I get asked all the time. WHY? Why would you be so vocal about something so personal? Why would you make yourself so vulnerable? Why would you do something so controversial?
Because you see my friends, in my eyes.... my recovery isn't something I should have to keep locked in the closet. My battle with anorexia isn't something I should have to be ashamed of or go through alone. Anorexia is a disease. So is cancer. So is diabetes. Do those who struggle with those illnesses have to keep it a secret? No. Can they? Sure. But if they do choose to go public with their story they are showered with love and support. They are not shoved in a corner and shamed for having dared to speak of something so taboo. So why is anorexia any different? Why is a mental illness treated any different than a physical illness? Yes. They are different in ways. But the bottom line is, they are not so different that one should be surrounded with blame and the other surrounded with love and encouragement. Because the common theme here is that NO illness is a choice. Not physical, not mental.
Contrary to popular belief, I did not choose to have anorexia. I didn't wake up one day and decide I wanted to have a voice in my head that tells me over and over again how worthless and fat I am. I did not choose to be "anorexic." In fact I am not anorexic at all. I am a woman, a woman who just so happens to struggle with anorexia. Calling me anorexic before calling me by my name is incredibly dehumanizing, actually.
You see, having anorexia was not, and never will be a choice. But recovery is. It is a choice. One I have to make every day, several times a day. Sometimes several times an hour. But none the less, that is the choice. The choice to fight back. And I don't think choosing this should have to be a silent, shameful battle. Why would I keep secret something that is filled with so much beauty and hope?
Whether we like to admit it or not, there are an abundance of people struggling with eating disorders. Most of which, struggle in silence, completely alone.... and covered in shame. Think you don't know anyone with an eating disorder? Think again. I can guarantee you that you know more than one person with an eating disorder. A person who is struggling and fighting for their life, and fighting the darkness completely alone.
I used to be one of those people. I used to be one of those incredibly cherished humans who felt so dehumanized and worthless that I was completely silenced by my disease. I fought in secret, and I fought completely alone. And I was losing. You see the thing about anorexia, is it is a fight that can be won, but it can't be won alone. It takes an army of soldiers to battle the demon that is anorexia. And yet we expect those who struggle with anorexia to not only fight alone, but to never speak of it so that even if someone out there had the desire to help, they couldn't because they would never know.
Now this shame and secretiveness is not all society's fault. The stigma of shame surrounding anorexia is no doubt a product of society's making, however the nature of anorexia itself is built up of lies. And these lies compliment the stigma that society has produced, creating the perfect storm of isolation and shame for those who battle this debilitating disease.
One of the most traumatic effects of anorexia is what it steals from you. It strips you of just about everything that makes you, you. It stops at nothing to take you down. It steals everything. And just when you open your mouth to scream for help, it steals your voice as well. If the stereotypes and stigma about anorexia weren't enough to keep someone silent about their battle, the disease itself goes ahead and steals your ability to even speak for yourself leaving you completely isolated, terrified, alone, and now entirely mute.
Theft. Theft is an understatement for the way anorexia robs a person of every part of them down to their basic qualities and rights as a living breathing human being. Anorexia knows no limits. There is no safe ground. There is no playing fair. Anorexia was sent out into the world straight from the depths of hell. And let me tell you, I never believed in hell until I met anorexia. But now, without a shadow of a doubt in my mind, I know it's real. I know because I lived in hell. For four years. Four years that felt like an eternity. Keep in mind, I have met women who have struggled with anorexia for thirty years, and there are elderly women out there who have battled it since childhood, almost their entire life consumed by this disease. So what do you do when you're living in hell? How do you fight back, how do you escape the depth of it? And how do you do this when you've lost your voice, been robbed of your identity, and know that even if you could speak up, most of the world would judge you and abandon you and leave you to burn in hell anyways, because after all you chose this. Right?
Wrong. If I haven't said it enough, anorexia is not, never has been, and never will be a choice. For anyone. Ever. But still, how do you get out of hell when you're stranded in the darkness and covered in shackles and chains. How do you fight back when you don't even feel worth the fight... or worse, you don't believe there is even a fight left to be fought. Well my friends, after living in hell for four years I can assure you that hell kills almost everything. Everything but one little ray of light. Even hell can't block out this light because it's power is so indescribably strong. What is this power you may be thinking? A source that can somehow penetrate the flaming walls of hell and shine a light in the dark hole someone in hell resides in.
This power my friends, this ray of light, is a little something I like to call; LOVE.
Yes. I went there. Love, that fairytale word. That magic that so many don't believe in. That feeling that has lost meaning in so many places, and the world as a whole has began to start to doubt. That my friends, is the most powerful thing we have in this world. So we mustn't let it die. We mustn't let the pain and suffering of this world and the trials of our days leave us so bitter that we stop believing in love.
As someone who didn't believe in hell, and certainly didn't believe in love until I was trapped in one and saved by the other, I can assure you they both exist, whether you believe in their power or not. They're real. And unfortunately, some of us have to experience suffering so extreme and visit the depths of hell to realize just how real and powerful love is.
As I was trapped in hell for four years, I thought I had lost everything. And I nearly had. I felt empty, hopeless, and worthless. I believed every lie my demons ever said. And I felt completely defeated. And then one day, between the cracks of the cage that I lived, or should I say, was dead in, I caught a glimpse of something I will never forget; love.
And one glimpse, one tiny little bit of exposure to the magic that is love, was enough, and still is enough, to keep me fighting and chasing after the light, because that glimpse showed me a piece of what life without anorexia looks like. It showed me that life without anorexia exists. And not only does it exist, but it's more beautiful than just about anything I have experienced in my entire life.
But how, how did love shine through and pull me out of the depths of hell? Who would show love to someone who was so far gone and so misunderstood? Who would show love to someone who chose to starve themselves?
The people who were saved by love themselves, that's who.
There were people, few and far between, but they were there, who heard my silence. Who saw my pain. Who had heard the lies I believed, but knew the truth that existed. They know who they are. Those who saw me, the real me. Who showed me love. Many of which were strangers at first. But strangers or not, when you've lived in hell, you have a special ability to hear the silent screams of other who are trapped in hell. So these strangers, they loved me. And that love, is what helped me save myself.
Love is so much more powerful than we give it credit for. And it doesn't take a special ability to use your love for good. It's something we all posses. And it's the most powerful thing on this earth. Love is the only thing that roars louder than every form of hate.
Love was hard for me to accept at first. After all, we accept the love we think we deserve, and after spending so long in hell it was pretty damn hard to believe I deserved any form of love. So I pushed the love away time and time again. But the thing is, love knows no boundaries. Love is everlasting, love doesn't give up. And slowly but surely, the love I received filled me with just enough strength, to make a choice.
The choice to fight back. So I stumbled and I fell, and I cried and I screamed. But every time I wanted to give up, love picked me back up. Every wrong turn I made, love gently rerouted me back to the path of life.
And today, today I no longer live in the depths of hell. In fact, quite the opposite. I live in the constant beauty of life. I cherish every moment I get to breathe. I love the little things. I love the way my heart beats again, and my breaths aren't so painful anymore. I love living. And the only reason I am here, is because someone loved me.
So why? Why go public with my anorexia recovery, with my story? Why put myself in such a vulnerable place? Why pour out love, when it may not be reciprocated? Why place my heart in hands that may not cherish it?
Because loved ones, God, mother nature, the universe.... whatever you believe in, gave me a gift. It gives us all gifts. But my gift, is the ability to see the hell of anorexia that others are living in. I hear there silent screams. I see their brokenness, and I understand it. And because I was saved by love, I am filled to the brim with love for others.
So when I was in my first treatment center at the mere age of seventeen, I made a real and serious devotion. I decided to devote my life to helping people. I was given the gift of empathy, I was given the gift of eyes that see through pain, and a heart that never runs out of love.
And through the healing love gave me, I began to recognize these gifts. And once I realized my gifts, I also realized that they weren't given to me by accident. I have a purpose. You see, my suffering was never meant to be a death sentence, it was a blessing in disguise. And when I realized this, when loved showed me this... everything changed.
I could not waste these gifts. I would not waste these gifts. Those who had battled anorexia had the gift of spotting my own suffering. And they did what we who have overcome anorexia do best, we love. They loved me.
So I went public. And sometimes it's hard. Sometimes I still have bad days and don't feel well equipped to help others. Sometimes my vulnerability leaves me hurting and misunderstood. Some days, I feel like i'm in too deep. Sometimes, I even feel like giving up. But sometimes, sometimes love breaks through. Sometimes my love sinks deep enough to pull someone out of their depths of darkness. Sometimes my love shines a light into a person who didn't know light still existed. Some days my love sparks hope inside of the hopeless. Sometimes, my love roars louder than the lies someone else is trapped in. Sometimes my love heals, it saves. And if my story, my love, can help anyone through their struggles, then it's worth every rejection my vulnerability has caused me, it's worth every slap in the face and misunderstanding my openness has showed me. And that my friends, is what makes sharing my story worth it.
Love saved me. And I have the ability to love others so much that they too can choose to save themselves. And that is the most amazing gift.
So my story is out there for anyone to see, anyone to read, anyone to judge, and anyone to believe. The bottom line is, no matter how many times my story is rejected by those who do not understand, it still has the power to reach those who do understand.
I believe in recovery. I believe in hope. And most of all, I believe in the power of love.
So I try my best, and I fail miserably sometimes, but I try to radiate love as much as I can. And the power of love is the only thing, the one and only antidote to hopelessness and hate, the only thing in existence, that has the power to open up the gates of hell, and free all of those people. The broken people, the flawed people, the people like me, like you, who are so worth loving.
My recovery is public. And it causes me extreme pain at times. But it also gives me a love that has the power to heal, and to free, and to shower on all those who need it.
Anorexia is something I'd never wish upon anyone, but I wouldn't go back and change what I've been through for the world. Our struggles have helped shaped us into who we are. And my suffering has revealed to me some of the most beautiful gifts. Anorexia stripped my life of everything, and love restored it all and gave me more than I could ever fathom.
I share my story because if it can help even one person, then it's worth it. Those struggling, make sharing my story worth it. Love saved me, and because of that I have been given the ability to love people out of the hatred they're consumed by. I was blessed with love, and I am here on this earth to love others.
I went public, because I think you're worth it. Because I believe in hell, and I believe in the power of love. I went public, because I love you.
In case you haven't been told today, or recently, or ever, I want you to know this; you are cherished, you are more than enough, and you are so loved. You may feel unloved or unlovable, but I can prove that wrong right here right now, because I love you. You are not your flaws, you are not what's happened to you, you are not your suffering. You ARE a blessing. This world needs you. I need you. And you are loved. So break through whatever chains are holding you down, and let love restore you. Go walk in freedom, go live in joy, go radiate love. No matter where you've been, no matter what you've done. Your story is incredibly significant. Never be afraid to share it. It matters, you matter. And your story is a gift. You never know who needs to hear your story, you never know the positive impact it could make in someones life. But you'll also never know unless you try. Be brave. Believe in yourself. And never, ever forget, just how loved you are and the power of love you possess.