My journey is unique – but that’s what makes it mine. Every step that has brought me here, to this very day, has served a purpose. It has taken me years to comprehend the value of the uncertain moments that seemed to characterize the majority of my early adulthood, but here I am now, sitting in awe of the magic behind this crazy thing called life, finally able to understand its madness.
The ups and downs of my journey – from being deep in the throws of my life-threatening eating disorder, to standing tall in my new life as a survivor – have not been systematic or “by the books.” I didn’t dare to merely move through the motions of my recovery process and just hope that I would end up on the other side of this battlefield. I reached a full recovery because of the motivation, passion, and fight that flowed through my veins. I was not passive or indirect in my pursuit, but rather aggressive and steadfast in my efforts to kick that demon’s ass. I took a unique approach, and discovered what worked for me. I fought like hell. I came to find the smallest sliver of hope to hold on to, and I went for it. And look at me now – I made it.
My recovery has undoubtedly helped shape me into the warrior I am today, but it is not the only thing I want to be remembered for. It is not the only aspect of my being that defines me. I am recovered, and I wholeheartedly pride myself on that, but I am also a student, writer, athlete, personal trainer, daughter, sister, best friend, girlfriend…all of which would be unfeasible while living a life with ED. My goal wasn’t to reach recovery and then stop there – it was to reach recovery so that I could continue to serve all of these other roles; the roles that slipped by the wayside during my battle for health, happiness, and freedom.
I am not saying this to undermine my efforts in winning this war against my demons, because it was undoubtedly the hardest thing I will ever have to do, but rather to emphasize that my recovery was motivated by my desire to reclaim all of these things in my life that were being stolen away by my illness. Recovery is not about reaching a certain weight, eating all of the items on your meal plan, or saying the “right” things in your therapy sessions. Rather than approaching recovery with the mentality to “check off” all of the boxes and hope for the best, approach it with the mindset that recovery goes far beyond the physical healing – that is only the beginning.
The determination I developed to reclaim my life did not come without strife. My eating disorder unapologetically ripped all motivation I had straight out of my chest, locked it up, and threw away the key. For years I remained empty, unsure of how to move forward. My shell of an existence lingered with a dark, heavy omnipresence. I had two options: find something to fight for, or wave my white flag and surrender.
“Hannah, you have to do this for yourself.” The words were simple, but my ability to implement them was not. My treatment team, friends, and family begged for me to dig deeper and relight my flame. They begged for me to want recovery for myself, just as much as they wanted it for me. They begged for me to pick up my sword, hold my shield high, and walk back into battle once and for all. After years of hearing this empty request, it began to resonate.
I didn’t want recovery simply to be able to call myself a survivor. I couldn’t attach myself to my journey until I found something deeper – more intimate, more inspiring. I wanted recovery so that I could live my life the way it was intended to be. I found my determination when I realized that reaching recovery was only the beginning. It wasn’t the act within itself that would bring me happiness, but rather the thousands of doors that would open in front of me once recovery was attained – that’s what I was fighting for. For the long-term benefits: the carefree vacations with my family, the lazy Sunday mornings with my boyfriend, the spontaneous nights out with my best friend. I wanted to do all of these things without ED. I wanted to rediscover my independence. I wanted to rediscover myself.
Define your recovery. What is it in your life that you want back? What has ED stolen away from you that you need him to relinquish? Where do you want your recovery to lead you?
Think long. Think hard. Think about what you are willing to fight for.
I am rooting for you always.