To everyone who has supported me along my journey:
Hi. As you know, my name is Emma. I’m twenty years old, and for the last decade, I’ve battled with restrictive eating and overexercise. Over the past six months, I’ve been through several levels of care. I’ve been hospitalized, I’ve been inpatient, I’ve been in residential, I’ve been in partial, and now I’m about to leave intensive outpatient and transition to the lowest tier, which essentially involves no level of care.
When I first decided to tell someone about what I was dealing with, it was a phone call to the health service at UMass. I dialed the number, hesitantly considered hanging up, and then when someone answered the phone, blurted out “I think I’m suffering from anorexia.”
Fast forward a couple of weeks and I was beginning my first level of treatment. I was convinced that I didn’t need the level of care they’d recommended for me. I was certain that I wasn’t really sick. Now, of course, looking back, I can realize just how wrong I was. Instead of not being sick enough, I was so sick that I couldn’t see the truth.
I met some truly incredible people along the way that honestly were my saving grace. There were times where I contemplated not continuing on, because life seemed so pointless. I was hopelessly miserable and so deep in my eating disorder that I had forgotten all the possibilities life can bring. But every day I would wake up and decide to try and fight for all the people who believed I could.
Of course, this was no easy task. And contrary to what my eating disorder would have me believe, I ended up needing far higher levels of care. It had been underestimated just how serious my condition was. When I was really entrenched in my eating disorder, it was nearly impossible to see the point of carrying on living. I woke up every morning in a hospital bed, dressed in a patterned gown and drawstring pants that I tied tightly around my waist to give myself a sense of security. Then I would stumble through three meals, relying heavily on the visits from my family and the incredible staff that continually worked to make sure I gained back my health.
They’ve never given up on me. Even when I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve given up on myself. For a time, I had myself convinced that there was no way out; that I was doomed to forever live in the shadow my eating disorder cast. I look back now at posts I made when I was hospitalized, and pictures that were taken while I was there, and I’m horrified. The girl looking back at the camera is so frail and sickly looking. She wrote about feeling depressed and lonely almost incessantly. There was no light in her life.
I bounced around a couple times between inpatient and the hospital before finally coming to a residential level of care after my third stint of being hospitalized because of the severity of my condition. It was here that I really started to gain traction. It was here that I started to remember all the amazing things that life had in store for me.
This doesn’t mean it was easy. But once again, I was surrounded by a truly incredible community that welcomed me with open arms and warm smiles. I was around people who were fighting a similar battle to me, which inspired a sense of camaraderie. No matter where I’ve been receiving treatment, no matter for the duration, I’ve always been amazed at how much I connected with others. They made me laugh, they made me cry, and they made me feel like I was worth something.
And for that, I can never say thank you enough. I’m still struggling to see my recovery as something I’m doing for me. I still don’t see myself as worthwhile enough to preserve. But because of the amazing support I’ve received from friends and family, I’ve managed to make so many steps forward and do things I never thought would be possible.
I am very nervous, though, about leaving treatment entirely. True, I will still have my outpatient team and my incredible network of encouragement to help keep me motivated. But I won’t have the support of others around me who are going through similar trials and tribulations. I will miss their amazing insights, powerful stories, and words of wisdom. I will miss joking with them about the discomfort that’s inherent in recovery and the various ways in which we’re taught to try and manage stress and urges, poking fun at the silly names and descriptions. I will miss having a listening ear from someone who really, truly, understands and empathizes with what I’m going through.
To all those who I’ve met as I’ve progressed along the road to recovery:
Whether you’re enjoying the life of someone fully recovered from an eating disorder, working towards health like me, or trapped in the clutches of your illness, please, never stop fighting. Never forget how important, valuable, and unique you are. Never lose sight of all the wonderful things life has in store for you. It may not seem like it now, but recovery is so worth it. There will be moments where you slip up and make mistakes; what is essential, though, is that you fight to take steps forward afterwards. Never be afraid to ask for help or to reach out to those around you in times of need. The community truly is incredible, and we are all here to help you conquer your demons.
So once again, I just want to say thank you to everyone who has helped me, supported me, or encouraged me, even if it was just a kind word or a warm smile. You are the reason why I fight. You are the motivation behind my decision to get up and battle every day. You are my inspiration and my shoulder to cry on when I’m having a difficult time. You are people I can confide in and people I truly trust. You are such a gift to me. Like I said, I can never thank you enough, but I hope this is a good enough start.
Thank you, thank you, thank you. And much love ❤