National Eating Disorders Association
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Recovery

As not every eating disorder recovery story is discussed in the media and not every eating disorder sufferer feels valid in their struggles, it is imperative for us to work towards building a most inclusive community. What this means is that we uplift every body — not just some — and work towards creating spaces that are welcome to all. 

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What I’ve learned in ten years of therapy is this: Honesty and communication are two of the most essential components of eating disorder recovery. There are, inarguably, a number of additionally crucial tenets of recovery; for the sake of this entry, however, I will argue that few things offer as much consistent inner clarity as communicating openly with a therapist and, furthermore, yourself. 

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From a young age I knew I was different from other kids. I can’t pinpoint an exact eureka moment when I became aware that I was visibly disabled, but I do remember photographers arguing about where to put me in school photos. I couldn’t stand for extended periods of time, so I had to sit in a foldable chair while my classmates stood on the risers. 

Should she sit on the side or out front? Hmmm, that’s not right. Let’s move the chair.

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Awareness hurts, but it saved my life. Awareness is far more difficult than being ambivalent or ignorant, but it is absolutely necessary for recovery.

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Why do I do karate? I’ve wanted to do a martial art since I was a kid, but my mother’s strict no-violence policy wouldn’t allow it. In college, decreased parental supervision enabled me to finally live the dream. At least, that’s what I tell people. It’s not untrue, but it’s not the whole truth either.

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Eating disorders disconnect sufferers from healthy intuition by fixating on trivial externalities, falsely assigning meaning to numbers, objects, and food in an effort to soothe a damaged psyche. Having an eating disorder is living half in the failures of the past and half in the dreaded unknown of the future, and never fully aware of the present moment. 

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At the age of thirteen, I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa. Without proper support, understanding, or resources it took me ten years to receive the appropriate treatment I needed to recover. A year into recovery, I began my journey pursuing my master’s degree in occupational therapy. Having personal experiences with mental illness, I was interested in focusing my learning on occupational therapy and mental health (specifically eating disorders).

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While reflecting on this past World Eating Disorders Action Day (June 2, 2018), I realized how much I love the word “action.” It’s about doing what we can to make a difference. On a personal level, when I think about action against eating disorders, I think about self-care. 

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Self-care is a practice of sitting with discomfort. It is more than a manicure, a massage, or even therapy and meditation. What lies behind all these acts of self-care that we deem so estimable? Why are these acts so difficult, and at times painful to practice, for some of us? 

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My anxiety started with dress shopping. I secretly hoped for a fantasy moment of bridal beauty, to pull on something slinky and white and glow. Instead, the saleslady shook her head at the sample size dress and my, well, non-sample-size body. “I think we might be able to get this on you,” she said, which sounded like a threat. It took her all her might to wrestle the dress around me, and the result wasn’t pretty.

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