Awareness hurts, but it saved my life. Awareness is far more difficult than being ambivalent or ignorant, but it is absolutely necessary for recovery.
A couple weeks ago, I had an enlightening conversation with my therapist. I was talking to her about how being in recovery quite often hurts. Being in recovery means I am aware of my feelings and aware of my behaviors. Being in recovery means that I listen to the eating disordered voice inside me, and actively use energy to fight it and do the opposite. Awareness is difficult; awareness is painful. I am more acutely conscious of my joy, yet I am also more acutely conscious of my pain. And in response, she said to me:
“Kamila, have gratitude for your awareness.”
When I was sick in my eating disorder, I couldn’t differentiate my own thoughts from my ED thoughts. I was thoroughly unaware of everything going on around me and within me. I was blind to triggers of certain thought patterns and emotions. Unaware of the causes of my anxiety and depression. Unwilling to dig deep to figure that out, because avoiding those feelings and past traumas was easier than facing them.
So, I sought to extinguish anxiety and depression with eating disordered behaviors. I was unaware of how this changed my disposition toward others. I had no brain space to be aware of political issues, social justice issues, community issues. Worst of all, I was consumed by ignorance about how severe my eating disorder was and how close it was to taking my life. My eating disorder did not allow me to see how much beauty there is to experience in this world once I pursued recovery.
“Have gratitude for your awareness.”
What a beautiful way of thinking about how far I have come. I am thankful for my newfound awareness in recovery. Because once I chose to be fully aware of my eating disorder and what functions it served, I also became aware of all the weapons I could use to fight it. Once I became enlightened about how I could use my story to help others, I became inspired and renewed.
My awareness is a gift. Knowledge is power. Mindfulness enables me to prevail over my eating disorder.
Cognizance of the dangers of eating disorders, openness to the strength and clarity of my thoughts and emotions, and mindfulness to the societal and political issues that need to be addressed all over the world… sometimes it’s all too overwhelming and crippling. But this newfound cognizance has also opened my mind to many new avenues and possibilities, and connection with others provides far much more fulfillment than hiding from pain ever could.
Through awareness, we can support each other and grow as individuals and communities. Through mindfulness, we can thrive. This month of May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Let’s take a moment to educate ourselves on mental health and eating disorders. Let’s remain attentive to the severity of eating disorders and their impact on individuals and populations.
To the general public, knowledge of eating disorders enables you to offer support. By educating yourself and listening without judgment, you can change the life of someone who is struggling.
To those battling eating disorders, self-awareness is your stepping stone to freedom.
May we all remain alert to the power of our own awareness.
Kamila is a graduate student at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. She is an advocate for mental health awareness, and passionate about ending the stigma surrounding eating disorders. Kamila is an aspiring professional beach volleyball athlete, writer, and public speaker. She hopes to use her own story of recovery from binge eating and anorexia to send a message of hope, and educate athletic communities on the dangers of, and supports for eating disorders.