There's no expiration date on recovery.
When I was nearly 18 and a half, I started looking more critically at my body than ever before. After almost a full "teenagehood," it had grown into its hips and curves and butt.
Whenever I saw this on other women, it never crossed my mind. It had no correlation with their value as a person in my life – it was just part of them that I loved just as much.
Some switch must have been flipped – the woman I could've sworn I'd been seeing in the mirror began to misrepresent what I'd always been: thin, lean, skinny. I wasn't nearly as worried as other people seeing me differently as I was in seeing any sort of discrepancy with my own self-perception. And I hated, hated, hated it.
So many of my decisions were based on the phrase, "When I'm skinnier I'll finally be able to _____."
In hindsight, my heart breaks at the standards and rules I began setting for myself from that point on. I genuinely thought that the size and shape of my body would dictate, if not facilitate, my increased level of confidence, my having a relationship, and generally just the potential for greater wellbeing than possible with more pounds of me in existence.
Therefore, the answer to all of my issues became restriction. The counting of calories, the careful watching of portion sizes, absolutely refusing to eat out unless I could find the nutritional guide online or its options logged in MyFitnessPal.
The only thing I hated more than feeling lonely was being around other people.
My malnutrition and toxic headspace bled into my social life. It took so much out of me, in even preparing to share a meal with others, that it completely erased any "appetite" I had to begin with.
I felt hollow. I became a shell of the once vibrant girl that I used to be while seeing absolutely no issue in doing so.
When my loved ones (who were only ever in pursuit of my very best interest) confronted or brought any attention whatsoever to my behaviors, I grew insanely defensive. All of the tension, anger, and resentment I had for the critical voice in my head – the one I started to claim as my own – was projected onto them.
Never before had I faced such a dark and seemingly inescapable period of my life, and I hope and pray with all of my might that I will never have to again.
Of course, in order to ever attempt a recovery mindset, I had to admit to all of the wrongs I was doing to myself. Therapy revealed things to me that were deeply buried beneath a punishing mentality – the root of the flagrant issue.
My issues with body image were merely something that had been the host of a deadly parasite. Like most eating disorders, they start as a newfound sense of control, a coping mechanism when one feels themselves spiraling in other areas of their lives. My vulnerable state of wanting a different body and self-perception was the perfect target, and I fell victim to an incredibly stagnant year of EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified).
So, yeah, I'm recovered. I became weight restored early on in my recovery while holding on to some pretty nasty habits that I wish I knew would only die hard. I view myself very differently now. I have trouble remembering what life was like before all of this happened, but I'm actually okay with the paradigm shift. I see myself more wholly now – for who I really am aside from what I appear to be.
There are still days where I am terribly insecure. I've always heard that those who consider themselves "recovered" are by no means perfectly content with their bodies. But, so much of what that word embodies is a shift in acknowledging our own purpose, well beyond appearance.
Our bodies do so much more for us than what they represent physically.
Experiencing life during recovery is an interesting route and one that truly takes a lifetime.