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July 12, 2023

Finding True Recovery

Finding True Recovery

**Content warning: This is one person’s story; everyone will have unique experiences in recovery and beyond. Some stories may mention eating disorder thoughts, behaviors, and symptoms. Please use your discretion when reading and speak with your support system as needed.

Audrey McKinney (she/her) is a rising senior at Purdue University, where she studies Nutrition and Dietetics. Audrey is passionate about helping people find healing from their eating disorders. By sharing her story, Audrey wishes to provide hope that recovery is possible!

I was diagnosed with anorexia at the age of 13. I was admitted into inpatient treatment a couple of weeks after being diagnosed. It all occurred so fast that I did not have time to fully process what was happening. One morning, I was sitting at the kitchen table, refusing to eat breakfast, and that same night, I was lying in a hospital bed. My world was turned upside down in a matter of hours.

For the next month, I was monitored closely. My schoolwork was sent to the hospital, and I only saw my parents during visitation hours. When I was eventually discharged and returned home, I was nervous about what people would think of me. I tied so much of my worth to my weight that I thought no one would love me if my body looked different.

Due to my lingering belief that my worth was linked to my appearance, I struggled with a constant cycle of functioning with my eating disorder and relapsing completely. By “functioning,” I mean that although my weight was not alarming, I still held close to my disordered eating habits, food rules, and workout routine.

For me, a large part of recovery was my environment. In high school, I ran track and cross country and held close to the saying, “the smaller you are, the faster you are.” I truly believed this as part of my illness, and my eating disorder promised to help me maintain my small body for my sport.

I decided not to run in college, so when I started my first semester of my first year, I struggled to find something new to base my worth on. This struggle led to my worst and final relapse. During the first semester, I worked out excessively and restricted my eating. I decided my worth would be focused on not gaining the “freshman 15,” but rather in losing it.

In losing weight, I found that I could not stop. Unlike when I was first diagnosed with an eating disorder, this time around, I was fully aware of what my illness was doing to me. I felt lost, afraid, and alone. I had been told countless times that “college is the best years of your life,” but I felt I had ruined any possibility of that being true for me.

When I went home for Christmas break, I realized I was approaching seven years of “recovery.” It hit me then that I had never actually chosen recovery; I had just walked through the motions to get by. I decided that my New Year’s resolution that year would be true recovery.

Flashforward to today, I recently finished my junior year, and I have not relapsed since I committed to showing up for myself every day. I have gained my life back. I have the best of friends, an incredibly supportive family, and the zest for life I had lost for six years to my eating disorder.

I share my story with the hope that someone will recognize that recovery is possible, and that they are not alone in this battle. I am not saying recovery is easy, but it is worth the long journey. To those in the midst of their eating disorder – you are so strong! Remember, you are worth SO much more than your eating disorder leads you to believe!

Get help. Find hope.