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"There is a life beyond sickness, and it is beautiful."

Recovery. It evokes so many different emotions for different people. It may frighten you, it may frustrate you, it may encourage you. For me, recovery is all that and more. I am currently in recovery from anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, but my recovery journey is nowhere near complete – but where did everything start? 

I can’t remember a time before recovery when I didn’t feel “fat”. My first memory of negative body image is from four years old. My mom and I had gotten portraits taken together, and when we got the pictures back, I begged my mom not to frame them because my stomach looked “too big”. The thoughts didn’t stop there. Throughout elementary and middle school I wouldn’t let myself go over a limit I had set for myself. I would do exercise routines until my legs felt like jelly. I told myself that if I ate, I wasn’t a “real anorexic”. Obviously, none of these thoughts were normal whatsoever, but especially not for a child or preteen. These thoughts and actions continued to get worse as I started experiencing traumatic events in my life. 

Next, I entered my freshman year of high school and that was when my eating disorder hit me hard. It was a constant cycle of fasting, bingeing, and purging. Before I knew it, I felt like I was nothing more than my sickness. I defined myself by what I looked like and what I could do to damage my body. There were so many summer days I used to spend riding bikes with my friends that I then began to spend in my room with teary, red eyes and bruises on my knuckles from purging. I spent nights crying on bathroom floors after body checking in the mirror for hours. I was not Taylor anymore, I was the sick girl. I was nothing but a hollow shell that was once me. I didn’t care that the world around me was crumbling, I didn’t care I was losing friends, I didn’t care that my family was being torn apart. I only cared about who the scale told me I was. 

I remember the day my doctor told me I needed to go to inpatient treatment like it was yesterday. My mom and I both walked out of the doctor’s office with tears running down our faces and comforted each other with a big embrace. It still didn’t feel real to me. I didn’t want to accept the fact that I was legitimately sick and needed help, but looking back I’m so thankful I got help when I did. 

I stayed in inpatient treatment for two months, and I can truly say those two months were the most emotionally challenging yet beautiful months of my life. I met amazing people with incredible stories and made some of my best friends. We laughed, we cried, we screamed, and we celebrated each other. I did things I never imagined I could do and I was able to prove how strong I am to myself. 

I can truly say I do not know where I would be right now without the treatment I received. Of course, no one is going to be fully recovered by the time they leave treatment, but it gives you the knowledge and helps you find your strength to take recovery by the horns. I am living proof that the other side of this illness does exist. There is a life beyond sickness, and it is beautiful. Yes, it is still challenging, and yes, you will slip up occasionally - but that does not mean it is not worth it.

Looking back, I still find it hard to believe how I managed to treat myself that way. I was in a hole that was beyond miserable, but I found the determination that was buried at the bottom of the hole and I was able to dig myself out. I promise you, it is never too late. You deserve light, love, and life. Please, do not wait to get help until you or a loved one is “sick enough”, because “sick enough” doesn’t exist. You do not need to be at your lowest before you get help. Recovery is possible for everyone, no matter your age, gender, race, financial status – you name it. YOU are worth the world, and I know we can fight this together. We’ve got this. I believe in you. 

Contributed by Taylor

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