Eating Disorder Awareness Week: Closing Remarks

Wow! From the stories shared to the overwhelming support we've received, this week has been amazing!

I hope that Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2016 has been informational and inspirational for you as you've read through the stories and content that were posted. Although the individuals featured this week shared similar disorders, none of the experiences with those disorders were the same. Eating disorders are internalized and individualistic diseases that have varied causes, symptoms, and cures.

Eating disorders don't discriminate. They affect individuals of all shapes, sizes, ages, and genders; however, we often tend to stereotype what a victim looks like or how a victim should act--further perpetuating the epidemic. As a collective whole, society knows that eating disorders are commonplace occurrences, but because not enough (or diverse enough) survivors feel like they can speak out about them and because the public tends to shy away from speaking in detail about disorders, victims are often left feeling isolated, alone, or believing that they don't have a disorder to begin with.

Eating disorder awareness is more than a week in February, it's a necessity.

To anyone who is currently fighting for recovery or fighting just to survive another day: recovery is out there. Self-acceptance is out there. Eating without thinking is out there.

To everyone else: you can make a positive difference in the life of someone with a disorder by simply being understanding of what they're experiencing through awareness and patience.

I want to give a special thanks to the writers of the stories that were shared this week, I'm sure your words impacted and changed lives--your stories impacted others in ways that my story can't. Thank you for having the courage to write about your experiences and to be so open with us about your disorders. I know just how hard that can be.

To everyone else, thanks for taking the time to read what's been shared. Without you, this week wouldn't have been possible :)

With all of this in mind, here's to Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2016! This has been a great experience and I can't wait to see what stories will come our way next year!

Eating Disorder Awareness Week: Story 3

As the last submission for the week, I thought that this story had a great message to end on. Eating disorders can feel like mountains that are impossible to climb, but as someone who has recovered, the view from the top makes all of the hard work worth it.

Many emotions are surfacing as I sit down to catalog the unfolding of the last few years.  Writing about my disorder demands honesty and introspection--two things I don't always feel comfortable applying to one of my biggest secrets.

Several years ago I was on a study abroad in the UK.  At the time I was really out of shape, meaning, physically incapable of doing much.  One day, our group set out to scale the one of the highest peaks in Scotland, Ben Lomond.  At base camp I was certain I wouldn't make it.  I prepared a list of socially acceptable excuses to quit halfway through: a sprained ankle, dehydration, accompanying another quitter back to camp; reaching the summit was honestly not even an option in my mind.  Well, as the ascent got vertical and hot and windy, my escape plan surfaced as an easy out, but as I looked around at my friends I could see they were struggling too.  Sensing their strained efforts on the same road gave me the courage to be seen panting and gasping and pausing at every switchback.  Eventually I could see the final climb and knew I was going to make it--as sure as I had been that morning of the impossibility of setting foot on that summit--there it was!  In reach!  I huffed up the jagged incline with an energy and confidence I'd never felt before, and when I finally stood overlooking the shadow-dappled valley sprawling long and deep below me, I wept in disbelief.  For the first time in my life, and in a beautifully physical, tangible, calculable way, I could look behind (or in this case, below) me and see a great distance covered--proof of progress--of leaving something far from me and walking toward a greater goal. 

My eating disorder isn't a mountain I've conquered just yet--but I am on my way and tonight as I plunk out my story, I feel much like I did on that mountain.  I can look back and see that despite my doubts and fear about the future, I have come a long ways from where I've been, and that gives me courage to press on.  I hope something in my experience is a thread of connection for someone who needs it.  I'll begin at what I think is the beginning:

I started gaining weight in the third grade.  I remember sensing my mother's concern at my rounding figure and resenting her efforts to curb my food intake.  I began comparing myself to the slender girls at school.  Soon my weight began affecting my athletic ability in PE; I felt great shame in that and began avoiding physical activity and its accompanying embarrassment.  I'm not sure when but it was around this time my binge eating began.  I ate for comfort, for entertainment, and perhaps in rebellion.  My weight skyrocketed and my confidence began a downward spiral I'm still in the process of calculating. 

Junior high and high school were particularly painful.  By this point my weight and eating habits were out of control.  My parents took me to concerned doctors and diets were administered, but I never stuck to one.  I ate in secret, I binged at school, at home, probably every day.  I was miserable, but I don't think I was fully aware of how sick I was.  I longed for social acceptance, for attention from boys.  I developed a moral superiority complex around the slender girls at school, placing myself above them by degrading their 'vanity' or their 'immaturity.'  I made them into the classic mean girls in an attempt to make me feel better about my miserable self.  That's had a lasting effect on me and I wish desperately I could undo the damage I authored to myself and my view of others during those years. 

My junior and senior year I got more serious about losing weight.  My parents sent me to a weight loss camp.  I joined the track team (a self-inflicted humiliation that I look back on with great tenderness and self-love; I am proud of doing something hard, physically, emotionally, and socially).  Track season was the first time I ever slimmed down.  The weight came back and by sophomore year of college, I was at my highest weight ever.  Half way through sophomore year I deferred college to serve an eighteen month volunteer mission for my church.  I spent some time at home with my family in the months leading up to it and my mom and I went on a pretty restrictive diet together.  While the diet was effective, I developed an unhealthy relationship with food and became well-practiced in deprivation.  Understandably, the weight loss and the resulting confidence gave me a high that was hard to come down from.  I left on my mission determined to continue my weight loss, no matter the cost. 

Over the next year the weight slowly came back.  When I recognized this I snapped into a control mode that scared me.  For so many years of my life I had no self-control whatsoever, but in those few months at home I had replaced my addiction to food with an addiction to weight loss and the lengths I went to in my rebound were scary.  I began purging--something I had never done before and I got very good at it.  In a very short amount of time I lost all the weight I'd regained and more. I lied to everyone around me about what I was doing.  I was deep, deep in self-deception, refusing to admit to anyone, let alone myself what was going on. 
By the time I went home I was thinner than I had ever been.  These habits continued and intensified as I began dating my future husband.  During our engagement I lied about the obvious weight loss and secretly engaged in purging, restricting, and more.  What I didn't see then was how transparent the situation was to everyone around me, especially my fiance, and how hurtful it was to him that I not only refused to share my struggle with him, but that I lied about it too!  Not a recommended way to begin a marriage. 

Dress fittings sucked me into dangerous depths of deception and self-abuse.  On my wedding day I was smaller than I had been for decades.  I'll say it again, it was a high.  An unstable, self-consumed high.  To his everlasting credit, I married a man who cared enough about me to call me out on my lies and destructive behavior.  Those first few months of my marriage were full of painful conversations and realizations about what I was doing and the damage it was breeding.  That was the beginning of honesty.  For me it was hard.  I wasn't ready to give up my desire to be thin.  I felt justified in chasing a dream I'd been deprived of for my whole life.  But soon the charade caught up with me and I was forced to give up my secret vices and tools one by one.  Sadly this surrender wasn't by choice.  I wish I'd had the courage and the love for my husband to trust him with my struggle without being caught in lies first.  But slowly I let the walls be knocked down and then with his encouragement, I sought help in a recovery group for women with eating disorders. 

I remember hearing some of the women speak about being on the other end of recovery.  I scoffed at their evangelical testimonies that they were totally healed-completely free of the chains of the disorder!  I knew better. This monster will haunt me for the rest of my life--sure I might learn to hide him away in a closet and eat and be healthy, but you can't kill him.  You just can't.  Well, I was wrong.
As I attended meetings and grew in humility, I began to believe that recovery, in the truest sense, is possible for me.  I saw a genuine light in the eyes of the recovered women I befriended.  I began to trust the confidence they exuded and became willing to abandon my fears and faulty thinking.  Hope came pouring into my life. 

I'm still insecure about my body and their are days I fall back into old patterns.  But I've been blessed by the influence of amazing souls who point me to my true identity and worth.  I am surrounded by true beauty:  it is not perfection or idealism.  It is the love that redeems and values broken things, making them whole.  I'm okay with my imperfections; I'm in the process of embracing them, and the miracle of it is that as I do, I become better able to embrace others as they are.  I guess that's joy of ascending out of the lowlands of personal struggle--for we all travel those dark and lonely valleys, whatever they may be.  Climbing out and up gives us a perspective that can cheer and strengthen others--to see their potential and love them in their low places. 

I'm a better person for working through this challenge.  It's given me a chance to look myself square in the eyes and conquer demons in the darkest corners of my heart.  It's bred compassion and charity for others.  I'm happier for separating counterfeit beauty and enduring beauty. Life has become very bright with hope as I climb to higher ground.  

Eating Disorder Awareness Week: Story 2

As women, how often do we expect our lives and our bodies to perfect? As I was reading through this next submission, I found a lot of the fears and warped realities that I've experienced both during and after my eating disorders. Although I realize now that I wasn't born to look perfect or be perfect, I do try to make a constant effort everyday to be perfect in loving myself.

My eating disorders, at their roots, have had little to do with eating. They are the product of a fantasy which follows me around everywhere I go in the back of my brain, penetrating my perceptions, even when I don’t notice it there, even when it peeks into conscious view and I am ashamed of it. 

"My fantasy is simple, though it has infinite incarnations: in my fantasy, the world is about me.

Because the world is about me, all persons and events bend to my will. I am happy and successful, receiving rewards and recognition for my Ph.D. research, landing a writing job that is lucrative, stimulating, and world-changing (and somehow, simultaneously, effortless). Though I have many fans and admirers abroad (never the type to interfere with the comfort of daily anonymity), I am firmly anchored by love in my most intimate relationships. Each and every guy I meet wants to be with me—how could they not? They find me drop-dead gorgeous, the just-right type of thin, but also smart, witty, and insightful. I am both their erotic dream come-to-life and the only one they can bear their soul to (though they never burden me with more than I can handle, perhaps because I intuitively know how to handle all their troubles). In my fantasy, love has no aches or growing pains; it comes to me like a resplendent, overflowing fountain, because that’s just how stellar I am. With time, after having innocently broken many hearts, (causing me a very-virtuous-though-not-scarring sorrow), I will choose from among them someone both humble and ambitious, minimalistic and wealthy, gentle, sensitive and ruggedly assertive. We will marry on a blissful 75-degree day in my parent’s backyard.  He’ll never leave my side, for just the thought of being with another woman will make him gag. Our children, if we have them, will be beautiful, bright, and well-behaved. My pregnancies will never change my figure. When we travel to Egypt, Europe, and the Marshall Islands as a family, somehow my children will acquire extraordinary educational experiences while never seeming to be there, always allowing me plenty of space to enjoy romantic time with my husband. I’ll age slowly, if I do at all. When I age, I won’t feel it—I’ll be one of those surprisingly fit and lucid grandmothers who never has to pee in a bag, never forgets anyone’s name. In my fantasy, all the good that the world has to offer, usually unevenly, haphazardly distributed across lives, is directed towards me.

This, more or less, is my fantasy: a life where I get everything I want, with all the thorny bits of life cut out. What do you think happens when this fantasy sits in the back of your mind each day? It makes me interpret everything in the world—from a piece of bread to a person—in terms of my fantasy. In the ways that life aligns with my fantasy, I’m ecstatic. In the ways that it doesn’t, I am pouty and frustrated. Obviously I try to temper my fantasy with service to others, learning, and grounding spiritual practices. Whenever I notice my fantasy is rearing its head, I recognize that it needs to be put to sleep. But sometimes it leaks so sneakily into my life so I barely even notice when it takes over.

And so it is that one summer, I developed an eating disorder. I got this idea that I ought to have a slim and attractive, “perfect” body, like in my fantasy—none of those curves or cellulite spots like normal female bodies had. Brownies, ice cream, peanut butter, and soda came to be “evils” to me that I should shun and avoid, unworthy of the body I envisioned for myself. In my fantasy, I was good. I was disciplined. I always said no to evil. For over a year, I delighted in my capacity to restrain myself from food, sticking to stringent rules about what I could and could not eat. Each meal time, I played a pleasurable, masochistic game with myself, seeing how little I could eat to feel full. Though I kept my distance from food, I thought about it often, as if I had to keep my eye on it so as not to trip out of control. When I received compliments for having lost weight, I knew I was on the right track. Guys asked me out at about the same rate as before, but I strode proudly down the sidewalks of campus as if everyone admired my new thin body. As if my fantasy was theirs, too, and they knew I was succeeding.

The problem was that my fantasy was a fantasy. It is not possible to cut out the thorny bits of life, to maintain the body I wanted without all sorts of costs and ill effects. I developed such high anxiety about food that after months of turning my head from it like a pious saint from sin, my discipline broke. I began eating in their entirety the mashed potatoes, boiled carrots, and rolls my mother scooped gratuitously onto my plate.  I began saying yes to pistachio ice cream and Oreos. I woke up to the pleasures of eating, again—but this was no easy thing. Food was cruel, for how it leered at me--that rich ganache frosting on my brother’s birthday cake, the dense, chewy blueberry bagel that settled like a bulbous water balloon in my stomach. I wanted to be disciplined like I was before, but there was no going back, no un-forgetting of tastes and textures in my mouth and the satisfaction of a full stomach.

Still locked in my fantasy, I continued to overthink food and eating, but this twist in my lack of discipline bred different behaviors. If food would not keep its distance, then I must consume every last bite of its nearness. When I was alone in the kitchen, it was as if the world, all its people, and time itself disappeared. The pantry, fridge, and cupboards were chests of treasure bestowed from above. With the rules gone, each bite was an ecstasy of personal anarchy in my mouth. The chocolate chips, the cold pizza, the banana bread—each piece was mine, mine, mine, even when it wasn’t mine—when it belonged to my roommate---even when it wasn’t mine for the moment—when I had intended it for a late afternoon snack— there was always more, and more, and more—and when I finished eating one thing I’d move quietly on to another, unquestioningly, like turning a page in a long, long book.

After these shameful evenings alone in the kitchen, I tried various techniques to stuff my life back into my fantasy. I’d say to myself, “I’ll skip breakfast the rest of the week, and cut out sweets for the next month” as if restriction could overwrite my hours of indulgence. Or I’d take a different tactic, “It’s not that big of a deal. Everyone pigs out on occasion,” as if I could still be the girl in my fantasy even if I ate a lot. I began meeting with a therapist and dietician, wanting help to regain control. To my frustrated surprise, they tried to tell me that I didn’t need control—I needed self-acceptance. My therapist gave me stories to read of people with binge-eating disorders far more severe than mine. After looking over my food log, my dietician tried to persuade me that I only felt I was out of control because I was letting go of my restrictions, learning to enjoy food again. “It looks like you just overeat on occasion,” she said with a tone somewhere between consolation and condescension, “These aren’t abnormal amounts of food.” I was doing nothing wrong, they insisted. Nothing wrong.

I listened to them. I carefully set down my goal to eat less. But the food wasn’t the problem. Nothing really changed until my fantasy was slowly uncovered to me.

One Spring term, I signed up for a yoga class on Monday and Wednesday afternoons. In a bright, broad room I spread out my mat parallel to the rows of other women and sat cross-legged on top of it. When our instructor came in, she directed us to rise to our feet, to begin the adjari breathing, and off we were for an hour of stretching and elegant straining. A floor-length mirror covered the left wall, which I peeked at furtively each time a pose allowed us to face it. I pretended to use the mirror to adjust my posture or the position of my hands, but really I was checking the size of my arms, legs, and waist.

One afternoon our instructor led us into the tree pose—lift your right leg, bend you knee, and place your foot gently on the inside of your left thigh. Keep your hands at heart center, or stretch them high above your head. We turned to face the mirrored wall, but my view that day was obstructed by several bodies in front of me. My eyes tried to seek a way past the shoulders and torsos, but suddenly I saw—
--I saw all these women, their arms outstretched, their calves trembling to balance; I saw a few of them glancing in the mirror as I was prone to do; I imagined them in front of other mirrors, in department store dressing rooms, trying on their yoga leggings, or in their bathroom mirrors, glaring themselves into make-up’ed beauty each morning.

“Is each of them as worried about their appearance as I am about mine?” I asked.
And after I asked, I saw more: I saw these women looking both ways to cross the street, trudging their way to the testing center, slipping on snow, frowning as they entered a class they didn’t like. I saw them fighting with mothers, forgiving their sisters, nervously delivering talks in church. I saw them crying when they received rejection letters from programs, jumping up and down elatedly when they received scholarships.  I saw these women and I cared. In a moment of shocking and liberating clarity, I saw how wasteful it was for us to persist in our individual fantasies, which blinded us to each other. Each of these women seemed overwhelmingly good and beautiful to me. As my arms reached high above my head, tears sprung to my eyes and I dropped my fantasy, for their sakes. I wanted to enjoy and participate in the rich, lovely, and important world buzzing all around me, and I wanted them to, as well.
Nearly two years later, that moment serves as a lighthouse in my life. Recovery from my eating disorders has been a slow and stilted, often painful process that will likely continue throughout my life.  I see now, however, that the problem is only marginally related to food. The problem is when I give reigns to my fantasy, when I want to run from the imperfect, thorny life I have for the blissful life of my fantasy. I remind myself that the blissful life isn’t real—even when I was at my thinnest, when I was supposedly doing everything “right”, I was anxious and miserable. And I remind myself what I learned among those women in my yoga class that day, that this imperfect life has a strength and loveliness all on its own which is actually more gripping, compelling, and grounding than the ridiculous life of my fantasy. The struggle is not to control life, or my body, but to see it more clearly for the lovely thing that it is."

Eating Disorder Awareness Week: Story 1

Shortly after I started looking for people who would want to share their eating disorder stories, I received this story anonymously in an email. As I was reading it, I found so much of myself in this individual's words and experiences--and I hope you can too. 

If you've ever had a secret, you know how hard it is to finally open up and talk about it. The part of you that has been so carefully hidden suddenly exposed is overwhelming and a lot to deal with. That's why it was hard for me to write this. It's something I'm still not totally comfortable talking about, because it's still something I have to deal with every single day. But the point of me sharing is to remind everyone, myself included, is that it's ok to struggle. No matter how hard you try, you will always have bad days. What matters is that you don't let those days win. When you've been in so much darkness and pain for so long, it's hard to believe there is still light out there. So here's the summary of my story. It will probably be really long so hopefully you'll make it to the end ;) If anything, I just hope sharing what I've been through can be at least a small help to somebody. 

"I cannot remember a time where I wasn't overtly aware of my body. Food has always been a weird thing for me, something that was a source of so much pleasure and joy and what family get togethers usually revolved around. Dinner was always the best when I got to pick my favorite, usually spaghetti and garlic bread. Sneaking too many popsicles from the freezer with my best friend when mom wasn't looking was one of the highlights of summer. Yet I always felt in the back of my mind that food was associated with something negative. As a true-born girly girl, I started reading fashion and celebrity gossip magazines before I was at an age I could even pronounce all the words. I just knew the basics: these were all famous, celebrated women, fawned over because of their beauty. I grew up absolutely in love with the Olsen twins, often feeling like I was their third, long lost triplet. As they got older and conversation often turned to their itty bitty size, I was well aware and made sure my body looked like theirs.  When Mary Kate was admitted into rehab for anorexia at the age of 17, I was about the young age of 10. But I still clearly remember the moment I thought, "I need to always look like that. She's what I'll be when I'm finally grown up." As twisted as it sounds, I admired her. Her self-discipline. Her control. I figured she probably had everything together and saw her as success, something to strive toward. That was around the time the subconscious thoughts became obsessive and with a purpose. I never ate one thing without very carefully considering whether or not it was worth the calories. I remember running to the bathroom in between classes during junior high to check if I looked thin enough in the full-length mirror. I was constantly comparing my body to every other girl's and if I felt like they were skinnier than me, I was a failure. Being what in my mind was "perfect" was more important than anything else. I would go between periods of starving myself to losing control and eating everything in sight. Things only got worse once I figured out how easily I could get rid of the food once I felt I had eaten too much. For the next six years, I silently battled inside with an extreme eating disorder. There were times where it wasn't as bad and I could go a few weeks eating regularly without too much guilt, but the majority of the time I was constantly wracked with depression and absolutely unbearable anxiety. I completely lost who I was as a person because the only thing I thought was important was the way I looked. This fixation cost me the ability to focus on anything else, like doing well in school or being a good friend or sister. I felt like I was trapped in this tunnel of trying to appear so perfect that I just became empty on the inside. I didn't care about anything other than being pretty and skinny. My friends and family noticed something was wrong, but I was so deep in my disordered mind that I would deny anything if I was ever confronted. I did pretty well hiding my secret and managed to get through most of my teen years as a fairly happy, normal kid. But this big thing nagging inside of me still managed to ruin friendships, relationships, and opportunities. I felt that the way I looked was the only thing I had to offer or contribute to the world, the only reason I mattered. I was slowly falling further and deeper into this dark web of obsession of pressure. 

The summer before I turned 21, I moved out into my first apartment with a friend. Being on my own gave me even more control of how I ate without anybody watching or judging. This newfound freedom kicked off a downward spiral. My diet basically consisted of Diet Coke and Xanax. With so little mental clarity and so much depression, I began doing things I knew were wrong but just didn't care. I made choices I still regret and was at the absolute lowest point in my life. Within three months, I was down 20 pounds and barely functioning. There were times I couldn't get up off the floor because I was so weak. Looking back now, it's all a huge blur and I can't believe I was living that way. Being moved out, I didn't see my family much but once I started visiting, they noticed the drastic change in my body and mind and only then did they realize how sick I really was. That August, I was admitted into a rehabilitation center and diagnosed with anorexia, bulimia, and intense anxiety. I spent what was without a doubt the hardest month of my life in the center, constantly working with nutritionists and therapists and finally accepting that I needed help. It was such a war inside. I knew I couldn't keep living the way I had been but I was still so scared to give up the only thing that I had used to cope and stay in control. The funny thing is, by restricting my entire world into this tiny, unrealistic box, I ended up losing all the control I really had. I had to quit my job, completely surrender myself to recovering, and awkwardly deal with questions of where I had been and what was going on. As far as things have come in our society, there is still a huge stigma surrounding most types of mental illness today. You might be embarrassed or afraid to ask for help, but I can tell you firsthand that it is the ONLY way to start down the path of getting better. Keeping things locked inside and to yourself will do nothing but eat you alive and make your problems 10 times worse. It's taken practically my entire life, but I've finally discovered one of the most therapeutic and beneficial things I can do is just reach out to someone. I've even been able to overcome a lot of my issues simply by saying them out loud. Telling someone else your worries usually helps you put them in perspective and realize how much you had blown it up in your head. It's been almost a year since I've left treatment, and although I still have days filled with hopelessness, loneliness, and despair, I am so incredibly grateful I'm no longer in that horrible place I was for so many years. I still go to therapy and nutrition appointments weekly and I'm still learning to accept myself and a healthier lifestyle, but I have gained so much knowledge and insight in the process. 

Once I really started dedicating my life to change, I started seeing things differently. One of the strongest things that hit me was, I don't judge other people by their weight. I don't think anyone is a better person just because they're thin. I don't know why it was so hard for me to process that it's the same the other way around. Others don't look at me and immediately decide my worth by my the size of my thighs. Being skinny doesn't define me. For a long time I think I didn't want to get better. When you have a disorder, it tends to become your identity. Overcoming my eating disorder would mean losing a part of myself, the only part I really knew. I didn't feel that I was smart, successful, or really worth anything. Who was I if I wasn't The Skinny Girl? It's taken me years to understand, but I am not a body. I am a soul. My Father in Heaven has so wonderfully blessed with me a beautiful, amazing vessel to live in. Because of this body I can walk through the park and feel the sun on my skin. I can run and chase my dog around the yard. I can pick up one of my little crying cousins and hold them in my arms until they feel the comfort coming from my strong, beating heart. And one day, if I am lucky enough to be so blessed, I'll experience that this human body is able to not only create another human body, but carry that sweet little growing soul inside of me. I want to be able to cherish and nourish that baby with everything I can give them. Who are we to nitpick and abuse these bodies when they themselves are precious gifts from our Heavenly Father? There are so many out there who have been given the challenge of a physical illness or ailment where getting up and just walking outside is impossible. Think of those born without limbs, without functioning organs, even without sight. What right do I have to hate my body when I've been so incredibly gifted with receiving one so healthy and strong? Why is it that we don't look at ourselves in amazement and insane appreciate every single day? We all have a subconscious desire to be perfect in some way, which is good because that's what keeps us moving forward. I still struggle with my insecurities every morning. But slowly and surely, I've learned it's not about how flat my stomach is, nor how thin my arms look or how small my waist is, or how others see me. It's the kind heart I have, the caring nature I can use to nurture others, the mind that has the capacity to learn and retain new information constantly. The way my Father in Heaven sees me. No matter how you feel about your body, no matter how much or how little confidence you have, try to see yourself the way God sees you. You are so much greater in His eyes. And no matter how heavy your burdens are, He is there to help us every step of the way.

It should be easy to remember all these things, but we are human. That's why I try to thank God for my life and my health every day. For anyone experiencing depression, anxiety, worthlessness, self-loathing, an eating disorder, or anything along those lines, remember that you're not alone. There's no shame in your trials. We all have them, no matter what they may be. And you are more than that. Try to see things in an eternal perspective. Despite life's difficulties, look at the miracles we experience every day. Life is too wonderful and amazing to go through wasting it. I know positivity isn't just something we can switch on, I only wish it were that easy. But by taking things slowly and focusing on one thing daily that you've been blessed with, it will start to get easier. Have strength, faith, and gratitude. Whether you're getting outside help or simply turning to God, it's never, ever impossible to get out of the dark and into the sunshine that this life has to offer."