You could see it in her eyes. The lifeless, pale, and gaunt face. Her downward smile, her hunched over appearance. The way she looked at herself in the mirror. How she tried to fit in, but on the inside how broken and bruised she felt. Her world was dark, hopeless, and suffocating. She hid under the sheets, hoping she would just disappear. Or maybe be forgotten. “I don’t want anyone to save me” “Just let me go” “there’s nothing good about me”. she would often say.
For the past 20 years, every day seemed to present a new battle. A battle of the mind, the body, the soul, and the spirit. Nothing seemed at peace anymore.
In a world tangled in trouble and a body failing to function, the only quiet she could find was when she found the escape with her obsessive thoughts. She squeezed her head tightly in her hands, desperate for the thoughts to go away, but at the same time, she found comfort in them. She knew their story, she knew their next move, she knew how she would react in light of the swirling world around her.
As she laid down, she felt her stomach, why are you so fat? She asked. There’s pudge in the middle, I can’t feel my hip bones enough, my thighs spread out like warm cheesecake in August, and her wrists were far to large. Tomorrow I’ll do better, I promise. She said to herself.
As she lay awake, replaying the nightmare of her childhood, she couldn’t get the images out of her mind. They plagued her like a swirling tornado ready to touchdown and destroy everything in its path.
Everyday she told herself she was meant to suffer and that the only reason she was born was to endure pain. This nightmare became her existence. She hurt herself because that’s what she knew, she starved herself to numb the pain, she threw up anything she ate to show herself rejection, she binged and purged till her lips turned blue and she couldn’t feel her body. She desperately wanted to die.
One night as she sat in front of the toilet she cried so hard, she shook in fear. She even scared herself. The intensity of the pain that night was so brutal. She told herself how disgusting she was, how pathetic, what a waste she was in this world. Any success she ever had was a moot point. It didn’t matter, because look at her life, at what she had become. Spending her days manipulating her body, running from emotions, and scared.
When the light of day returned and she looked out the hospital window, it was as though the sun shone in a whole new way. She looked down at the street below and asked herself a powerful question. What if my life was like other normal people, without the obsessions, without the self-destruction, with a purpose and a drive to do good in this world? The questions hit her hard, she had never thought of herself in that way. Hopeful? Was it even possible? Was she capable of change?
It was then she made a decision. A decision that would change the course of her life. That gave her new meaning and direction. “If I’ve been so successful at destroying myself, at mastering this eating disorder and self-hatred, what if I become so successful at loving myself and creating a life of hope, of joy, of renewal?”
That moment was the beginning of a year of deep transformation, determination, and conscious change. After years of being in and out of treatment facilities, she decided to abandon the traditional status quo, and forge her own way: through a dark past and towards a brighter future.
She learned to stop numbing her emotions, instead she learned to sit with uncomfortable feelings and express the hurt, frustration, anger, and anxiety.
She learned to stop hating herself, instead she learned to love herself for who she was, for the story she lived through, and for the new woman that would emerge.
She stopped controlling her body size, the food she ingested, and associating good and bad with the meals she ate.
She accepted her body for the strength it provided and learned to nourish herself fully.
She made peace with the hurt she experienced as a child and learned that nobody is perfect, that everyone has their own past and demons, and we all try to do our best.
It has been almost 6 years since she looked out that window, it was as if she opened the window to her true soul and potential that day and let her spirit flourish. She has become a light in the world for others, she has taught others to find their own recovery, and she has built a life she is proud to call her own.
This woman is me. And I am so grateful to be standing here today, healthy, happy, free, and discovering a potential I never knew.
The Beyond Rules Recovery blog is written by people who are passionate about mental health and wants to spread the message of hope, resiliency, and recovery.