Why is it so hard to heal?
My eating disorders began during middle school, a time in my life you could not pay me to return to. I was an athlete, playing volleyball in the fall, basketball in the winter and soccer in the spring. By all accounts, I was really physically healthy and strong, but I wasn’t stick thin like some of the cheerleaders. I knew I never would be, it’s just now how my body is built. I can’t even touch my toes so I never gave one thought into becoming a cheerleader. But, for unknown reasons, one of the head cheerleaders decided I’d make a good target. She then said something to me that would haunt me for years and end up causing more damage than she probably ever imagined it would…
That was it. One sentence that hit like a ton of bricks. I don’t know why I allowed her opinion of me to influence me so, but it stuck. And from that point on in 7th grade, I began the long battle of hating my body.
I began by starving myself, trying to skip lunch, nibble at dinner, small things my parents wouldn’t notice. It grew worse into high school though, my body reacting the opposite of how I wanted. Even if I didn’t eat, I’d gain weight?! So the cycle began of not eating, starving, binge eating, throwing up, repeat. It was a nasty circle I kept going through…round and round and round. And still, I gained weight.
Well, it turns out, when you have an autoimmune disease that causes your thyroid to slow down — causing your metabolism and everything else to slow down with it — your body will work extra hard to keep whatever food you eat for later energy. So I gained more and more weight, causing my problems to get worse and worse.
I hated myself
Now a little older, a little wiser, I find myself consciously aware of how to heal the damage those years did to me. I know what I need to do, but why is it so hard to do it? I know old habits die hard, but I didn’t think they died this hard! I find myself giving excuses as to why I didn’t go to the gym, even though I want to be strong again. Why did I eat that knowing my body won’t benefit from it? I find myself stepping on the scale again, even though I know that number ‘doesn’t define me.’ No one likes to really talk about how hard it is to reverse eating disorders, how hard it is to retrain your body and brain, telling yourself that your body is not a failure, that you’re not ugly or unlovable, that all the other lies floating around aren’t true.
But then another year passes and you feel like you’ve made no progress.
So, to the one struggling to heal, the one struggling to get healthy, the one feeling like nothing you do is working…
I understand. I know what it’s like, the temptation to cancel plans because the thought of going out in public like that makes you sick. I know what it’s like to walk into the gym, knees shaking because people will be looking at you and you feel yourself whisper, ‘I’ll look the exact same after this workout so what’s the point?’ Maybe you turned down that date because you can’t understand why they’d want to go out with you? You sat through that job interview and all you could think was how they’ll notice your looks and not your resume.
I got you!
But let me tell you this, and I have to remind myself over and over again, so you will too: The fact that you are trying, the fact that you are working towards healing, the fact that you want it, makes you oh so brave. It’s not easy admitting your struggles, it’s not easy addressing those lies, and it’s not easy jumpstarting the healing process. People may make it seem that it is but it’s not! And you, dear friend, you’re doing it!
There will be days, maybe weeks — hell I’ve had months — where you lay it aside because you feel like you’ve failed too much or that nothing’s changed, but you pick it back up and you keep going.
It will take time… All that damage didn’t happen overnight so the healing won’t either. So don’t beat yourself up the next time you realize you’ve fallen back into old habits. Recognizing it is huge. Making a conscious effort to stop is huge. Don’t let bad days and mess ups overshadow those victories. Maybe no one notices your progress, no one knows that getting out of bed this morning was a victory, no one knows running one mile without stopping is worthy of Olympic-level celebration.
In case no one knows, let me say it: I’m proud of you.
I can look back on that moment in 7th grade and I can see a starting point, but I can also see the progress I’ve made since… I can see moments where I put myself first, where I felt beautiful, where I didn’t let anyone’s words or opinions overshadow my own. I’m not where I want to be but I know I’m on my way, baby steps, giant leaps and everything in between. I don’t know what that girl is up too; she probably still looks like a Barbie doll, maybe she’s still really popular, maybe she’s living a great life. Good for her.
I’m living mine.
Why is it so hard to heal?
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