Why I'm Grateful for My Eating Disorder
Whether you're familiar with the ins-and-outs of eating disorders or merely have a general idea of what they are, you probably read the title of this post and scrunched up your face a bit. I mean, why in the world would anyone be grateful that they have a mental illness, let alone a mental illness with the highest mortality rate of them all?
Don't get me wrong -- eating disorders suck. They steal your time, health, mind, and happiness, and they leave you a shell of a person. Your thoughts swirl with images of food and calories and weight, leaving no room for thoughts of anything else. Slowly, the invasive voice of the eating disorder disguises itself as your own, and you leave yourself behind in order to make room for your new commander in chief. It's a painful illness to overcome and an even more painful illness to live with.
But even after all of that, I'm grateful for my eating disorder.
Now let me explain: I am not saying that there is anything good abut having an eating disorder. Eating disorders are dangerous, and they rob you of your life. But what I am saying is that by having an eating disorder -- and more importantly, by recovering from an eating disorder -- I've been able to learn and grow as a person in ways I never could have imagined. And I'm so grateful for that.
When I originally sought out treatment for my eating disorder, my goal was to get my life back to the way it was before, to be the person I had been prior to my deep dive into incredibly disordered behaviors. I held onto this goal for quite some time. I thought that was what was supposed to happen when someone recovered: you live like the disease had never even happened. The problem was, you don't go through something like an eating disorder and come out the other side the same person.
And thank goodness for that.
I am who I am today because of my eating disorder. It gave me a reason to need treatment, and thus it gave me the opportunity to examine myself on a level that I would have never ventured to without such a catalyst. I learned more about myself in the span of a few years of treatment than most people will learn about themselves in a lifetime.
Treatment forced me to face the deepest, ugliest parts of myself -- all the parts the eating disorder was helping me to ignore. It's because of unearthing my deep-seated traumas, fears, and flaws that I've been able to grow and flourish in such a positive direction. Nothing is more freeing.
And as crazy as it sounds, my eating disorder gave me a purpose in this life. After going through my own struggles and recovery process, it became clear that my intention on this earth is to help others heal. My struggle allows me to see others struggling and give them the hope and support they need in order to find themselves and overcome this illness.
This terrible illness has gifted me relationships that I will hold onto for the rest of my life. I met my best friend in treatment and have been blessed to come across mentors and supporters throughout my journey. These are people that I would never have crossed paths with otherwise, but my life is so much more full because of them.
My disorder taught me what is truly important in life: connection, passion, love, and growth. It took losing everything that mattered for me to realize what mattered most and just how much I had. I gained a new perspective on life and a new appreciation of the little things.
I found strength in vulnerability. Treatment forced me to open up and accept help from others, and I now have a much healthier relationship with emotional intimacy because of it.
It is easy -- and important -- to recognize how much the eating disorder has stolen from you. But it is also easy to get stuck in a "why me" complex when all you focus on are the negatives. I'm in the field of thought that everything happens for a reason, and by finding some of those outlying positives that have come from your plight with an eating disorder, it can be easier to accept it as a crucial part of your life's development. (Granted, those positives can only come if you choose to recover. There is nothing positive about an active eating disorder).
So, for as much life as my eating disorder has stolen from me, I remain grateful. Because recovering gave me so much more life to look forward to -- life that is even better having learned all I did from my time with ED.