking recovery, you are succeeding in every aspect of the word. You are a strong, incredible human being worthy of every dream, passion, and adventure you desire, and you will get there. I believe in you, and you should too.
This brings me to a point I would like to make to the loved ones of those who have struggled or are struggling with an eating disorder: please do not undermine the recovery process. It is so much more difficult to heal when loved ones are constantly asking “So, when do you graduate? Do you have a boyfriend yet? Did you get a new job? What does your future hold?” Recovery is overwhelming as it is. Most of the time, we are just trying to figure out what we are going to eat for dinner. Your loved one will get there in time. Please be patient with them, and do not push an agenda.
There is no stronger feeling than regret. Do not let yourself go there. Your eating disorder was not your choice, but your decision to choose recovery is. However long it takes to get there is worth it, for a fulfilling life filled with light, love, and joy is truly worth the wait. You are where you are meant to be at this moment in time. Have faith in that, and most importantly, in yourself.
“Have faith in your journey. Everything had to happen exactly as it did to get where you are going next.”