First of all, I want to start by saying thank you, from the bottom of my heart. You have been there for me in moments that were so dark I couldn’t see the light of the future ahead of me at all. You believed in me when I had all but given up on myself. You carried me, picked me back up, and pushed me forward when I needed it. You made me laugh when I felt desperately sad and you made me cry tears of happiness with your kind words and your encouragement.
You are the reason why I am where I am. Were it not for you and your unwavering certainty that I could do this; that I could get up and fight to conquer my eating disorder, I would never have made it this far. You have been there through every step of my journey, even when it was a step backwards.
You have already given me more than I could ask for.
But here I am, asking for something else. And this comes with the sincerest gratitude and admiration for all you have done and continue to do for me each and every day.
Lately I have really been struggling. When I was in some level of eating disorder care, I was surrounded by a community that was dealing with the same issues I was and who were professionally educated in order to help me beat my demons back into the corner they belong in. I was able to commiserate with the other people in treatment with me, both about the trials and tribulations our eating disorders put us through, and what we had to endure due to other illnesses or relationships. I can’t tell you the number of times I felt this amazing wave of happiness whenever someone said they understood what I was experiencing or expressed what I couldn’t find the words to say.
Let’s back up all the way to the hospital. When I was admitted to Beth Israel, my whole world turned upside down. Suddenly the focus of my life was, quite literally, saving it. The amount of support I received buoyed me through the terrifying tidal waves that threatened to drown me. I was written letters and caring comments on social media. I was given gifts to help remind me of all the beauty and positivity in life. I was paid visits by family and friends who wanted nothing more than to brighten my day.
The concept of deserving all of this incredible care is still foreign to me. I don’t deserve it, quite honestly. I was a horrible person when I was in the hospital. I was the Mr. Hyde to my Dr. Jekyll. I constantly turned away helping hands, snapped at those who tried to console me, and stared vacantly out the window when visitors came to spend time with me. I threw tantrums and sobbed my heart out.
I felt angry, really. What had I done to deserve this? Had I committed some terrible injustice or wronged someone horribly so? Why was I made to suffer so powerfully?
It didn’t seem fair.
I can’t tell you exactly what clicked in my head and my heart and made me realize that I could choose to get better. I wasn’t resigned to this fate. I could fight my way out of the black hole that was my eating disorder.
So I decided to work as hard as I could at recovery. I ate food when everything in my mind was screaming at me not to. I refrained from exercising even when all I wanted to do was get up and move. I made an effort to engage more with my visitors and the community surrounding me.
And do you know what? It really, truly worked. I felt happier than I had in months. And as my body gained strength, so did my mind.
It’s true. I am much stronger than I was just a short while ago, both literally and figuratively.
But I still have a long way to go.
If I can impress only one thing upon all of you, it would be that recovery is the single most difficult thing I have ever attempted. It will never be easy to pick up a piece of pizza and put it in my mouth without thinking about what I’m going to do to burn it off later or how all the greasy goodness of the melted cheese is going to affect me. It will never be simple to try and hide the bloating and distension that comes with refeeding under baggy, oversized clothes. It will never be easy to wake up in the morning and have an overwhelming feeling of guilt wash over me as I contemplate the day of eating ahead of me. It will never be simple to have numbers dancing cruelly in my head and voices echoing menacingly in my mind.
Because eating disorders are lifelong addictions. That’s right, they’re addictions. Your brain starts to crave the high you receive from engaging in behaviors; it gives you the illusion of the ultimate control. It’s not just a habit you can kick or a problem you can solve. It is a fight every single second of every single day.
There are days where I wake up and wish that I was back in the hospital. As frightening as that may sound, sometimes, it sounds reassuring. All my meals will be prepared for me. I will have staff around to talk to if I’m struggling. I will be the unfortunate center of attention.
I have never in my life wanted to be the center of attention. I’ve always preferred to be somewhere on the outskirts or in the shadows. My eating disorder is sort of the ultimate manifestation of my desire to just become so small that I disappear.
And all of a sudden, bam, there I was. Everyone was focused on me. And to be honest, it was kind of overwhelming. But in a good way.
And I miss that. It sounds selfish, and it sounds callous, but I miss it. I miss opening letters from people I didn’t even know who had heard my story and wanted to send me words of inspiration. I miss laughing with my roommate and the hospital staff about the constant vitals checking. I miss receiving visits from concerned friends and family. I miss being voted “You Go Girl” by the other girls in treatment with me. I miss giggling with them about having to ask to use the bathroom and the funny things some of the residential counselors said. I miss the days where I didn’t have to send a text message or comment on someone’s photo to be in contact with them, I could just look over at the couch next to me and make a funny face at someone. I miss having a staff member there to console me when I was nearly hysterical about having to eat, reminding me that this too shall pass and all good things with time.
Don’t get me wrong. The Emma back then needed all of that. She wouldn’t have gotten to where I find myself today without it.
But present day Emma still needs that.
You all are incredible. You are amazing. You are wonderful. You are stupendous. You are every possible positive adjective in the English language. And here I am, asking you to do even more.
How can I? I can barely bring myself to write this. It sounds so conceited I can hardly stand it. It sounds ungrateful and whiny, like I’m some sort of petulant child who didn’t get exactly what she wants.
But I’ve committed myself to being honest about what I’m going through, and that means tackling even the difficult topics like this.
Every moment is a battle that I fight, and sometimes I have no weapons or means of defending myself. That’s where you all come in. You have waged this war for me when I was unable to.
All I ask is that you continue to do so. You have already given me so much.
Sometimes I need that extra word of encouragement or helping hand or piece of advice. Sometimes I need the reminder that I am doing the right thing, even though it feels so impossibly wrong a good 99% of the time. Sometimes I need the assurance that I have done well, and that I am moving forwards and making progress. Sometimes I need the recognition for the little things like eating a challenge food or using a coping skill instead of a behavior.
Sometimes, I need just a little bit more. And if you could be so giving and fantastic as to provide that, I would be more than the eternally and infinitely grateful I already am.
So, so, so much love. ❤