National Eating Disorders Association
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Love Heals: Eating Disorder Recovery Gave Me My New Best Friend

Charlotte Sandy

When I entered residential treatment at age 21, I did not believe I deserved love. I had struggled with an eating disorder for almost a decade at that point and was tired, depressed, and frustrated. I didn't re-admit to treatment with the hopes of recovery necessarily. I didn't want to continue living in the hell of my eating disorder, but I felt hopeless about my future. 

In treatment, I listened to my dietician and put one foot in front of the other. I went through the actions of recovery because the prospect of staying the same seemed unbearable. 

I met amazing people in treatment, including my new best friend, Janine, and I had an incredible treatment team. My dietician ate a "challenge dessert" with me when I was paralyzed with fear, and I confided in my therapist about some of my deepest fears of unlovability. I left treatment feeling hopeful about my life for the first time in years. 

After I left treatment, Janine and I stayed in touch and began visiting each other in our respective countries (she is from Vancouver, BC, and I now live in Michigan). At first, our gatherings and conversations were treatment-focused. We held each other accountable and loved one another through recovery slips and victories. 

In the last few years, our lives have changed. We have identified less with our eating disorder identities and have explored different aspects of our identities. Both of us are passionate about children, social justice, politics, and Disney. 

I met a man who I never would have believed I deserved back when I was 21, and when we started planning our wedding, having Janine as my maid of honor was a no-brainer. I wanted to make sure we captured at least a bit of our backstory in our wedding pictures, which I represented with Ensure. 

Although weight restoration and eating disorder recovery are never easy, I cannot ever forget this crucial part of recovery that set me on a trajectory to have a life I never would have imagined years ago. Only in recovery could I love the amazing man who is my husband and be present with all moments with him, the good and the bad. 

If I've learned one thing in my recovery journey, it is that love heals. After experiencing crippling isolation and self-hatred for years in my eating disorder, I finally allowed people to penetrate through the iron-clad walls that I had around my heart. 

Recovery is possible, and life is possible. Sometimes the next meal or snack is all you need to keep putting one foot in front of the other.