**Content warning: This is one person’s story; everyone will have unique experiences in recovery and beyond. Some stories may mention eating disorder thoughts, behaviors, and symptoms. Please use your discretion when reading and speak with your support system as needed.
Rachel Wilshusen is a dynamic and vibrant writer with liberal arts degrees from the University of Pennsylvania, University College London, and the University of Cambridge. After an extensive battle with anorexia, including admittance to an eating disorder center, Rachel wrote Emancipated Love Junkie to embolden others to follow her path toward recovery. Coastal runs with her husband and jumping into ocean waves are her favorite ways to spend sunny mornings in Del Mar, California. Learn more about Rachel via email, Instagram, and her website, rachelwilshusen.com.
As a little girl in pigtails racing through sprinklers in the summertime, I knew I was enough. I polished off ice cream sundaes with pleasure, strutted around my school’s four square court with swagger, and felt at home in my skin. Radiating my true, joyful self, I unconsciously accepted that I deserved all the goodness life has to offer. But then puberty showed up and life got sticky. Transferring to new schools each year as an Army kid, I found it hard to assimilate into social circles and allowed insecurities about my weight and appearance to stifle my self-worth.
One early morning, not long after starting university, I caught my naked body in a full-length dorm mirror and, with great finality, pronounced myself a fat failure unworthy of love. This false belief resulted in an extensive eating disorder as I attempted to starve myself into becoming a “perfect” woman with a “perfect” body. I optimistically hoped restricting my intake and working myself raw from sunrise to sundown would calm my anxious heart and prove myself worthy of love. Instead, I chased my tail as a constant wreck, with a tear-stained cheek often glued to various apartment floorboards as I absorbed feelings of defeat, regret, and self-loathing.