For those who struggle

I realized something Sunday night. I realized that I missed the ten year anniversary of February 24, 2002.

Let me tell you a little bit about February 24, 2002. It was a Sunday. I was a second year law student living in Boston’s Copley Square. I was eating 300 calories a day on a good day. I was down to a weight I’d outgrown in the sixth grade. I had no energy. I couldn’t carry on a simple conversation. I was struggling to keep up my grades, find a summer internship, write a journal article, be the best, be the skinniest, be anything but myself. I was at rock bottom and desperately in need of help.

I was out wandering the city. I called it “clearing my head” but really I was just trying to burn calories. After covering just about every inch of Boston proper, I walked into a department store and passed a display of evening dresses. There was one that caught my eye—a strapless, full-length lavender number with ribbons and boning and sashes. I decided to try it on, so I grabbed the smallest size off the rack and took it into a dressing room. And then I got confused. This was the most complicated dress I’d ever seen (and still have ever seen to this day—more so that any wedding dress I tried on). I had no idea where to begin, and so I puddled it on the floor, stepped into it and pulled. It yanked right up—but had nothing to cling to and fell right back to the floor. That’s when I noticed the side zipper. That’s also when I glanced up and caught a view of my back in the three-way mirror. I gasped. Literally. I saw every one of my ribs poking out of my sallow skin. I saw sickness. I saw disease. I saw death.

I cried on the floor of that dressing room for a solid twenty minutes, and then I picked myself up, hung the dress back on the rack and walked home. I turned the doorknob to find my roommates and closest friends waiting for me. Of all days—of all moments—they’d picked that one to throw an intervention. And so February 24, 2002 became the day I admitted I had a problem and agreed to get help. From that day on, February 24 was my recovery anniversary. Every February 24 was a day of bitter reflection, a day to look back not only on that year’s accomplishments but also on its struggles, a day to wonder when I was finally going to get over this thing already.

There are a couple schools of thought on eating disorder recovery. One says it takes seven years to fully get over an eating disorder. The other says you will never ever truly recover. Honestly, the latter school of thought scared me shitless for years. I’ll never recover? Ever? The latter school of thought sent me into hysterics when I found out I was pregnant with a little girl. What if I pass this awful mess on to her? I don’t want my daughter to inherit my issues. I so wanted to believe full and complete recovery was possible, but I was terrified that it wasn’t.

But then February 24, 2012 hit without incident. I don’t even know what day of the week it was. A month went by. Another week went by. And only then did I realize that not only did I miss it, but, more importantly, I didn’t care. I wish I could fully describe what that moment of realization was like without plunging this post into pure melodrama. Suffice it to say, I now understand the phrase “a weight has been lifted from my chest.” Because a weight has been lifted. A big one. That latter school of thought—the one that says you will never fully recover from an eating disorder—IT’S BULLSHIT, my friends. You can get better. You can battle your demons and walk away victorious.

I’ve disabled comments for this post because, honestly, I didn’t post this to get support, praise or encouragement. I posted this because once upon a time I struggled. Once upon a time I wondered whether the end was in sight. I know that there are people out there fighting the battle I once fought, wondering the same thoughts I once had. And I want those people to know that there is hope. You are stronger than you realize. You can beat this. I know it.

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