It’s been about two years since my five-year battle with anorexia ended. Five years of waking up to the sunrise, praying the day would end sooner. Five years of hating every inch of my reflection. Five years of pure isolation. Five years of counting every scarce calorie I let myself eat. Five years of trying to take up as little space as possible and shrinking into oblivion.
Today, I woke up and biked to class, cycling amidst swaying trees and their fallen autumn leaves. I asked myself: how did I get here? I am now a freshman in college in the Netherlands, thousands of miles from my hometown. These moments, in which I recall my past, are ever more fleeting these days as my priorities have shifted to schoolwork, building new friendships, and adapting to life in a new country. From the surface, you would never know about the unbearable nightmare I endured only a few years ago. But as important as it is for me to move on with my life, I will never forget what I have been through. Because as much as my past hurts to look back on, it has taught me so many valuable lessons that have made me become the person I am today.
My eating disorder taught me everyone has their own baggage. I used to be so ashamed of my struggles, fearing that I would be judged for them and that nobody would actually understand what I was going through. I have learned everyone has their own battle to fight and everyone has a story to tell, whenever they are ready to tell it. You have no idea what someone might be going through and kindness truly goes a long way. Smile at people more often, give at least one compliment a day, and try to talk to people you would otherwise just disregard.
My eating disorder taught me every day is a gift. I know it is a cliché, but we are only given one life on this earth and have a single opportunity to make the best out of it. I remember in 2014 during my first hospitalization, I was told by my doctor that my heart rate was so low that he feared my organs might not be able to take the stress anymore. My mom used to check in on me almost every night, making sure my heart was still beating. Anorexia is the deadliest psychiatric disorder and unfortunately, not all the friends I met along my journey to recovery are still here today. In this hectic modern world, it can be so easy to get wrapped up in the trivial aspects of life and forget why we are here in the first place.
Recovering from my eating disorder taught me not to be so hard on myself. Amidst a culture of social media, photoshopping, and so-called influencers, I still occasionally find myself comparing my day-to-day with someone else’s highlight reel. I have learned that at the end of the day, I have to be happy with the person I am and not the person I think others want me to be. No number on the scale or Instagram like will fill that void of unhappiness. People will forget these little things in life but will never forget how you make them feel.
Finally, my eating disorder taught me I am enough. I used to believe I was not thin enough, not smart enough, not liked enough, and not good enough. Through recovery, I have learned I am worthy of love, worthy of joy, and worthy of life. I am allowed to take up space and there is a reason I am on this planet. Even if right now it seems as if life is against you, I promise things will get better. We all have our own obstacles to overcome. For some, this might be getting that dream job while for others it could be simply getting out of bed in the morning. Either way, you are doing the best you can and that is enough. You are enough.