National Eating Disorders Association

Stories of Hope

Hope Heals
By Melissa DeSalvo

I grew up dancing since the age of three and danced competitively throughout high school. I danced on the dance team at college and always had a great group of friends and my loving family to support me. I always considered myself pretty fortunate, as I lived a great life, had all I could ask for and was always happy with my body image. However, after I graduated college in May 2011 and started in the workforce, I slowly started losing the Melissa I knew for the past 22 years. In January 2012 at age 22, I was diagnosed with anorexia and it changed my life completely. I fought my battle with anorexia from January 2012 through March 2013. My anorexia, otherwise known as “ED”, made me an angry and selfish person and I was closed-off to the world. It forced me into a hole where I would tell lies to the people closest to me. I missed out on so many opportunities people in their early 20’s experience and I lost friends and created tension within my family. It was a terrible, debilitating lifestyle I had spiraled into, but as with many eating disorders and diseases, my anorexia consumed me and it was just my new “normal.” I fought anorexia for fifteen months. In March 2013 when I was just not getting better, despite all forms of treatment and support, I was faced with a tough choice and had to decide the path to follow next- did I want to recover or not? I had my full-time job and career on the line as well as an additional part-time job teaching at the dance studio I grew up dancing at. Above all, I had my life on the line. With the help of my family, best friend and therapists and psychologists, I started my journey into recovery! I was trying everything and anything to help me recover, but nothing seemed to really do the trick. I tried a nutritionist, therapy sessions, meditation, talking to someone my age that was a recovered anorexic, going for walks with my parents... and so on. I even started dating a guy friend from college thinking that would give me some sense of the “old Melissa” again. Some of these things were great but not the right fit for me at that point in my recovery. I was struggling because certain recovery methods were working in one way or another but it all seemed like a temporary solution and I was scared that I was never really going to fully recover. I needed something more. Recovery was essentially a full-time job, but my type-A personality kept me determined. I was NOT giving up on myself. I learned that what I needed was balance in an environment similar to the environments I felt comfortable in “pre- ED”. I needed something that gave me confidence, allowed me to clear my mind and rid it of all negative thoughts and something that would support me and push me higher as I continued to recover. I finally found that balance within a community of people that, to me, was a way to let out my frustration and anger towards ED and let my mind find peace and happiness again. The community I belonged to, and still belong to, is my “home-team”. They are there for me no matter what. My teammates do not judge me- never have, and never will. I’m sure of it. This is not a group that specializes in eating disorders, anxiety, anorexia, or anything of the like. This is a group, tribe, team, of people of all ages, sizes, from all walks of life, that I now exercise with, now that I have maintained an extremely healthy weight. We exercise for a healthy heart, lifestyle, a healthy mind and my favorite, a healthy soul. We exercise together because we all have hope for such bright futures. I spend time with my home-team about 3 days a week. The smell of the grapefruit-scented candles that fill the room calms me immediately. It is so serene. I love how the instructors start class by asking us to think of WHY we are here and what our intention for the day is. I leave that class each time with not only a smile, but a sense of relief. If even the smallest bit of ED comes into that room with me, ED never leaves that room with me, ever. The classroom is a place where I can rid my body of that toxic, nasty, selfish and debilitating ED. This is the balance and support I had been looking for all along. Who knew a bunch of strangers, all will different reasons for coming to class, could come together and find the hope and peace they were all looking for? It’s funny how things like that just come together and happen, especially when you need it most. The decision to share my story and open myself up was a well-thought out choice. My struggle with my eating disorder is a part of my life that I never shared with many of my close friends, peers or family members before now. Opening up about that part of my life seemed risky for so long. Recovery really is a life-time affair, but through the support system community that I now have, I have been in touch with myself in a way that now allows me to share my story and view what I once thought was a risk as an opportunity. It is January of 2015. I am now recovered (for what will be 2 years at the end of March 2015) and I am healthy, happy, hopeful and proud. Best of all, I'm back to being Melissa and it feels great to have her back and finally start living my life. It’s never too late to start living. Ever. Have hope and find your balance. You, too, WILL beat this. Back to top