In May of 2012, I officially admitted myself into residential treatment for struggling with bulimia nervosa. What I did not know was that the next eight months were going to change my life forever; those unexpected eight months saved my one and only life.
I knew I was sick, but I was never told I looked sick. If anything I was told the opposite at my sickest, which made my eating disorder only grow stronger. My perfectionism peaked and my people pleasing skills were at their prime. My life appeared effortless and joyful on the outside, when on the inside I was anxious and depressed.
These personality traits that got me so far in life became my biggest challenge in treatment. I had to simply “let go” of what I thought I “should” or “should not” be doing. That task is very difficult to accomplish when insurance is telling you that you do not need treatment because you comply with treatment and are not underweight. How are you supposed to recover when you supposedly “look” recovered? It did not look like I had developed severe osteopenia in my bones at age 20. It did not look like eating disorders ran in my family genetics either. That’s the twist with this psychological illness people do not understand; it’s never what it looks like when it comes to eating disorders.
I was lucky to have continued treatment as long as I needed to; I was willing to change my path of planning and perfectionism if it meant to continue a path at all. I was/am beyond grateful for the support of my family and friends, and was able to fulfill residential treatment, transitional treatment, and outpatient treatment, but that is not often the case for many people struggling. Many people simply cannot receive the care they need because they do not look sick enough; many people get denied further treatment because they look too sick. Who knew there was the perfect amount of sick to get that perfect recovery that does not exist?!
I am proud to say I am recovered today. I am happy, as well as many other emotions that are not as pleasant as happiness. I am bright, funny, a bit awkward, but most importantly healthy. People forget that healthy and happy are not synonymous in meaning; they might go well together, but healthy goes well with every emotion.
On September 30th I will march in Washington D.C. as a survivor of eating disorders and an advocate for change in how society views eating disorder treatment. I will march with The Alliance For Eating Disorders Awareness and other organizations that support more eating disorders research. I will march for those who cannot and for those ashamed of an illness they did not choose. I will march to prove that recovery does exist.