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January 15, 2015

Anorexia vs. Activism

This is one person’s story; everyone will have unique experiences on their own path to recovery and beyond. Some stories may mention eating disorder thoughts, behaviors, or symptom use. Please use your own discretion. And speak with your therapist when needed.

By Dallas Rising, a former The Emily Program client and woman in recovery

I don’t consider myself “an anorexic.” I do consider myself to be someone who lives with anorexia. Even today, when I’m at a healthy weight, I live with an eating disorder. It’s like a demon or a monster that sleeps deep within me and feeds on my shame, insecurities, and fears about myself. My eating disorder is something I live with, not who I am.

I do consider myself an activist. I’m someone who believes that my actions can matter, and that bad situation can improve if we refuse to accept them and instead work to change them.

And this part of myself turned out to be a vital part of my recovery, though I didn’t recognize it at the time I was neck-deep in the work. Looking back, I can see how my beliefs and values about continuing to act, even when it seems futile, showed up in my battle with my eating disorder.

I’m not an expert, but it seems to me that those of us who suffer from eating disorders tend to be sensitive people. My sensitivity to others fuels my anger at injustice, and my rejection of society’s acceptance of apathy for wrongdoing became my reason to get well. At the time, I didn’t care much about myself or my own fate, but I still cared about violence in the world – especially violence done to animals.

I saw my eating disorder as an enemy that was pulling me away from my efforts to make the world a safer place for other species. A dangerous distraction that diverted my attention away from what mattered most to me. Once I set my sights on what mattered, just like I do in my activism, I was already back in the game.

There is a quote by Teddy Roosevelt that evokes a vivid sense of the courage and vulnerability that is required from anyone who faces a challenge that appears insurmountable.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

May you dare greatly in your recovery, now and always.

Get help. Find hope.