I was criticized once for speaking about eating disorders when I've never had one.
Okay, fine. But hear me out.
I ate disorderedly for most of my teen life. And while the period where I experienced the most anxiety over food was not severe enough to be diagnosed, I want to challenge the idea that my struggles weren't valid unless I was found passed out on the bathroom floor (not to mention, there aren't any formal diagnostic criteria out there for orthorexia, the eating disorder from which I suffered). What's important about my story is not how "bad" I was, but that I so badly wanted out before I was in too deep.
When I realized the line I toed every day between restriction and binging was damaging my mental and emotional health, even if my physical health was not visibly deteriorating (but who can tell health by appearance anyways??), I slowly sought help.
Torn up inside, I debated getting "bad enough" that my loved ones would have to check me into a hospital.
I wanted help, and I didn't know how else to get it (since hospitalization is pretty much the only recovery story we tell about people with eating disorders). Luckily, I was able to find the tools I needed to pull myself out of a full blown ED without hospitalization. For me, it all started with education: access to accurate, inclusive information that validated my experiences and helped me to see that what I was doing was not normal.
I listened to podcasts like Food Psych by Christy Harrison, signed up for all the free resources anti-diet ED therapists like Isabel Foxen Duke offered online and signed myself up for a food and body issues retreat with Eat Breathe Thrive. These resources helped me begin to consciously work to develop and strengthen a healthy relationship with food, exercise, and my body.
And shouldn't we celebrate that, rather than make people validate their experiences by proving they were "sick enough?"
Here's why I share my story: 75% of women suffer from disordered eating.
Three freaking quarters of the female population. They are not "sick enough" to receive medical treatment, but they live every day with this burden of food issues impeding their lives. They may not even know they're sick, because society tells them this food issues thing is normal. But it's not. And, since my first biggest #recoverywin was realizing that I needed and deserved help before I was "sick enough," I'm here to help other girls realize the same in order to prevent full-blown eating disorders.
My second biggest #recoverywin was realizing that thriving is so much better than merely surviving.
I'm here to heal myself so I can thrive, and I want to help myself and other women cultivate a healthy relationship with food and our bodies so we can get on with the more important things.
My third biggest #recoverywin: realizing that others need and deserve to see my journey so that they, too, can find a path to heal themselves. I started writing for myself, but soon I learned that it could heal others, too. If that's not enough to make me shout this message from the rooftops, I don't know what is. Representation, validation, healing, and advocacy. That's why I share my story here, and that's why I run my @doyourraindance account on Instagram.
I give my raw thoughts through life in recovery even after the height of my disorder/recovery because recovery is not linear, and I don't believe one is ever truly "post-recovery". Having experienced disordered eating, orthorexia, and diet culture means that I will always identify as and be shaped by my story as an ED Warrior.
Remember: there may be as many expressions of disordered eating as there are people on this planet. Your experiences are valid, and you are deserving of help and support wherever you are in your journey.