by Sarah Maxwell
Six months ago I was doubtful I would ever get to the place I am at right now. Rewind a year and I honestly thought it was impossible. For the past 10 years my life was ruled by anorexia. I felt trapped, but I could see no escape. I did not think life could be different, that there were things that mattered more than the size of my body. I felt undeserving of any better, I was not capable or worthy of truly living.
How very wrong I was. At the end of last year I was fortunate enough to travel to the USA to a residential treatment facility, which honestly saved my life. I was petrified about what was to come, how much weight I would gain, how much I would hate my growing body, the emotions I would feel and ultimately the possibility of loosing my eating disorder for good. I know that might sound ridiculous to some, especially those who have not suffered with an eating disorder. But it became my source of comfort, my best friend and the only thing I felt “good” at. When I was overcome with feelings of unworthiness and self-hatred, my eating disorder was there to keep me company and provide me with a false sense of accomplishment. But it had robbed me of my identity, hope, joy, dreams, confidence, and ambition. It stole my energy, drive and determination. It taught me to respond with “I’m fine”, to lie and hide my feelings. It took away my freedom to live, and my freedom to be “me”.
But after many years, this so called “best friend” of mine didn’t seem so great anymore. I was miserable, exhausted and desperate for something to change, so I flew across the world to see what more life had to offer. I was unaware of the severity of my situation and the tight grasp my eating disorder had over me. But I was challenged to see things differently, and my eating disorder refused to give up without a fight. But slowly cracks started to show, as little by little I learned to surrender and embrace the support. I gained evidence that it is okay to not be okay, and I am loved regardless of my struggles.
Countless times I wanted to give up, but I was taught there is so much more to me than my body, and that my size has no bearing on my worth as a person. I learnt to express my emotions, to be vulnerable and to use my voice. I discovered that not only was I capable of recovery, but deserving of it also. I learnt that I am more than my eating disorder, to disobey and ignore it, and that my body does not deserve to be scrutinised, but nourished and respected. I learnt that food is not the enemy, that it is delicious and there to be enjoyed. I learnt to laugh, smile and be silly, and formed friendships I previously thought were not possible. I regained energy, confidence, and my desire to live again.
Now back in Australia, I can honestly say I do not know the person that I was 6 months ago. The ritualistic behaviours and thoughts seem so foreign, I can not understand their purpose and the tiny life and body I was living in is anything but desirable. I can now go out to a meal and enjoy the company and conversation, instead of plagued with fear about what I am eating. I can leave the house for a day and not be an anxious wreck about where and what time I would eat my meals. I am not ashamed of my body, I no longer hide it in multiple layers. I get excited about things, and I have hope.
Not every day is perfect, some days I can hear the whisper of my eating disorder, but the majority of the time I ignore it and on the off chance I give in, I pick myself up and keep on fighting. I have begun living the life that I deserve, on my own terms, not those of the eating disorder.
I no longer feel trapped. I am free to live the life I choose.
Nobody deserves to live their life controlled by the voice of an eating disorder, to have their worth reduced to the size of their body. That is no life at all.