There is not a day, already 7 years after it began and through the arms of recovery, that I don’t think about how my life might be different if I didn’t have an eating disorder. I wonder if there were other places I would have gone, people I would have met, parties I would have gone to, and adventures I would have had. But there is no way I can get back that time, and instead have to look at the time ahead and use it the best I can.
Having an eating disorder made me lonely, and ultimately a hermit. I spent much of the past 7 years holed up in my dorm, apartment or house. I have rejected so many offers to hang out with friends to eat or drink that I stopped getting offers, and even started losing friends. I was so freaked out about what people would think of me and what I would eat that when I did go out, I was a mess and would be for days following. There have only been a few times where my eating disorder has not ruined my life or experience, but seems to come in between each of these instances.
For example, my first chance at freedom came when I decided to be different, and not study in Europe during like college like everyone else, but deep in the heart of the Australian rainforest. I was stuck in a very remote area and repetitively crammed into small vans with the same 20 people for 4 months straight, winding the roads of the rainforest, wetlands and the outback. I had to learn to open up, get dirty, and let go of what was holding me back or else…I would fail my classes. Which in turn I believed would be failing my parents, or failing the persona I had to put on as an Asian and someone from a small Catholic school. Seems simple, right? Not so much. I struggled every single day I was there. It was the first step towards a real recovery though. I opened up to people in hopes they would understand, and they did. I let people take me places I would be too afraid to go, and I had fun. I was able to let go and see the potential for a life without restricting food and worrying about the size of my pants and t-shirts.
I believe that being forced outside of my norm, the one where I counted every calorie, every step, every mile, every activity…helped me break the cycle. Every time that I stepped outside the box meant more time I was able to stay there and not go back. Each time I took a new field biologist job, each time I moved to a new state, each time I worked with a different kind of bird, I stepped further and farther outside that box to see what my ED didn’t have that I could.
Would my life be different now had I not developed an eating disorder that 7 years ago? I believe so, but at the same time believe that it has helped me experience the things I did, and others I might not have had had I been completely healthy. It’s a hard thing for me to imagine though, a life without worrying about those things, but I know one day that feeling, that sensation will come, and it will be wonderful. I’m betting I will just know it. If not, make sure you let me know it’s staring me in the face, alright?
Melissa | Kern County, CA | USA
Melissa writes the blog Trying To Heal.