Sun, Sand, and Strength in Recovery

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Abigail Salmon

I never thought I’d be afraid of summertime. I love summer. I love the warm weather, the late nights, the vacations, and the blockbuster movie releases. Some of my happiest memories were made during these few months. But since developing Anorexia when I was 18, my summer joy has been shadowed by a gray cloud of dread.

Summer is hard, isn’t it? I think that even those who don’t struggle with disordered eating feel the pressure. I’m about 5 years into recovery from Anorexia now. Although I am in a much healthier place than I was a few summers ago, there are a few things that still try to rain on my July Fourth parade.

The first one is common: warm weather clothes. My ED and I disagree on how my body is supposed to look. On some days, I feel like a summer goddess. On other days, I feel like unfiltered pool water that’s gathering algae. Before the hot weather begins, I start my internal summer pep talk. I remind myself that the way clothing looks on my body doesn’t have an impact on what I am. And what I am is a recovery baddie. I might feel weird in my swimsuit, but that won’t stop me from swimming.

My next obstacle: spontaneity. My eating disorder wants routine and nothing else. But summer is the time of year when unexpected chances to go have fun pop up out of the blue. Of course, my ED says “no thanks.” But I myself would love to participate. So, while everyone else gets excited, I fight a little war with my brain. My battle strategy is to breathe deep, focus on what’s in front of me, and tell a trusted friend how I’m feeling. I acknowledge that my ED is uncomfortable, but the real me will regret it if I don’t join in. With that in mind, it’s easier to be flexible and go have a good time.

Another challenge: travel and “vacation mindset.” Every summer, I travel to see extended family. Sometimes when I’m there, a part of me feels pulled towards this destructive way of thinking that says “hey! You’re on vacay. Take it easy! Relax on all that recovery stuff for a while.” It’s dangerous – in every other way, I am on vacation! I want to relax and enjoy myself. But recovery is work, and it offers no vacations. Its reward, however, is the rich and meaningful life I want to have. That life is worth every difficult decision I make while healing my mind and body.

Summer can be hard, but when I honor my body and nurture my wise mind, it’s my favorite time of year. Just like the rest of life, summer is for living! I want to visit every beach, climb every mountain, and enjoy every delicious treat I can while I’m still lucky enough to be alive. Choosing to defy my eating disorder and live the life I deserve is difficult and scary. But, the more I do it, the easier it gets.

Abigail Salmon is an artist, writer, and filmmaker in Los Angeles, CA. As a college student, she led a campus organization that raises awareness about eating disorders at Cal State University, Northridge. Now graduated, she volunteers with NEDA to continue her work as an educator and advocate. Abigail loves hiking, reading, and playing complicated board games.