National Eating Disorders Association

Stories of Hope

What ED Promises; Recovery Delivers
By Kate Bruno RD

Heal(ED) from the inside out... I have decided to share my story, in the hopes that it will encourage those who still wonder if a "FULL" recovery can exist. I am here to tell you, it can, for anyone who truly wants it. My battle with anorexia began at age 11, back in the 80's when treatment and awareness were still quite limited. The memories I have of my illness are now hollowed out by years of distance and growth, but I can still connect with the deep pain I experienced back then. I can look back with self-compassion for all the hurt I endured at such a young age, and with pride in my courage to move away from ED, and with grace for all the ways my friends and family suffered as well. I now know that the illness served a purpose, waving a flag to my loved ones when my voice was muted. No matter how badly I wanted to give up and disappear, my body and spirit were destined to be saved. The choice to recover was the only way out. God had a plan for me, and I was moved to accept that fate by taking my 1st courageous step to heal. My best friend since 2nd grade began growing attached to a new group of “popular girls” when we hit middle school. I didn't quite fit in, and didn't really want to, but hung out with them regardless to avoid my fear of abandonment. I felt alone in this group despite my efforts to participate. I wasn't ready to grow up the way they were, and I was far more invested in my studies than the boys and diets they were gossiping about. Worst of all, my former best friend seemed tired of me, like I was now a distraction from her new found “fame” rather than the other half of her heart which we’d always symbolized with our “best friends” charms. I started to recede from the crowd and isolate myself, mostly to please them so I wasn't a “burden”. In the meantime, the eating disorder was brewing, and ED became the “frienemy” who would soon fill that void. The illness swept me up within a matter of a few very short months, and my parents saw my entire personality change in that time. They pleaded with me to open up and work on things, but I was so confused about what had happened, and ED did such a great job of numbing me that I didn't even know how to respond. I tried to recover for them, but I could barely recognize what it meant to put one foot in front of the other. Even though I was only months removed from my former healthy self, there seemed no way out, like I was blocked from connecting with that free-spirited, outgoing person I had always been. My parents had no choice but to put me in a hospital, but the real work came after I was medically stable. I didn’t really “own” my journey until I had been back at home for another few months. That was the turning point when I could acknowledge deep down that there had to be something more to life than merely existing in that very dark place all alone with ED. Re-feeding seemed insurmountable, but I got through it and reversed my behaviors facing one fear at a time. The work to recover emotionally would take an even bigger leap of faith, but there was no turning back. I had to experience the rawness and vulnerability I resisted via ED. Once I got the 1st steps behind me, I gained confidence, trust, and lots of hope for a REAL life to come. I remember my mom telling me we had to measure success one millimeter at a time, but movement forward was the only option. Along the way I embraced a few valuable mantras to push myself through the challenges. If something felt hard or scary, I knew it was the next right choice for recovery. I kept imagery close by in my mind, picturing my courage and bravery in ways that could inspire me when I felt weak. I also learned to ask for help, which may have been the hardest part. Asking for help meant ED would have another voice fighting his irrational messages, and that made him louder at first. Once I allowed myself to trust others over this illness, I finally saw my inherent worth and value reflected back at me in ways ED would never allow me to see. I realized that I was worth the effort, and life could and would be so much fuller when I let people in. With that blind faith, ED’s walls began to crumble. After years of treatment, many tears, and lots of tummy aches, I made it out of the darkness and into a world I could finally claim as my own. ED was no longer in charge, and I was ready to make a difference in the lives of others as well. By the end of middle school I began speaking out about eating disorders and educating others about this devastating illness. I spoke up more and more in my new social circuits, and wasn't afraid to lean on friends for support. My voice was now powerful, and my heart more content than it had been even before the battle with ED. The illness brought on a whirlwind of devastation in my life when it was in charge. In recovery however, the true source of power I found came from within to defeat ED’s lies, reminding myself daily that I had everything I needed inside of me to handle any challenge that came my way. No longer were the external measuring sticks a means of finding “ok-ness” within myself. I truly believe the disorder happened for a reason and the outcome of recovery is exactly what I needed all along. I just had to make my way out of the long and bumpy road to find the sense of peace and security ED was trying to tell me he could provide when I didn't know where to look. I knew I had to share this gift with others who were suffering with similar pain. I decided to help those in recovery as a dietitian, specifically because of its blend of biology and psychology which deeply resonated with me in my own journey. I have been in private practice in Charlottesville, VA for 13 years now. Unlike the abusive measuring sticks found in "ED-land", the reward of helping others see the light is truly immeasurable. Although he wasn't with me in the depths of my illness, my husband understands the life-changing impact it has had. He shares the values my journey has influenced and is a wonderful advocate for ED-awareness in the community. My vibrant 9 year old daughter is a daily reminder of the adaptive and healing nature in all living things, and our endless capacity for growth!

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