National Eating Disorders Association

Reflections on Hope: Wisdom from Our Readers!

Ellen Domingos, Community Outreach Specialist

Continued from Volume 7, Issue 1 of Making Connections

The Parent, Family and Friends Network (PFN) Steering Committee, in an effort to shed light on the complexity of the role hope plays in the eating disorder recovery process (for families, friends and those struggling), asked the NEDA online community to share their thoughts for volume 7 of Making Connections magazine. The response was overwhelming! You had a lot to say about hope, so in addition to the quotes included in Making Connections, we are excited to highlight more of our community’s insights here.

Family, Friends and Community Support

It wasn't going through in-patient or partial hospitalization. It was literally a year or so after I got out of intensive treatment that I realized how good everyone in my life had been to me. I had given them nothing but they gave me everything and kept giving even when I refused to accept their support. That's when I realized I was someone worth loving. ─ Amy

Anytime Ana as I like to call her, (Anorexia) tries to sneak back into my life, I remember the role model I have become. The campaigns and the work that I do on my campus and in the community. I am not only a survivor, but I am an advocate, just as my mother was for me. That keeps me strong and keeps me grounded. No one should be alone in this fight, and I know I can't effectively help others if I myself am ill. ─ Becky

I realized if I did not do something about my eating disorder, not only was I possibly going to lose my life but my family first! It was a scary situation but I quickly sought help and within a year I was getting back on track. I thank that moment every day because without [my cousin] saying [I needed to get help] who knows where I would be today. ─ Domenica

From the love of my now husband... the only one who never ever gave up on me and saw me as beautiful when, to me, I was not! ─ Mimi

I found hope when I realized, at my lowest point, that I could be mentally and physically stronger than anorexia. I found hope when, after years in and out of treatment, I could recover with the help of my incredibly supportive family and friends. ─ Mandy

The man in my life literally and figuratively held my hand each day, he asked me about the challenges I encountered each day, he told me that I wasn't alone in my fight each day, and each day he helped me think of new ways to fight tomorrow.  He encouraged me to keep fighting ED because recovery was necessary before we could move forward in our relationship. I had to honestly evaluate how my disorder was negatively impacting my health and my future health, my future with him, my future pregnancies, future children, etc...I fight everyday but every day is a little easier than yesterday. ─Jenny

I found hope through my two boys… After 4 years of being single and going through inpatient treatment twice, I met my current husband and we just got married on 12/21/13…He loves me for who I am; when I have a "good" day or "bad" day. ─Lana

I find hope in my children's bright faces and twinkling eyes. I find hope as they throw their arms around me and shower me with kisses. I find hope as they tell me they love me, knowing that they do not judge me for my imperfections. I find hope when I remember that I should try seeing myself as they do: for the good that I do and for the positive things I have to offer. I find hope in knowing that they need me. I find hope when my husband holds my hand and whispers that he loves me. ─Jenae

I got pregnant with my daughter, and I realized I couldn't continue my behaviors. ─Nicole

What ultimately helped me the most and gave me hope were my therapists and my Dad's parents. I am the only person in my immediate and extended family (that I know of) that has gone through an eating disorder so my family had a very difficult time understanding how to deal with it...and still does. I did have a lot of support from my parents who put me into therapy and doctors immediately after finding out. ─Anonymous

I found hope in love. After a separation and divorce that exaggerating and worsened my ED, new found love in my life held me up when I couldn't do it myself. The man in my life literally and figuratively held my hand each day, he asked me about the challenges I encountered...each day, he told me that I wasn't alone in my fight... each day., and each day he helped me think of new ways to fight tomorrow.  He encouraged me to keep fighting ED because recovery was necessary before we could move forward in our relationship.  I had to honestly evaluate how my disorder was negatively impacting my health and my future health, my future with him, my future pregnancies, future children, etc.  The amount of work ahead of me was terrifying but new love, true love this time, gave me hope that my future would not, could not, include ED.  I fight everyday but every day is a little easier than yesterday.  ─ Jenny

Being diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa was difficult. I found hope by watching others who have a healthier lifestyle and relationship with food. I saw women embrace their natural and beautiful curves. Thus, to get through my difficult days of Ed bullying me in my head, I would tell myself that Curves Are Beautiful. One rough and emotional night, my mom and I sat at the table and we ordered plastic purple bands that would help me remember that "Curves Are Beautiful". These bands are now being worn all over the world by people who are suffering, loved ones who want to show support, and people who want to bring awareness. As I continue to send out these free purple bands and spread the word that Curves Are Beautiful, I find more and more motivation to recover and continue to bring awareness about eating disorders.
─ Sabrina

Stories of Hope: Knowing You Aren’t Alone

Knowing that family and friends were supporting me throughout…I realized that although I did not love myself for who I was, my family and friends did, and that helped me find the courage to face my demons with them by my side. ─ Kym

It Gets Better

Thinking back to the time when I was truly happy [gave me hope]; there was a time if I let myself believe it. Also, that others are past this and living a free life. ─ Taylor

I found hope in different places depending on where I was on recovery. At first for me I had to use external hope such as the relationships I had and the career I could lose. Then the hope came from within each slightly better day I had gave me hope that recovery wasn't just about re learning to have a healthy relationship with food it was about finding myself. I had to keep reminding myself that this is just a feeling and feeling can’t hurt me and it will pass. I found hope by reaching out to other suffers and family members. Slowly the bad days were getting fewer and fewer I reminded myself in the hard times that this urge has passed before and it will I just need to hold on. Music also gave me hope. ─ Kate

I found hope through life. I went through three treatment centers over the course of 9 months. None of them were able to make ME want to recover. I went through the motions of each one, I became a master at cutting corners and skimping on my meal plan. I was just trying to beat the system so I could get out. Then once I was out, I fell flat on my face and relapsed. I thought I was always going to be that way, and anorexia was what was going to kill me. I managed to get a job though, waiting tables. The restaurant I worked at gave us free food so I started eating more. I also started really putting myself out there to meet new friends. All the friends I had were people with eating disorders. I managed to completely free myself of all things ED and I felt so free. It didn't matter anymore. I had my routine of going to work and hanging out with new friends. I gained enough over the next few months to reach my healthy weight range. I now have an amazing boyfriend, I am returning to grad school, and I feel so strong and sexy in my new body. ─ Anna

I have suffered with an eating disorder for over 17 years of my life, and I had reached a point where I just gave up and accepted my eating disorder. I thought an eating disorder is just who I am, that there would be no hope for recovery, no chance for me to be recovered ever. Besides without my eating disorder who would I be?! It took a really horrible incident to get me to hit rock bottom with my ED. Luckily I'm pretty predictable, and close friends noticed right away that I was in bad shape. I tried to take small steps to get better enough to get people off my case. I enrolled in the EngageNow program at work, and was given a health, and wellness coach; Kara, who pushed, and pushed me to see a therapist. At that point I caught a glimpse of hope, a glimpse into a whole new world without an eating disorder. Between the support of my health coach and an eating disorder therapist I began making small changes to regain control of my life. Baby step by baby step I was finally fighting for my life, and over time I began to see I was worth recovery. And what an amazing feeling it was to actually feel like I was worth it!! Without my health coach I don't think I ever would have made the first step, Kara has been such an important person on my journey to recovery! - Sarah

Faith and Finding Passions

I found hope through God who granted me faith, trust; hope to not fight the battle alone. My friends and family were huge supporters for me. My own stubborn ways to conquer these demons gave me hope. Seeing others with eating disorders that lost their battle too soon gave me hope that there had to be more out there than Anorexia. I wanted to finish nursing school and become a nurse to help those faced with eating disorders and mental illness. ─ Emily

When I went to treatment the only thing that belonged to me was my treatment binder and my Bible. I understand that faith is not for everyone however, for me, my Jesus was the only thing I had to hold onto. Also, I knew that I did not want to die, I knew that I had too much to live for, too much I still wanted to do, like graduate from college with my best friends. Wanting to go back to school was what gave me the drive to recover. I am so grateful that I had the support of my very close friends, my Jesus, my pastor, my family and my treatment team. It is not an easy road, but those are the things that help me walk down the road. ─Anonymous

My hope was seeing myself as [I believe] God sees me and knowing that I am loved, enough and worth it! Recovery wouldn't have been possible for me if I didn't have an awesome God reminding me these things daily! ─Faith

I was born three months premature. Because of that, my eyes have poor vision and the surrounding muscles are underdeveloped. This made me look different. So, as is often the case with those seen as "different," I grew up the odd girl out. I was made fun of by students, teachers, friends, and family. Alcoholism and critical words plagued my home life. I had no escape or comfort. I believed in God but had no relationship with Him, and I didn't grow up in the church…Mercy, for me, has been an incredible journey. It is also the hardest thing I have ever done in my life… I have a choice. I can choose life over death, faith over fear, and [my belief in God’s] unconditional love over my self-hatred. ─ Colie

I found hope at my absolute lowest point in my eating disorder. December 15th, 2012.  I had just been admitted into inpatient treatment and my outlook on the future was not very positive. I was mad. Mad that I had let myself come so far into this eating disorder. Mad that my once vibrant, joyful and life-loving self had been transformed into a food-fearing zombie…I was told multiple times during that session that I was put in inpatient because my doctor was concerned if I couldn't turn this around that I would die. I thought seriously about this as the words played over and over in my head… I knew that I was created for so much more than letting my eating disorder kill me. I was created to use my gifts to help and love others… Knowing that I was created for something much more and because of that God would give me the strength to overcome my eating disorder is what gave me hope at my lowest point. I really wish I could say that finding that hope meant instant recovery but it didn't, and still doesn't…I didn't choose my eating disorder but I'm choosing recovery as I hold on to that hope that my future is bright and my God is bigger. ─ Elizabeth

I found hope by realizing that I could no longer be a hypocrite. I was finishing up my final year in graduate school for mental health counseling and half my clients were afflicted with eating disorders. I knew I needed to become healthy as an individual to become healthy as a professional therapist.  ─ Stefanie