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March 28, 2024

My “One Wild and Precious Life”

My “One Wild and Precious Life”

**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.

Catherine* (she/her) is a board-certified nurse, real-world data expert, and lifelong learner. She spent over a decade living in New York City before opting for a simpler life surrounded by the mountains in Jackson, Wyoming. For the past five years, Catherine has worked remotely for a healthcare technology company focused on improving and extending the lives of every person with cancer. In her free time, Catherine enjoys practicing yoga, spending time in nature, and hanging out with her niece and nephews.

*Last name omitted at the author’s request.

One of my favorite poems is “The Summer Day” by Mary Oliver, in which the poet asks, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

If someone had asked me this question at 17, I can assure you that I would have looked at them with a blank stare on my face and sadness in my eyes. At that age, I was exhausted just trying to make it through the day, let alone contemplate a lifetime. What I didn’t know was that I’d go on to accomplish many dreams—dreams so large I couldn’t even imagine them.

I was born and raised in a suburb of Massachusetts to two loving parents and two older siblings. My parents separated when I was in the first grade, which, at the time, was relatively uncommon (at least among my friend group). For many years, I felt anxious and ashamed about being different and used food as a means of comfort. However, my relationship with food changed one day in high school. I vividly remember the telephone conversation with someone who commented on my weight and suggested I find out what my best friend had done to lose her weight. Suddenly, food went from being my comfort to being the enemy. I spent the next year doing everything I could to avoid food, whether going to the library during school lunch or babysitting after school so I wouldn’t be home for dinner.

After many long months of avoiding food and experiencing utter exhaustion, my weight loss became so apparent that close family, friends, and the people I worked for began to speak up. Thankfully for me, my mom knew to schedule a visit with my pediatrician, and my pediatrician’s frank warnings about the effects of malnourishment on the body frightened me so much that I started eating again.

It wasn’t until my early 20s, though, that food became something I learned to really love and enjoy. I was living in New York City, perhaps one of the greatest cities on Earth to experience every type of cuisine. Eating out became a way of connecting with friends and living out my city dream. I would spend hours and sometimes even days meandering around the streets of New York, popping into cafes and restaurants, each of which was an experience unto its own.

In 2011, I completed another dream of running the New York City marathon. I ran with an organization called Fred’s Team, which raises money for vital cancer research at Memorial Sloan Kettering. Not only was I able to accomplish something I never thought possible, but I built a community of lifelong friends and continued to volunteer as a mentor and assistant coach for many years. This dream would have never been possible without the nourishment of food to support me along all those long training runs and the ultimate 26.2 miles.

Today, I’m experiencing another dream of living in the Teton mountain range. I spend my free time mountain biking, hiking, running, and skiing. Last fall, I completed my first summit of the Middle Teton. I never imagined that one day, I’d have the opportunity to call this place my home and experience nature the way I do every day. The raw beauty of this place is a daily reminder that it is when we let our true selves shine that we are most beautiful. I’ve never felt more free and alive than this moment, and I am so thankful for the people who helped get me support for my eating disorder so that I could experience the beauty and magic of this “one wild and precious life.”

If you are someone who’s struggling with disordered eating, I want you to know that you are not alone. There is an entire community of people out there who are here for you and want to support you. I also want you to know that recovery is not only possible, but it is also possible to thrive and live out all of your dreams—even those so large you can’t even begin to imagine them.

We want to hear your voice of recovery! If you are interested in participating in our Recovery Conversation series, please email to learn more.

If you or a loved one is experiencing an eating disorder, help is available. Reach out to The Emily Program today by calling 1-888-364-5977 or completing our online form.

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