“I am not my eating disorder”

I am the kind of person who others tend to look at and think she has it all together. People think I am just a naturally happy person with no problems and a carefree life. Yet there is a lot that goes on behind that smile and in the soul reflected in my eyes. There is a lot behind that wall I put out to others, that elaborate façade that looks so magnificent on the outside yet so shattered within.

I did not think I could share this with the world—for it is so vital to the picture I feel I constantly have to present to the people around me—but I have struggled, overcome, and still live with the aftermaths of an eating disorder. For most of my life I did not know I had an eating disorder, for the eating disorder was not a cause but an effect. It was an effect of feeling my life was worthless, that it had no meaning, that I had no place in it. The environment I grew up in led to me feeling like this, when every child needs to fill loved and wanted to find his or her place in the world. Yet I felt alone.

Then dance seriously entered my life. The world of ballet became my haven, the place where I could be me, feel alive, fly free from my trappings and bondages. It was so important to me, for I had no meaning on my own. I would do anything to succeed as a ballerina. Even if that meant starving myself. Yet I was happy. Beyond happy. I needed it so badly, I needed ballet to be worth something. That was my goal, hope, and dream. I could become a dancer. That’s all I needed, hoped for, or wanted. When I felt like my life meant nothing, I knew I always had dance. Yet I was sinking, slowly yet steeply into the consuming jaws of a life-controlling eating disorder.

It all crashed when I had to stop ballet because of my eating disorder. It had won over me—it was here that it first showed signs of evilness. Though the drastic and dangerous part of my life soon subsided, my eating disorder continued to haunt me, even as I thought it had died with the ending of my dream and life aspiration. My eating disorder stayed with me until the most hardworking, persistent, genuine soul—my therapist Kevin —got through to me. My problem then was not the eating disorder. Yet I was letting it define me, my life. As my life and future was falling apart before my eyes, I turned back to hopes of ballet and the perfect body to fill my life with hope. Yet together, Kevin and I physically burned every last vestige connected me with ballet. It was one of the hardest days of my life. But there was no turning back.

I worked hard and fought many battles to fight the demons trying to destroy me. They told me they were making me happier, skinnier, more beautiful, more wanted, and most of all, worth something. Yet they could have killed me. I still fight and struggle with the voices in my head telling me I’m not worth anything, that I’m ugly and horrible and alone. And with the different challenging events in my life, I have definitely succumbed to them. I am not ashamed to admit I have relapsed. But that is the beauty of life—it is a journey, and not an ending. There are always new turns to take and new vistas to stumble upon. There will always be hope, no matter how far you sink.

I will not say I am powerful, that I have conquered every battle I need to fight. No, I still struggle with realizing people love me for me. Yet I have fought for relationships and learned that I AM lovable, I am a good person, I AM worth it just for being me. I do have something to offer the world and those around me, conventionally or otherwise. My boyfriend now has taught me so much about being okay with being cared about NO MATTER WHAT. Only because of this could I take my growth to the next level and share with people what I have and sometimes continue to struggle with. Only because of that can I still be confident I have worth whether or not people know how much I struggle.

My dad has been there for me throughout most of these recent battles and the amount of effort he has put into understanding me no matter how differently I’m living my life from him has shown me I AM worth it. I am. I don’t need my eating disorder to give me worth. I am worth more than a body. I am a soul. Like every other person finding their way in the reality we call life. All every soul wants is love and connection, and I know now that I deserve it too. Without needing to destroy my life in the process.