*This blog was written anonymously. This is one person’s story; everyone will have unique experiences on the road to recovery.
During my time at The Emily Program, we talked about having a “life worth living” in DBT [dialectical behavioral therapy] skills groups, which meant having a life that contained relationships, activities, and coping skills outside of your eating disorder.
I had no idea what that life would be like until I began choosing it. Choosing to eat breakfast every day. Choosing to challenge social anxiety and keep plans. Choosing to ask for accountability. Choosing to do whatever I needed to do in that moment to be effective when keeping my goals in mind.
Three years ago at this time, I was in IDP [intensive day programming] while finishing my last semester of college. Much of college was spent in a similar way. Semesters off, semesters interrupted, and semesters finished while in treatment. Spending so much time being sick mean that I missed out on much of what I had anticipated about college when I started: spending time with friends, exploring a new city, and becoming involved on campus. Even though I finished IDP and graduated with my undergraduate degree, so much else was lacking in my life.
After IDP, I slowly and painstaking kept crawling out of the hole that I had dug myself into when I continually chose my eating disorder over relationships, opportunities, and engagement in my community. The first year and a half were lonely. While I had regained my physical health, I did not have a life worth living readily set up for me. It was hard to connect with people when I had ignored or avoided my friends for years. It was difficult to find a job I wanted with my undergraduate degree because I did not have any internship experience and also was not even sure of what I wanted to do. It was challenging to engage in a community because I did not feel connected to anywhere I had lived. Everything had been so centered on eating and weight that figuring these things out was uncharted territory for me.
A year and a half ago, choosing to take a job I was not sure about helped me to move forward. Choosing to push myself to see my friends every week helped me to maintain and develop relationships. Choosing to attend community events, in spite of intense anticipatory anxiety, made me feel more connected to where I lived.
Six months ago, I made an even more significant choice, and so far, that choice has broadened my life worth living more than I could ever imagine. I chose to accept a graduate fellowship I was offered, and now I am working and taking classes full time while living with other members of my graduate program. My choice to accept the fellowship while in a stable place with my eating disorder has meant spending time watching movies, volunteering, and going to the beach with my roommates and new friends. I am also exploring local restaurants, bars, parks; and attending talks on campus. My life is so full, and I have chosen to let go of my eating disorder in order to get here.