by: Amelia Perri
‘Good riddance’ means “to get rid of with pleasure.” This is precisely how I feel about getting rid of my eating disorder.
As an adult looking back on my teens, I recognize now that I had some early signs of an unhealthy relationship with food, along with other risk factors for developing an eating disorder. However, it wasn’t until adulthood that my restrictive and obsessive “healthy eating” turned into a binge eating issue. That’s when I thought I had a serious problem on my hands. But it was also when my journey to recovery began, with a phone call to start individual therapy.
I found the process of recovery long and challenging - with many ups, downs and doubts. I also remember clearly the moments of denial and blindness as I tried to protect and maintain the eating disorder. But today, as I look back on my journey, I see that progress was being made even when it felt like torture – and there were many, many days that that’s exactly how it felt. But, in the end, it was all worth it. I left the eating disorder behind.
Leaving the eating disorder behind was difficult because it had become my identity. It provided me with a sense of specialness, success, and self-confidence, though now I realize that it was a “pretend confidence”. The eating disorder also acted as a distraction and therefore a coping mechanism, further contributing to the difficulty in letting it go. Eventually I realized that I needed to find these things (a sense of specialness, self-confidence, and positive coping mechanisms) within me, not through the eating disorder. Through this process of recovery I learned a lot about myself and re-built my sense of self and self-esteem. I learned to see people beyond their appearance, and embraced and lived the idea that we are all equally worthy as human beings, regardless of our appearance…that we all deserve love, happiness, joy, laughter, success…no matter what we look like. I came to terms with (and eventually embraced) the idea that “average” and “imperfect” are wonderfully fine!!
I developed my own sense of confidence and love for myself. I also learned new ways to cope with life’s challenges. I believe recovery is possible because I have seen many people recover, and I have recovered. I now work as a psychotherapist in the field of eating disorders and I feel blessed to help others leave the prison sentence of their eating disorder behind and to help them learn to move towards freedom.
It is a part of my daily life now to encourage others to reduce judgements based on appearance and to find happiness…not by “working” on one’s appearance, but by embracing one’s soul, one’s personality, and one’s appearance--as is. For me, the best parts of recovery were finding a sense of worth, confidence, and a sense of freedom in being my authentic self, with all my imperfections. I found the freedom to be myself, the freedom to eat whatever I wanted, the freedom to dress how I wanted, the freedom to say what I wanted, and more. And I no longer feel threatened that the eating disorder could make a come-back…I have recovered, I am free.
I chose recovery because I had started to realize what I had lost in living with an eating disorder. Because the eating disorder consumed my thoughts and actions, I lost precious time and pleasure with family and friends. I lost me because the eating disorder became my identity. And I lost happiness and security in being me, because with an eating disorder things are “never good enough.”
Now that I have recovered, I can honestly say that I am grateful for having experienced the eating disorder because through that difficult time emerged the following invaluable life lessons:
- It’s okay to be your authentic self. Be proud of who you are even when it deviates from the norm.
- Be honest with yourself.
- It’s okay to speak up and share your thoughts and feelings. In fact, it is often freeing to share your thoughts and feelings.
- It’s okay to love yourself no matter what you look like, even if it’s not matching the ‘ideal.’
- It is not our appearance that makes us worthy.
- Embrace imperfection, it is freeing.
For more information about me and my practice please visit www.therapyheals.ca