It’s not that it’s going to be easy, but it is going to be worth it. You can do it. Keep your head up. Keep pushing. Don’t give up. You’re worth it. Those are just some of the positive affirmations I would write all over my papers from treatment daily.
Going through treatment, we would frequently get asked, “What does life without your ED look like and mean to you?” I always knew what I imagined life would be like without my ED, but on the hard days when my ED took me over, it was hard to believe that what I imagined could become true. I know what it feels like to be in those deep, dark places where you feel your whole life is crashing down because your ED is in control. You feel like you are under a rock that is on fire, and you cannot get out. However, I am here to tell you that no matter how hard things are, all the hard work that you put in is going to be worth it. As a person in 100% recovery, I am going to shed light on what recovery looks like for me.
Life after your ED means that your thoughts no longer control your actions. It does not mean that you will never have bad days or that you will never have negative thoughts about yourself, but as you go through recovery and treatment, you find ways to suppress the negative thoughts as they arise, such as: talking to someone you love or trust, journaling your thoughts and feelings when you feel like your ED is controlling you, noticing the thoughts and telling yourself a positive thought in return. During hard days, the best thing I have found is to get out of the situation or environment you are currently in and get your mind active.
As I was going through recovery, I always kept my goals and dreams at the top of my priority list. I knew that my ED was not what I wanted. Now, all my hard work and dedication to recovery has paid off. I am in nursing school, attending a program that combines all four years into one. And I’m still keeping my health my #1 priority.
I now cook all my meals for the week and eat everything I cook. I notice when I’m hungry and actually eat what I am hungry for. I go out for dessert, even if I just ate a big meal. I enjoy holidays/birthdays and all the food involved. I’m able to live on my own, because I know I have to keep my body nourished. Because I chose recovery, I am going to be able to get married and have the children of my dreams.
Life without your eating disorder is a BEAUTIFUL thing. You find yourself again— the “you” without the ED. It’s like a huge weight is lifted off your shoulders and you are free again. The hard days when your ED wants to control you are the days you work harder than ever. It’s not that it is going to be easy, but it is going to be worth it.
Hannah Bertsch is a 19 years old survivor of restrictive anorexia nervosa.
Read Hannah’s mom’s perspective of being the parent of a child with an eating disorder here.