Today is the last day of national eating disorder awareness week. While bulimia is something I struggle with year round, this week in particular highlights why recovery is so important to me and many other people. Eating disorders are serious illnesses that prevent people from living healthy and happy lives. They destroy relationships, job opportunities, friendships, and they impair one’s judgment. Living with an eating disorder often feels like being possessed by a demon–at my worst, I had little control over my reactions and emotions. I hated myself and I saw no hope for the future. That was just a few months ago. Today, after six weeks of a partial hospitalization treatment program, I can separate myself from my eating disorder and have learned healthier ways of managing the feelings that contributed to my illness.
Recovery has taught me that I do not have to bottle up my emotions. Being able to acknowledge, accept, and manage my emotions allows me to treat myself and others with respect. I no longer feel like a “bad person” for being angry. I realize now that it is normal to have negative emotions and I do not need to feel ashamed. Instead of self-destructing through eating disorder behaviors, negative self-talk, or self-harm, I manage my anger by reaching out to friends and talking about how I feel, reading a book, writing in my journal, or meditating. Although the negative emotion is still present, it no longer controls me when I use these coping skills.
Reflecting on my eating disorder, it is apparent that my illness has impeded my academic performance, my ability to be a good friend, and my ability to be happy. Although bulimia has taken away some opportunities (for example, I had to miss a full semester of college), recovery has provided me with a second chance, and I will do my best to make it worthwhile.