When Happiness Isn’t a Choice

     I do not understand my eating disorder. That makes it difficult to verbalize my needs, but it also makes expressing them all the more important. Each day, I see something different in the mirror. One day, I see fat. Another day I am slightly too skinny. Another day, I almost have “abs” rippling across my stomach. I never know why these changes are so drastic. My therapists have told me it is a symptom of my body dysmorphia–that I never truly see my body as everyone else does. That is something I want to believe. I want to believe that my body is not some monstrous shapeshifter, but I have days where that seems more plausible than the body dysmorphia explanation.     I still have days where eating three meals feels gluttonous. I still have days where I hate myself for not being able to regulate my emotions or listen to my body. I still have days where I sit on the couch and cry, and days where I do not want to leave my dorm room. These are the days when coping skills like reframing (i.e. putting a positive spin on a negative thought) do not work. Those are the days where my suite mate runs up and hugs me when she sees me and tells me I am strong. Those are the days where my pets snuggle with me. Those are the days where I reach out–the days where I realize that although I am strong, I do not have to face my illness alone.

     I get caught up in what recovery is supposed to look like: how it is portrayed on TV and in movies, what people with recovery Instagram accounts post, and my own idea of what I should be. I have realized that recovery is not always loving my body or smiling while holding an ice cream cone; sometimes it is wearing baggy jeans because my body image is bad or crying over something that seems minuscule. It is realizing that happiness is not a choice, but instead an emotion. Recovery is not just some hashtag; it is reclaiming one’s humanity (even the bad parts).


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