Name: Ashley. K
Location: New Castle, PA
Mommy of a 6 year old boy, unicorn lover, social work student, peer counselor, animal welfare volunteer, peace, harmony, love and equal rights <3
How Has Beating Eating Disorders Helped you?
I almost died from my eating disorder. I have the gift of knowing life before illness, during and after. I was always in a race with others, always trying to find perfection, always trying to control the uncontrollable with what I did/did not eat. But at my sickest and during recovery I learned, I’m in my own race, there is no such thing as perfection and sometimes, I’m not going to have control, and that’s okay because those are the moments when the best lessons are learned. The greatest things I’ve been able to teach my son are the things I’ve learned because of my eating disorder. From our talks about bullying to being the kindest friend he can be to loving himself unconditionally because perfect isn’t the best word. My disorder was a curse, but it was a blessing and a miracle in its truest form.
Where are you in your recovery journey?
I was 18/19 when my disorder was at its worst and by then I had been battling it for a good 7 or 8 years on and off. When I was 19, I had the life changing moment. It was the wake up call. It was when my recovery started. I’m 29 now, I’ll be 30 at the end of February. It’s still a shock to think it’s been over ten years since my recovery began and this journey started. And it truly is a journey! My family has been involved and my closest friends. There have been ups and there have downs. There has been judgement in front of mirrors and there has been days where I just felt the triggers going off one by one. But I haven’t slipped up once. Recovery is about steps and small goals. It’s about one foot in front of the other. Recovery is NOT about leaping ahead. That may be what your family and friends hope it is, but it’s not. Recovery is big, but is also tiny steps, it’s inch by inch, then foot by foot, yard by yard and before you know it, recovery is ten years! I will never ever say that I beat this horrible disease, this horrible disorder. If I say I beat it, then I may forget it and it I forget it, maybe it will come back, I don’t know. So I always consider myself someone who is in recovery. I am always working on myself. Always work on you. Love yourself. It never hurts to learn to love yourself more and in different ways and it’s what I try to do.
What are your future recovery oriented goals?
As I said, I devote a lot of time to bettering myself. It’s a huge aid in my own continuing recovery. But if there is anything I have learned, it’s that nothing makes me feel more alive and happy and full of love than helping others. I spent my 20’s really not knowing what I wanted to do with my life. I went to beauty school and I love that industry, but something wasn’t clicking. I became a peer counselor a short time after my son was born and I finally felt like I was on the right track. Today, I’m studying social work. I plan on helping others with a multitude of problems. I have always wanted to start a support group in my community for eating disorders. I WILL do that. The knowledge I’ve gained over the years about eating disorders is too valuable to waste and I plan on using it in my community in the wisest ways!
What is the most helpful thing someone has said to you? What has been the most harmful?
The most helpful was probably after my recovery when I had down an article with my local news paper and a young girl sent me an email thanking me for my story, that it had inspired her to seek help because she knew she had a problem and that I had saved her. I was a year into recovery and THAT was the all the courage and hope and love I needed to know, “You know what girl, walk this walk and talk this talk. You are meant to be a voice and you are meant to speak out. And if you saved her, you can save more.” And I sort of promised myself I’d be on this recovery ride forever! I have been very vocal about the things I believe in and when others try to get me down, I just think back to that girl and how I helped her and how she helped me have a voice. And boy do I have a voice. The most harmful thing is hard to say. I’m sure many can relate though. I hid my problem for many years, but as it got worse, it was harder to hide. And as my family became aquatinted with the disorder they would say things like, “Why can’t you just eat, just put the food in your mouth, I could never not eat, I wish I had that problem, I want to lose weight, etc.” These are extremely harmful things but the people saying them, the people who love you most, have no idea. Sometimes it’s denial and sometimes, they just don’t realize how big of a problem it is. In my case, it was both. Here I am, more than ten years into my recovery and my dad has only really started to grasp the wholeness, the complete seriousness of anorexia and bulimia. And he saw me battle it for years. He saw the difficult recovery. He saw me in the hospital. He saw me unresponsive in an ambulance. So yes, and I’m sure many can relate, that those kind of comments are extremely harmful. They cause more stress and pull more triggers and they make the disorder worse. And it’s just a lack of education and information. Just proof that this is a problem that needs to be talked about more.
Is there anything else you would like to add that you want people to know?
There is so much I want to say, I could never have enough room. To all of those suffering and in recovery: YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL. You will get through this.