This is one person’s story; everyone will have unique experiences on their own path to recovery and beyond. Some stories may mention eating disorder thoughts, behaviors, or symptom use. Please use your own discretion. And speak with your therapist when needed.
Six summers ago, I began a new, terrifying chapter in my life as a then seventeen-year-old. I, along with my family, decided to admit me to The Cleveland Center for Eating Disorders (now known as The Emily Program). Recovery has been an unspeakably arduous journey, and it will be a voyage I will be on for the rest of my life. Six years later now in November of 2017, I am able to cope with my illness to the point where I am able to manage a mostly productive, healthy, and happy life. How does one go from breaking down one night, asking to be admitted, to having a job, going back to college, and having a great relationship with a loving boyfriend and parents?
I cannot attribute my success of staying in recovery to just one person or thing. That would be a blatant lie and immense discredit to the handful of people and aspects that have selflessly and endlessly devoted themselves to helping me gain and thus maintaining a life worth living. Not a single day goes by where I don’t think about how truly lucky and grateful I am to regain a quality life. To say I can do it alone would be revolting.
The main thing that helped me stay in recovery isn’t a “thing” at all. It is actually two very selfless, loving, vital people who not only gave me life but also helped me regain a quality of life when I was rapidly on my way to losing it. I love you, mom and dad. My parents have helped me stay on this path of recovery success due to their full, undivided attention and dedication to the recovery process. Despite grim times, my parents never strayed from the path of caring for me. My parents always find time to listen to me if I am having life problems or not feeling well mentally or physically. My parents were always present at every single meeting, therapy session, feeding, etc. It is their pure dedication that was able to help me survive, even when I couldn’t find the strength in myself to do so.
Another vital part of my recovery is another person, and her name was Christine. Christine was my original therapist when I was first diagnosed with a generalized anxiety disorder at age fifteen. I saw Christine for many years until she had to resign from her job as a therapist due to medical issues that then later lead to her calling me in April of this year to tell me, “Nicole, I just wanted to let you know that I have about six months left to live.” It may seem silly to have a therapist be so close to one’s heart, but Christine was so much more than just someone I paid to listen to my intense emotional suffering. Christine genuinely cared about me and she, along with my parents, was one of the few people who at that time were there for me during my darkest hours. I considered Christine one of the closest people to me. Even though she is no longer with us today, whenever I am struggling, I often think to myself, “Think of everything Christine taught you. She gave you the tools. Make her proud.”
Another major aspect that aids in my recovery is music; more specifically, rap music. How can a genre is stereotypically known for thugs, drugs, and weapons help someone with mental health issues and an eating disorder? What many fail to realize is that there are artists and songs that preach about the previously listed topics, but there are also many songs that speak on much deeper subject.
My favorite artists include Eminem and Kid Cudi. While each artist has their fair share of swear words and select songs about “typical rap subjects,” these two individuals are what I, with sincerity, accredit to helping save my life. Growing up battling the demons of mental illness, I often felt alone and misunderstood, but when I would turn on a long list of songs that was compiled of many tracks from Eminem and Cudi, I felt like someone finally understood what was going on in my tormented mind. Eminem has rapped about his battles with anxiety, depression, OCD, and yes, even an eating disorder. Kid Cudi, who grew up in Shaker Heights, is very open about his lifelong battle of depression and anxiety. So much so that many people of different backgrounds and lifestyles have accredited him to, and I quote, “helping save their lives.”
My life nor my mind is perfect, but I wake up every single morning beyond thankful for literally every single thing and person in my life. Growing up with mental illness has presented many astronomical challenges for me, but having the medical access and support system to overcome and manage my diagnoses has allowed me to recognize just how truly fortunate I am and that hope continues on.