By Sophie Balisky & Julianna Hindemith, Silver Linings volunteers
Letting go of an eating disorder can be very difficult. Over time you can develop a comfort zone with the illness that feels scary to leave. Recovery is thus a gradual process and requires hard work.
Both Julianna and I are volunteers with Silver Linings Foundation and we have personal experience with eating disorders. Though we empathize deeply with the discomfort that often accompanies recovery, we eventually overcame this challenge and ever since, our lives have truly flourished!
While recovery is a journey, we want you to know that it is so worth it! Here are some of the “silver linings” that you can look forward to:
Space for other things. My eating disorder directed the vast majority of my thoughts to food fixation and self-hatred. Now that I’ve recovered, I have the space to breathe and think bigger; I feel as if I’ve returned to myself. Food is just food again, I can focus on other things, and live life to the fullest. Once I let go of my eating disorder, beautiful things took its place: contentment with myself, an amazing relationship and uplifting new friends.
Empathy and understanding. I will never forget how lonely and hopeless my eating disorder made me feel, yet in the end the pain had a purpose. Now I can identify and empathize with those dealing with similar struggles, as well as those facing other mental illnesses. Recovery challenged me to reach a new level of self-awareness and acceptance that became the key to healing my eating disorder. Now nothing means more to me than being able to share my story of healing and offer empathy and encouragement to those still navigating the recovery process.
Growing into myself. The most important relationship I have in my life is the one I have with myself. The challenge of overcoming an eating disorder taught me this. My self-discovery helped me become more perceptive of everything around me and my life choices are now driven by self-love instead of fear. Also, I’ve become a more empathetic listener and I am patient for the life I deserve. I no longer let the idea of time intimidate me. It’s important to seek validation from within. This has helped me be more selective about who I associate with, and I no longer dwell on past mistakes. Above all, I’ve stopped putting others’ happiness before my own.
Feeling invincible. I remember crying myself to sleep wondering why me? Why do I agonize so much over my weight? Why do I care so much about the number on the scale? In all my fear, I never questioned my part in these harmful behaviours. I was in control all along but I avoided taking responsibility for my harmful thoughts. Everyone encounters adversity in life, yet it is how we handle the challenging moments that inspires growth and brings about positive change. Now, whenever negative thoughts regarding my self-worth creep in, I remember what I am capable of. I overcame something that controlled my life for 10 years. Recovery has made me feel invincible!
Friends, recovery is possible. Sophie and I are proof that an eating disorder is not a life sentence. The first step is being willing to work on your inner self. Also, you have to commit to leaving your eating disorder behind, seek insight, and begin to love and accept yourself.
When you do this and start believing in yourself again--or maybe for the first time--you will begin to discover the beautiful power and liberation on the other side of your eating disorder. Go forth, your life is waiting for you!