I hit rock bottom. Not too long ago I was so utterly broken and had no value left for life. And for so long I thought I had to stay that way. I was fully emerged in a nasty eating disorder, I was self-harming, and generally had no motivation for school, friends and even family. I contemplated my life daily; 'is living this way even worth it anymore?', I would ask myself. But through the hopelessness and self-hate, I found that being at my lowest point only allowed me to look up and rock bottom made for a steady foundation to build myself back up.
Rewind about 2 years. I was dealing with low self-esteem and body image, just like most young woman do. I also had always struggled with disordered eating habits. Things like, overeating and overexercising. But the independence of college abruptly brought on a lot of stress. I battled feelings of not being good enough because of failed friendships, low grades and just not being able to find my 'place' at university. All this pushed me over the edge and those habits snowballed - my eating problems were out of control.
I became addicted to the decreasing number on the scale, seeing protruding bones and the sickly satisfying control I had over food. 'If I can't make friends, get a date, get good grades, or be pretty, at least I can be skinny', I told myself. It sounds ridiculous, but I believed it, wholeheartedly. I would do anything to lose weight. You name it, I did it. I would starve myself for days, then I would often binge because I couldn't take the hunger anymore. I quickly got in to habit of trying to rid of the binge and the guilt associated with it. I started purging, in every way possible; throwing up, laxatives, and fasting. I would binge and purge two, three, four times a day if I could, for nearly a year and a half.
How my body managed to make it through that? I honestly don't know, but luckily the body is pliable and strong and can bounce back from abuse, and I am grateful mine did for so long. You can bet my health suffered greatly, though. My heart would palpitate and skip beats, I would get horribly dehydrated, I lost probably 40% of my hair... The list goes on and on. But, It seemed worth it to me. I hated my body as a scapegoat for all the hardships and stress that had built up throughout my life. It was the only sense of control I felt I had. The irony is, it took every ounce of control from me. I was consumed but I didn't care, I hated my body and I hated myself.
I thought that I deserved everything that was happening to me and everything I was doing to myself. I had this skewed idea that the outsides needed to match the insides - I needed to look as empty as I felt to have peace of mind. But even a vicious eating disorder wasn't enough to silence my demons. I was riddled with so much self-hate, hurt and anger. So, I started to hurt myself. Cutting my thighs, punching walls, I even managed to break my hand at one point. I fell in love with self-destruction because I was unable to fall in love with myself.
Even though I was doing all of this to myself and my physical appearance showed it, I managed to keep the truth behind it all from people. I could fake a smile, take on responsibilities and go through the motions of life, because that what I had to do to keep doing what I was doing as well as ease peoples curiosity. The consensus is, if you look like you're doing what you should, people will believe you're fine. It was hard, but at the same time, in our culture, we are hardwired from a young age to wake up, brush our teeth, go to school, go to work etc. Being productive is almost second nature to us. So, I kept up my little act up with the mindset that because I could keep hurting myself, I would - It was all about control.
The thing about ED is he is a manipulative, sneaky son of a bitch. He gave me control to do only what he wanted, but let me believe it was in my control. He pushed me around, but held me up enough to keep me going, making me believe he had my back. But that wasn't at all the case. And, deep down I knew he was taking everything from me, that the control was not at all mine. That is what was killing me inside, that is why I felt so hurt and angry.
I reached a point - I hit rock bottom. For a while I was certain I was going to die. Either my eating disorder was going to kill me or I was going to kill myself - it was just a matter of which came first. But through the clutches of ED, self harm and depression, I was able to get some hope. More specifically, I let hope in. I reflected and saw a small, yet promising change that was in my reach.
This sliver of hope came from my family. Even though I suffered greatly I kept secret the extent of my struggles. But, my family still often worried about my condition. This was something that had me constantly pushing them away and keeping them at arms length. I would even pretend to recover or be 'working on it' to keep them off my case. Or, for those who didn't know as much, I was 'fine' or 'just tired and stressed'. The truth is, I didn't want them to get too close, or try to take away the one thing I felt I had control over. Most of all I did not want to burden them with my problems or feel obligated to help me. At the time, all I felt like was a burden and inconvenience to people.
This mindset had allowed me to keep everyone away. It allowed me to isolate myself as much as possible. But my family saw straight through me - not right away, but after a while it was blatant and clear to them that something wasn't right. At the time I saw it as weakness on my part, letting them see past my tricks and schemes, but now I see it as grace. They cared about me so much, they loved me and everything about me. They didn't care about what I looked like or even that I was a puppet to my own demons at the time. From there, I figured there must be something about me to love. So, sitting there at rock bottom, I stood up and made it my mission to find out what it was they saw that was worth loving and to find my own worth.
This was not an easy realization and most certainly did not happen over night - It was not nearly as up and go as I just put it. Recovery was and still is far from easy. It was so hard and uncomfortable for the longest time, both physically and mentally - It nearly felt impossible at times. But, slowly but surely I started to measure my value and not my every flaw. I started to nurture body, and value it's ability to keep going, do what I needed it to do and get me where I needed to go. I was able to learn that a beautiful body has no prototype. It is beautiful because it is unique, healthy and capable. I started addressing why I felt the way I did, rather that what caused it, because it was and is almost always out of my control aka I stopped trying to control the things that I have no control over. The thing is, control comes in many forms. While it is hard to accept that there are some things you can control and other things you can't, for the thing you can, it's just a matter of whether you will use them to destroy yourself because your not perfect or build yourself up, and find the beauty in your imperfections.
The point is, I stopped holding my demons in. I didn't let the fear, shame, embarrassment and vulnerability of letting them out stop me from doing so. The thing about demons is they grow in the dark. So when you hide your hurt, it only allows it to get bigger. So, take your demons and face them, even if you have to pin them down, even if they are kicking and screaming, telling you you're wrong. Expose them to some light, whatever and wherever that may be. Do that, and watch them shrink and shrivel up to nothing. You are only as sick as you secrets are. Stop hiding, expose those nasty bastards, and walk into freedom.
Now, I am no where near perfect, nor am I the epitome or recovery or self-love - I still struggle with my self-worth at times. All I can say is I'm working on those things and finding the beauty in the ugly and stitching it into my life. I will always have ED in my mind and struggle with depressive thoughts. I could relapse at any minute, but I see myself differently now. I want to take care of what I have, because it is all I have. I'm in a place now where I have no interest in regressing back to the hurt I felt, and I will do everything in my control not to. I value my life and my journey, and the special self-compassion I have gained from it.
It is possible to pull yourself up from any tribulation life throws at you, no matter how much it holds you down, or how much of you it claims you for itself. You simply have to recognize your worth. Trust that you can struggle and still be loved. You can be less than perfect and still be kind and compassionate to yourself. You are worthy simply because you exist, and that is reason enough.