Let’s see how far we’ve come.
The word alone hardly means anything, and to those who accomplish such a feat it means something vastly different based solely on what this factor is which you are recovering from. The word alone could take on any meaning it is given, ranging from the recovery from a physical illness to a quick recovery from a sports-related injury to a long, drawn-out recovery from a mental disease.
I suppose I should pause to tell you that this has been on my mind for months, ever since the idea of recovering crossed my mind. You see, for over half a year I have deprived my body from the nutrients it needs to function normally and have been so far educating myself on what it’s going to take to get back to a point where I can operate completely once again.
But there’s something about being ill, not being able to work out, being able to eat whatever I want because I must regain weight and therefore energy. Something about the attention. The panic that begins to set in as I eat a lot that makes eating a lot somehow okay. The encouragement the people around me feel obligated to give me as I finish the last bite of a large plate, because they fear I will cry, panic, do all I can to get rid of the nutrients in my stomach, waiting to be dispersed into the rest of my body. They fear my reaction. I am not who I was, I’m ill. I’m diseased. And they worry.
This is exactly why I must recover. Whether driven by fear or by something else, I will do what I can to keep from becoming one with this anorexic identity I’ve created for myself.
The word itself is seen as a positive trend – a constant improvement. This is far from accurate in the world of recovery I speak of. Because there is a voice I’m divorcing myself from. A voice which tells me constantly I do not deserve food. That I am hideous, worthless, and the only way I will be able to make a name for myself is to make this disease for myself a reality. Which it has. To avoid numbers, I will content myself with stating the fact that I am underweight. Not dangerously, but enough to stop a variety of healthy bodily functions from occurring. This scares me. Recovering is long. Recovering is hard. Recovering cannot be accomplished on my own. I fear food, but only sometimes. And less than I have in the past. I dislike the feeling of fullness. I am not used to it. Hunger is familiar.
Familiarity. Now there’s another word that is associated with positive trending, with health. We love to sit and talk amongst family in our living rooms, with a fire crackling or a storm letting loose outside our humble home. But familiarity becomes the enemy when those who are afflicted with “the voice” (which I will name Ana) cannot escape it. Familiarity is hunger, familiarity is emptiness, familiarity is weakness.
The months leading up to my personal recovery were spent in a daily battle between Ana and myself. She told me I was worthless. I had to run, every day, to earn breakfast. I measured minutes to allow for the food I would then carefully measure out for myself. I was intent on losing as much as I could. I loved to feel the control, it made me feel perfect. But only for a fleeting moment before Ana would challenge me once again to see that number decrease a pound again the next day. At a fourth of what my body needed to maintain the health I used to have, this was an easy task to accomplish. But soon it took its toll. It hurt me every day. I passed organic chemistry while under Ana’s influence and poisoned words. I excelled and earned my name a line on the Dean’s List for my school. My body hated me every day for it, though. I passed out twice, once while climbing stairs (because if I didn’t use the stairs I failed, of course) and once while dancing in the moonlight with a friend at midnight.
Ana chased that friend away as well. She depressed me. She created an environment of anxiety which surrounded each bite I took and guilted me into turning down a myriad of exciting events because there would be temptations and the potential for failure everywhere I went. If I ate, I failed. If I gained even a tenth of a pound, I failed. Her voice still hurts, the words she’s been telling me for nearly a year still bite through my skin and enter my veins.
Ana had been around, disguised as a lovely little girl who ran with me and spent each day telling me how great I was doing losing weight, eating protein, and got unusually excited every time the scale dropped more than expected. I thought nothing of it until her mood turned sour. She began to chastize me for gaining weight. I reasoned with her. “Ana, people lose weight, people gain weight. It happens.” But Ana wouldn’t hear it, she told me calmly to do better tomorrow. I listened, reluctantly. She praised me the next day for losing again. Her affirmations grew in my life from exciting to important, and from important to the only thing I sought.
I pleaded with her to reconsider, to tell me I was beautiful. After all, she used to think I was beautiful when I completed a long run, and would let me eat protein bars and cinnamon rolls, and everything I loved. Her kindness diminished quickly and she grew more and more angry, every day demanding more of me. We wouldn’t ride a bus anywhere or drive to any location. We walked, we wandered, and to this day I hope I can wander and leave her behind.
Sometimes, I get a glimpse of my life before anorexia took over.
I see the sunrise and remember why I wake up early. I walk outside and embrace the wind without huddling in my blankets and black coffee. Sometimes I can conceptualize running outside for the exhilaration instead of the body Ana tells me I must attain. I crave health. I crave the smiles, the heartfelt laughter which used to be so familiar to me. I know it’s still there, that freedom, that beauty.
This is recovery.
The knowledge that perfection, that image which poisons the minds it enters, is neither possible nor beautiful. The understanding of beauty as the nature of a person’s soul, not the appearance of their legs, stomach, even face. The belief that a smile is the most lovely thing I could wear, that my worth is not measured in inches between my thighs, ounces I’ve lost since last week, or size of my clothes. These things are last in the mind of God, so should be not even considered in my own mind.
And that’s Ana’s cue to get the hell out of my life.
I haven’t brought God up yet, and unfortunately I have no explanation other than I am human and do not yet understand his love for me. But he is precisely why it doesn’t matter what I look like, how small or large I am, or whether I weigh less than the other girls in the room.
My worth should never be decided due to the constant comparisons I make with those around me. My worth is decided by the creator of the universe. He has already deemed me priceless, bought at the ultimate price, one I can’t even begin to describe because of how incredible it is. Why would I bother with these images, with these foreign concepts of worth which are so far from what I was created to understand and live for? My purpose is simple – glorify God. Not my own body, nor was I made to hate that body which was created, for me, as a vessel for that simple and truly perfect task.
I am such an undeserving, ungrateful, selfish human. That’s the truth. It’s not Ana talking, nor is it my own conception. It is the undeniable fact which led me to be cursed and directed toward death.
What I fail to see, and Ana actively blocks from my mind, is the life offered to me, which frees me from all these hateful and hurtful ideas. God did this for me. For ME. That’s his infinite and beyond-comprehension love for me. That I should not suffer with this disease. That I should not die. That I should live a full and glorifying life, healthy so I can love Him and be that lively, healthy glowing light which points inevitably to his love for me. God… only by your grace. I love you.
Ana has no place when you rule my life. I love you.