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April 25, 2024

Reclaiming Myself: A Story of Healing from Anorexia

Reclaiming Myself: A Story of Healing from Anorexia

**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.

By Brooklynn Raacke

My name is Brooklynn Raacke. I’ve overcome anorexia and am now a survivor. Through living with an eating disorder, I have been able to foster empathy and understanding for human struggles. While I would never wish disordered eating upon anybody, I am grateful for what my journey has taught me.

I entered my first dance class at age seven. Right off the bat, my heart fell in love. Little Me enjoyed performing with all she had for anyone and everyone. When I began sixth grade, dancing in front of the mirror started to affect how I felt about myself. Compared to my friends around me, my body had matured faster. At dance now, I would never take off my shirt. In middle school, I never liked my body, but I did not try to change it. My family bonds over food, and it was always a happy thing for me because it meant love and joy.

During the summer before I started eighth grade, my family moved to Wisconsin. In my younger years, I was confident in my personality, so I was not worried about making friends. However, I remember my doctor saying something that led me to question whether I was worthy. I had my first doctor’s visit in my new home. It was going great until my doctor asked my father to leave the room. Usually, they will ask parents to leave if the kids want them to. My dad and I have a very close relationship, and I was always okay with him hearing everything at the doctor’s. I found it strange that my doctor asked him to leave, and frankly, I did not want him to. Once my dad was out of the room, my doctor turned to me and said, “I know it’s fun moving to a new state and trying all the new foods, but you need to lay off the brats and cheese curds.” I remember it like it happened yesterday. An adult had never said negative things about my body. I was shocked, and I could only respond with a head nod. The doctor then brought my father back in as if nothing had happened.

I had not told anyone what the doctor said that day. Embarrassment about how I looked was filling my mind. I forced it out of my head and told my 13-year-old self to just focus on dance. However, COVID hit. I had only lived in Wisconsin for a couple of months, and now I felt alone. Dance—my source of happiness—was taken away for the year due to all places being shut down. The transition was jarring. On March 13th, 2020, I decided I was going to start running as my new form of exercise since I was not dancing. My father was a track star in high school, or at least that’s what he tells me, so I thought I’d give it a go. Without even realizing it, I started to become obsessed with losing weight. As time went on, I started to run more and restrict my food intake.

My dance teacher eventually started offering private lessons in person, and I decided to start going. I remember she gave me compliments about my body. Then my family also started complimenting me for “taking care of myself.” In reality, it had become unhealthy and it was all-consuming. If I missed a day of running because of rain or oversleeping, I would cry and have breakdowns. My freshman year of high school was starting back up, which meant I was running and doing a full schedule of dance lessons. My eating disorder convinced me that if I gave up running, I would gain back the weight I lost, and I would not get positive affirmations from others anymore either. With all the physical activity I was doing, my body was not getting enough nutrients.

I eventually started having breakdowns about food. If my order was wrong at a restaurant or I had not planned what I was going to be eating that day, it felt like my life was falling apart—that is how much an eating disorder can consume your life. I was irritable at every dance competition as well as at home. My health was declining, so my doctor and my parents decided that I had to stop running, and I was hysterical.

I entered my first treatment place in the fall of 2021. It was scary, but I was also relieved that somebody pulled the plug and got me help. I still enjoyed food, but I just wouldn’t allow myself to have it. This particular center discharged me too soon, and I slowly slipped back into my eating disorder.

My family would not let me go down that road again. This time I started at The Emily Program’s Outpatient Eating Disorder Treatment Center in Seattle, WA. In the first month, with the incredible help of my team, I got my period back. The Emily Program helped to fully heal not just my body, but also my soul. I learned about cognitive defusion, intuitive movement, the window of tolerance, the seven types of hunger, and so much more. I am forever grateful to The Emily Program for helping me take my life back

Throughout my journey of recovery, I encountered countless ups and downs. Looking back, I realize that while these challenges were significant, they do not define who I am. Instead, they have shaped me into the resilient individual I am today.

At the lowest points of my struggle, I felt like I had lost sight of myself. My personality seemed to vanish, along with my interests and zest for life. It was as though the world had paused, and I was merely going through the motions of existence.

But as I embarked on the road to recovery, faint glimmers of light began to pierce through the darkness. Gradually, my world regained its color and vibrancy. Each step forward brought a renewed sense of hope and purpose.

One of the most profound lessons I learned along the way was finding strength in vulnerability. Embracing my vulnerabilities allowed me to confront my struggles head-on and seek support from those around me. Through this process, I discovered an inner resilience I never knew I had, empowering me to face the challenges of recovery with courage and determination

I am free from my eating disorder, and my passion is now to help others. I am starting college in the fall, and my dream one day is to be a clinical psychologist. In my recovery, my admiration for children and the genuine wonder in their eyes has only intensified. Their innocence is pure and heartfelt. I hold hope that one day children, teens, and adults will encounter a world where the shadows of eating disorders and diet culture are diminished. I have started a blog where I write about struggles and tools that can be used to help battle eating disorders.

If anyone is struggling, please know you’re never alone.

Sending love to the world,

XO, Brooklynn

Are you interested in sharing your recovery story? If so, email us at blog@emilyprogram.com to learn how you can become a guest blogger for The Emily Program.



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