The holiday season is my favorite time of year. I know I’m not alone in that. Who wouldn’t love home, hearth, and family all bundled together in a peppermint-scented haze of love and gratitude?
But ever since I was diagnosed with anorexia, the beloved season has also become a huge challenge.
Just a few years ago, right before Hannuka (I’m Jewish), I was in treatment. Preparing us for the upcoming holiday, the hospital brought us all pies as a snack.
I’m sitting in front of this pie. Quaking with fear. Dreading the holiday. Then a light went off in my head: I’m going to REALLY prepare for the holiday season right now. And not just with pie.
Every year, I make a list of all the many incredible things—big and small in my life—that I’m thankful for. I never share my list. It’s just for me. It’s important for me to have this list to remind me of all the good things. And there are SO MANY.
I start thinking through everything that had happened in the past year. I was in a dark place, so it was a struggle to even think of anything. But I made that flipping list.
And while it was shorter than it was in previous years, I realized how incredibly powerful it is to take a moment to reflect on what you’re thankful for. Because there’s almost always SOMETHING. And that little thing can mean a lot.
As I enter the holiday season this year, I’m excited for good times. It is still a difficult time for me. Maybe it always will be. But it’s still my favorite. I savor the opportunity to look back on this year, and make a long list of all the things I’m grateful for.
That hospital pie from darker times, for example. Because it led to a record-breaking LONG list this year.
It led to one of the most special and hard-earned items, right up toward the top of my list. I am grateful this year for the freeing experience I have had in sharing my anorexia story publicly.
In the past, I found it practically unthinkable to add anything eating disorder-related to my gratitude list. How can you be thankful for anything so gloomy. But I don’t feel that way anymore.
This year I didn’t just talk about my battle with anorexia. I made a video and released it to the world. I got in front of a camera and opened up about something that I kept a shameful secret for so long. I had been terrified of the labels associated with my eating disorder. Now I know it was nothing to worry about.
The support and encouragement I have received since sharing my story have been amazing. Here I thought I was going to meet criticism and judgement and it has been the total opposite.
I live with warmth. With companionship. With color, light, and the eager expectation of sharing joyful moments with family and friends. At the table and elsewhere.
I’m not hiding parts of myself anymore. My video has exposed my struggles and vulnerabilities—and I actually feel great about it. Because I thought hardships proved your weakness. But they actually reveal my strength.
Was it easy as pie? Not really. But I’m ok with that, too. And hopefully soon, everyone who struggles like I do will be, too.
Gabi is a producer of short films at Jerusalem, a non-profit harnessing the power of film to strengthen the connection of young Jews to Israel and their Jewish identity. In her free time you can find her writing, knitting, or baking amazing desserts.