About a year ago, I made a decision that not only changed, but saved my life.
I committed to healing my shattered soul.
I have been suffering from anorexia nervosa for 14 years.
My childhood had been anything but peaceful. Growing up with a brother who tortured me both mentally and physically every single day of my young life was nothing but hell.
Not knowing how to endure this daily struggle, my mind searched for ways of coping. Around the age of ten, I started to obsess over food, calories and exercise. How much I was eating and how many hours I would have to work out in order to burn the calories were the only concerns worth thinking of from the moment I woke up until I went to bed.
During the next 1.5 decades, I did not have a peaceful moment. Going from one depression to the next, obsessing over the number on my scale, losing all my friends and isolating myself completely resulted in trying to commit suicide at the age of 18.
I made it back up, came back to life step by step, graduated, traveled the world and started going to university. But my anorexia did not go anywhere.
In 2010, I met the man of my dreams, moved to Zurich and got married. I was convinced that my life would be nothing but bliss from now on and that my eating disorder would disappear instantly. I was in love and surely, this was the cure for my illness.
Well, I was wrong. The staccato of thoughts revolving around calories did not subside. The voice of the sergeant inside grew only louder and the orders of how much I was allowed to eat gnawed at me. Why couldn’t my mind just shut up? Why could I not live in the moment or enjoy a simple dinner?
My daily workouts got longer and longer, I started lying to my husband and dramatically increased the amount of laxatives I swallowed every night.
Having been skinny already, I lost even more weight in a very short amount of time. I was so weak, I cried every time I went to the gym, but I could not stop. I had to continue walking down this path towards destruction. After all, hadn’t my brother told me that I didn’t deserve to be happy anyway?
When the agony was almost unbearable however, I cried out for help.
After having had many conversations with different therapists and doctors, I decided that it was best to admit myself to a treatment facility.
So, on March 16th of 2011 I packed my bags and went to a sanatorium near Zurich. This was one of the hardest steps I have ever had to take in my life. I was sick with fear and felt terribly insecure.
I stayed at the sanatorium for 3 months. 3 months that saved my life.
I learned a lot about my illness and about the reasons for having developed it. I learned not to be ashamed of being sick and even started to be proud of myself for having survived my childhood. I started to believe in myself again.
However, the real work began after I came back home. Despite thinking that I had committed to recovery, I was holding on to my eating disorder. I continued to lie and to abuse laxatives throughout my treatment.
At home, I doubted my ability to ever recover fully. If a stay at a treatment facility wouldn’t help, what would?
But I was not willing to give up. I longed for a free and healthy life, a life with emotions, food, children and happiness. A life without feeling empty and depressed. A life full of joy and love. A life that I deserved.
I needed to finally let go and come clean with myself and with my husband. I needed to admit to myself that I was lying and I needed to apologize to having done so to those around me.
On a trip to Monaco, I told my husband about my abuse of laxatives.
I was terrified and ashamed, but also relieved. It was the first time I had said these words out loud. Never before had I told anybody about this dark secret.
This moment was my fresh start, my new beginning. Now that I was honest, I was able to make the right decision. Now, I was able to slowly let go of my eating disorder and make the necessary changes.
I continued to work hard on myself every single day. I started to eat regularly, slowly increasing the size of my portions. I created a plan with my nutritionist and doctors on how to slowly decrease the amount of laxatives I took. By late August of 2010, I was completely free of this horrible addiction.
I began to laugh again, to enjoy life again and I experienced a freedom that I had never felt before. I wake up every day, grateful to be alive and to have been given this second chance. I appreciate the little things like going for a walk or sitting on the couch with my husband just watching a movie without feeling guilty and being restless. I know that I will live the life that I have longed for for so many years.
The journey towards health is a hard one, but also a very rewarding one.
I broke everything I believed about myself down and then completely rebuild my self-worth and self-esteem.
I cannot begin to list all the things that I have learned about myself in those difficult months. At the beginning of my treatment, I was crushed. I felt like I was going to lose myself. Who was I if I did not have an eating disorder? I thought I’d be totally lost. And for a while, I was.
But with every bite I ate, my energy level increased and I was able to think creatively again. I started making lists of all the things I was good at and I was amazed at the amount of characteristics I had overlooked for such a long time. I started to realize that I had a lot of good within me and that I had so much to give.
I began to fall in love with myself, my strength and my weaknesses. I started to embrace my body, a body that is unique with all its faults.
I learned that sometimes you have to let go of everything you have ever known in order to find yourself again.
I achieved a level of intimacy with myself that I never thought possible. For the first time, I truly got to know the real me and I began to understand that it is OK to be just who I am.
Now I know that my eating disorder does not define me. Now I know that I am full of potential. Now I know that I don’t have to disappear in order for this world to be a great place. On the contrary, I know now that I, too, can change the world.
I decided not to go back to university and instead live my life on my own terms. Never again will I let others dictate how my life should look like. Never again will I let others tell me who I am and what I should feel like.
I was reborn and I will use this gift to live a life of greatness. Every. Single. Day.
Which beliefs about yourself did you let go in the past? What have you learned by freeing yourself from false claims or destructive habits?
If you have a friend or a family member who is suffering from anorexia nervosa, bring that loved one of yours to an inpatient anorexia treatment center the soonest possible time before the condition gets any worse.
Photo by Mitya Kuznetsov