Finding the Sunshine: My Story

For those of you that may have missed it, here's the full version of the post that I wrote for Finding the Sunshine ! 

I was 14 years old when I first began my journey with eating disorders.

Although I had struggled with body dysmorphia for as long as I could remember, I didn't do anything to drastically change my body until the beginning of tenth grade. I decided to follow the "advice" of my health teacher and start a "calorie deficit" diet to lose weight (which I now realize didn't need to be lost in the first place).

The diet quickly turned into more than a weight loss plan, it was a obsession. I was constantly preoccupied with counting calories and controlling my food intake--I was convinced that I was being "healthy". Food was always in the forefront of my thoughts and I was always hungry; I would go to bed starving just so I could eat breakfast in the morning. However, during this time I wasn't willing to accept that what I was doing was wrong. I was happily miserable.

Towards the beginning of eleventh grade, I was bullied. I became depressed and turned to the one thing that I had been denying myself in order to find comfort: food. This quickly turned into a different disorder known as binge eating disorder. I would go into my family's kitchen and gorge on food for hours on end until my stomach couldn't take it anymore. I hated myself and it was also during this time that I became suicidal. 

Dr. Michael Spigarelli was the first person to tell me that an eating disorder--of any kind, is a (curable) mental disease; my disorders were not me or my fault. Additionally, he made sure to emphasize that depression and anxiety are often linked to disordered behaviors as well and also can act as catalysts for disorders to begin. Thanks to him, my therapist, and antidepressants, I was able to overcome my disease along with the depression that resulted. 

In all honesty, this was an incredibly dark time in my life; I had no hope for myself or for my future. There were times when I couldn't and didn't want to find the sunshine in anything. I accepted and feared that my life would always be a constant battle against myself; it felt as if I was slowly burying myself in a grave that I wouldn't be able to climb out of.

Although I'm painting a pretty dark picture of my past, things weren't always completely terrible. My faith in God acted as an anchor when all else failed. To Him, I wasn't a lost cause. He saw my potential and the person that I would become once I overcame my disorder. He constantly gave me moments of joy and relief from the hurricane of emotions and stress that I was experiencing. He blessed me with wonderful friends, wonderful doctors, and wonderful opportunities for change.

He saved me.
His love was like the sunrise after an endless night.

As I began taking steps towards recovery, I was able to find sunshine in the small things too, like going a day or two without bingeing or purging; going a day without hating my body, or being able to eat one meal as a "normal" person would.

Medication definitely helped me as well. Recovery was a lot easier once the burden of depression was eased from my shoulders.

From all of this, I was slowly able to take larger and more confident strides towards recovery. And as I did, my pathway seemed to become illuminated with a light that I had forgotten existed.
Although it wasn't easy to keep that light burning, by constantly picking myself up and brushing off my mistakes as I stumbled along that path, I was able to slowly find my way back into the warmth of the sun.

I’ve learned that the best way to find sunshine through eating disorders, depression, or any other trial, is to be easy on yourself and accept your own pace--recovery doesn’t happen in a day.  Find joy in the small victories and learn from your losses. Remember to tell yourself that: “Even if I fall on my face, I’m still moving forward”.

Also, there is no shame in using medication to overcome a mental disease or illness--like physical diseases and illnesses, they should be treated and can be cured.

I know for a fact that I would not be where I am (or even alive) today without the help of antidepressants, medical care, and counseling.

Although I've been officially recovered for almost a year now, I still try to find the sunshine within the trials that I experienced. In order to do this, I refuse to see myself as a victim of the mental disorders and diseases I’ve experienced. They were terrible and difficult, but they made me into who I am today. To me, feeling sorry for myself would be like taking a step backwards into the darkness that I had worked so hard to emerge from.

Going through my eating disorder (and the depression that followed) was like being thrown into a cold, dark cave. At times I had to crawl on my knees and cling to it’s walls to move forward, but eventually I saw the light that existed outside of it. I continued to move forward and eventually, the closer I got to the light, the easier things became. Instead of crawling, I was able to stand. Instead of walking and clinging to walls, I was able to run without any supports.

And let me tell you,

Now that I’m out of the cave, I can see sunshine everywhere.

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