Reclaiming Freedom in Recovery
I used to take my freedom for granted—that is, until eighth grade when I fell into the clutches of anorexia. The thing about an eating disorder is that the stronger and louder it gets, the more it strips away from the sufferer. That year, over the course of a mere couple of months, I lost practically everything: my friends, my hobbies, my education, my ambitions, my hope, my independence, and my freedom. My life completely revolved around food to the point where it was the only thought on my mind and nothing else really mattered. My actions, as well, were dictated by my disorder; then, in treatment, they were closely monitored by my doctors and nurses. In retrospect, I find it a bit ironic that one of the reasons I started restricting was to have more control in my life, but somehow things spiraled so far in the opposite direction that I ended up with none.
Fortunately, recovery does just the opposite of the eating disorder. Slowly but steadily, I’ve reclaimed all that was taken away from me—and then some. From returning to school to making new friends to increasing my variety of foods to learning how to eat intuitively and independently, I’ve built a life for myself that, while far from perfect, is 100x better than the half-life my anorexia had forced me into. One of the greatest gifts this new life has given me is freedom, that same thing I used to take for granted until my eating disorder took it away indefinitely.
This newfound freedom extends to most areas of my life. It’s the freedom to choose what I want to eat based on a wide variety of foods, not just a small list of “safe” foods. It’s the freedom to go on a run and decide to stop after only a mile because my body is tired and deserves to rest. It’s the freedom to see a scale—in the doctor’s office, a friend’s house, etc.—and turn away instead of weighing myself. Very recently, it’s the freedom to commit to veganism (more on that soon), not because it’s an excuse to cut out certain food groups but because I care deeply about animal rights and the environment.
Just yesterday, while my mom and I were unloading vegan products we’d purchased at Trader Joe’s in the kitchen, she hugged me and told me how happy she is that I’m in a place where I can make these choices clearly, thoughtfully, and on my own. When I was very sick, my mom had to take on the role of the Enforcer and lay down the law in our house; what I could do, what I couldn’t do, what I could eat, when I could eat, so on. She took away all my control, not to spite me but to save me. She knew my disorder was calling the shots; that it wasn’t me who was hurling food across the kitchen or pocketing my snacks. She knew but I can only imagine how hard it must have been for her nevertheless. And what a relief it is now, for her sake and mine, that we’re not in that dark place anymore.
Seven years ago, I’d wake up every morning filled with anxiety and dread about what the day would bring and what I’d eat. Today, I woke up energized and ready to go, enjoyed some Cinnamon Puffins for breakfast, worked on an assignment for a course at my college, and did all of it without baseless fears filling my mind or panic and malnutrition hindering my ability to breathe. There’s a lot I regret about my past but there’s only thing I regret about recovery, and it’s that I didn’t commit to it sooner. Because this freedom truly is beautiful, empowering, and enables me to lead a fulfilled and independent life. Sometimes, you don’t realize the significance of something until you think you’ve lost it for good.