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 Katie Monsewicz, an avid writer and practicing journalist who has been through The Emily Program’s residential treatment program. She wants to help others who have struggled with eating disorders – and those who are still struggling – through her writing and as an advocate for eating disorder recovery.
I’m an adult now. (Insert image of me shouting from the top of a cliff like in “The Lion King” movie.) Wow. That was tough to get out.
I just turned 21 last month, marking nine years of the harrowing illness that has taken over much of my life, much of my memory, many of my relationships. An eating disorder is like moss on a rock. Some people think it’s beautiful (which is pretty strange) and most see it as a nuisance, an invasion. But it takes you over and you can’t shake it without any help from an outside force.
Flip the numbers in my age and you have the number 12. That’s the age my eating disorder began. Perhaps I’ll go into detail some other time because that story feels much older and much more complicated than moss on a rock. I think a lot about how I’ve survived these past nine years. I think about the years it took me to finally get treatment. About the major role, my own mother played in pushing me to get better. I think about my friends siccing the guidance counselor on me in school. I think about my more recent stay at The Emily Program in their residential treatment and the healing I experienced there. But I never acted in getting better without someone else telling me I had to.
I want to share with you some words of encouragement that I would tell my past self nine years ago today. I hope you can relate and choose your own words of encouragement that we all so desperately need.
1. You were right.
“Whoa. Wait a minute. You’re telling a person with an eating disorder that he or she is RIGHT?!”
Let me explain.
The negative way you talk about yourself or see yourself in a mirror isn’t right. But we all seek validation in some sense that we are right. I was right about how I felt. How I saw myself ten years from then. I was right about saying how this eating disorder was going to be a lifelong battle. It’s gotten easier with age, but I’m still fighting. And it’s made me strong.
2. You are loved.
That’s more like it.
I thought too much about not loving myself and ignored the fact that other people love me. My mother. My father. My brother. My friends. They all love me and they all have their own way of showing it. Sometimes that meant yelling at me to get better and making me cry over a teaspoon of butter. Now, I recognize their love and I celebrate it with every hug, kiss, and laugh.
3. You are not alone.
You may have seen there is a community of those suffering from eating disorders. Maybe you’ve been to a residential or an inpatient program and that’s how you met your ED friends. Or, you have an Instagram account and use hashtags like #eatingdisorderrecovery. In both of these ways, I have learned that there are girls (and boys), women (and men), going through very similar struggles that I have. I used to think I was just this weird kid who couldn’t bring herself to eat more than a few crackers without having a panic attack. It’s nice to know there are people in this world to share these feelings with.
4. You have purpose.
Believe it or not, your eating disorder does not have to take over every aspect of your life. My eating disorder has always made me feel unmotivated, unwanted, and undeserving. But there has always been one thing that ripped me out of that world, put me at a desk, and laid my hands on a keypad: writing. That is my purpose because I’m not too shabby at it and it makes me feel useful. You have a purpose in this life. You might have many. Look deep into yourself, your talents, what you enjoy doing, and put that eating disorder energy into that for a few minutes and see how you feel.
5. You deserve to be happy.
Ever since my eating disorder started, I never thought I could be happy. Diagnosed with clinical depression, I have a tough time looking at the brighter side of things. I get sad, angry, frustrated, and absolutely miserable. But in those moments that I am happy – and they can be small or big – I now feel like I deserve it. I’ve been suffering for so long and praying for so long, that happiness feels worked for. I believe in working every day toward one goal: happiness. You deserve to be happy.
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