Laughter. Joy. Happiness. Peace. These are all things I never thought I would feel again. At the height of my anorexia, I was numb. The only things I thought about were food and exercise. Every day centered around what and when I would eat, as well as when I would exercise. My plans for each day were written out ahead of time and there would be no deviation from the plan. Any change would send me spiraling into a hole of anger, both at myself and at others who may have contributed to the change in plans. I was the opposite of flexible and spontaneous. I was rigid, controlling, single minded. I didn’t realize at the time that I was missing out on so much that the world had to offer. I had tunnel vision and my anorexia was in strong control of me. I couldn’t even imagine living any other way. Anorexia made me irritable, angry and absolutely no fun to be around. I was depressed and anxious and I isolated myself from everyone around me. While I was under the control of anorexia, every waking second of every day was filled with thoughts of food, exercise, body faults, and plans for how to control it all. What I didn’t know at the time, was that while I thought I was in complete control of everything, I really had lost all control. Anorexia was in control. My eating disorder was making all of the decisions for me.
I sit here, over six years later and am overwhelmed with gratitude that I was able to get help and dig myself out of that hole of desperation. When I started recovery, I knew I’d be asked to eat more, exercise less and gain weight. But what I didn’t know was that I would find joy again. I would truly laugh again. I would be able to relax again. It didn’t come easily though! I wanted to hold onto parts of my eating disorder that I thought served me, while at the same time just wanting to be normal. I have had to fight for years to regain what I lost. I worked hard with my doctor, nutritionist and therapist to restore my weight and get to a healthier place, both physically and mentally.
Becoming pregnant with my first baby was a turning point in this battle. I wanted to do everything I could to have a healthy baby. I ate more and exercised less and started to feel the happiness that had been lost for so long. The past two years with him have opened my eyes and brought me more joy than I ever could have imagined. There were times of struggle with my body image and weight, but I stayed on course. I am now pregnant with my second baby and feeling more recovered and “normal” than I have since my eating issues began. While my first baby turned me solidly onto the road to recovery, this baby is leading me on the path to being fully recovered. This is not to say that I strictly stay well for my children. Of course, I want to be physically and mentally healthy for my babies. But more than that, I want it for myself. I finally feel lighter and more free. I am able to laugh and play and see the world through my son’s eyes without the constant nagging thoughts surrounding food and workouts. I am able to just be.
If someone had told me in the depth of my illness that I could feel this alive, I wouldn’t have cared and I certainly wouldn’t have believed them. I was so stuck and rigid and sick that my mind was not open to the possibilities that lay before me. When my thinking was finally clear enough to see through the eating disorder, I discovered my new normal. Now I decide what to eat and when to exercise based on how I feel and what I truly desire. Anorexia no longer makes the rules. I never realized how much time I spent thinking about food and exercise until I stopped spending all my time thinking about food and exercise! My mind is now free to dream, discover new things, imagine the future, and really experience life as I am living it.
I know what it’s like to be so lost that you don’t think things can ever change or get better. But from where I stand now, all I can see are possibilities. If you are in the trenches of an eating disorder right now, fight it with everything you have. I’m not saying it will be easy, but it will definitely be worth it.
About the Author A.C.: “A.C. is currently a stay at home mom to a 2 year old boy and is expecting another baby in the fall. A.C. was an elementary school teacher before becoming a mom and began recovery from anorexia in 2010. Now that she considers herself recovered, A.C. looks forward to sharing her story and helping others.”