My Eating Disorder Recovery Journey
**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.
Taylor* is a college student in the Cleveland area. Outside of being in treatment, Taylor enjoys watching documentaries (any kind) and is a huge animal lover, particularly cats.
*Last name omitted at the author’s request.
I think we can all agree that the period of COVID-19 quarantine in 2020 was not an enjoyable time. Unfortunately for me and many others, this gave us a lot of time to sit in our negative thoughts. Exercise was a huge part of my “hobbies” during this time and it got out of control very quickly. Food, weight, and my appearance were all I could think about. It completely took over my brain. I couldn’t think in a logical way, I couldn’t eat normally, and most of all, it caused me to distance myself from almost everyone in my life, including my parents. It was hard for others to understand or notice when the world seemed to be in chaos. It got to the point where I needed treatment to become myself again.
And that’s what happened. I started treatment at The Emily Program in the fall of 2020. I was told I needed to take a semester off my first year of college in order to focus on getting the help I needed. Needless to say, I was not thrilled about deferring a semester of school. Looking back now, there was no way I could have been enrolled in school while also getting treatment. Everything about eating disorders was so new, and treatment was a full-time job for me. I was able to make my way through high levels of care to outpatient in that same semester I had taken off. I was proud of myself for putting in the hard work so I could finally begin my college experience.
Like almost everyone in recovery, change does not go well with eating disorders. College was my first time living on my own in a new city while still being in the midst of masking, quarantine, and virtual classes. The loneliness kicked in immediately and the obsessive negative thoughts crept up yet again. Luckily, I was still seeing a therapist and dietitian through The Emily Program at this time. They were able to help me come to the conclusion that moving back home would be the best decision for my health. And it was.
Flash forward to the next school year and I’m living on my own again, but this time with roommates. It was the first time I had lived with girls my age. I was excited to be able to have a normal college experience. However, I did not anticipate how much that normal college experience would affect my eating habits. College can be stressful with schoolwork, a job, and new friends. I began comparing myself to those around me, thinking I needed to look a certain way for people to like me. The restriction began again, but this time was different. I had learned what it was like to engage in eating disorder behaviors while still having a “normal” life. It was a scary realization. The restriction wasn’t as debilitating as it was when it first developed during quarantine. I was still able to socialize, go to class, and eat with people.
However, this doesn’t last forever. With eating disorders, it’s never enough. Restriction gets more intense and the thoughts get louder. Anxiety around food becomes stronger. Socializing felt like a chore. I had a constant battle in my head on whether or not I should be honest with my treatment team about my relapse. They were aware of some weight changes, but they didn’t know it was intentional. The eating disorder took over and I ended up leaving treatment.
I was back to not being myself. Summertime is the hardest for me, and last summer was when the eating disorder really ramped up. I couldn’t keep a job. I couldn’t go on vacation with my hometown friends without focusing on how my body looked or how much I’d eaten that day. I’m not sure if it was noticeable, but I was always trying to find energy to hold a conversation.
Relapse doesn’t mean I gave up. I went back into treatment, but this time I had more experience with what an eating disorder does to me outside of COVID-19. It’s not fun, it’s not quirky, and most of all, it’s miserable. I’ve been in treatment since then and I can confidently say I do not want to go back to the eating disorder. It’s still a struggle. It’s not sunshine and rainbows. There are okay days and really difficult days, but I want to have a joyful life. I’ve had to realize what the eating disorder looks like without viewing it through rose-colored glasses, and I can say with certainty that life is more enjoyable without it.
Are you interested in sharing your recovery story? If so, email us at email@example.com to learn how you can become a guest blogger for The Emily Program.