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What It's Really Like To Go To Rehab For An Eating Disorder

We say to ourselves, “I really shouldn't.”

I really shouldn't enjoy the deliciously warm, gooey muffins my co-worker brought in for us to enjoy in our morning meeting today.

I really shouldn't buy this dress, it isn't made for my body type. I really shouldn't have a drink with my girlfriends tonight, it's just empty calories I'll have to burn off tomorrow.

Harmless, or something more serious? Well, it's National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, so now's the time to talk about it.

And as someone who can finally admit I was very nearly a victim to anorexia nervosa, I'd like to take this time to remind myself and others how important it is to love the bodies we've been given.

The importance of fighting against the unrealistic images of beauty and distorted portrayal of happiness we see in our world today cannot be overstated.

My eating disorder had led me to empty promises. I believed that if I followed the rules of my disorder, I would someday wake up and feel like everything I had worked for, every ounce of pain I had put myself through, was worth it. But it wasn't.

I can remember the look on my parents' face when the doctors told them that if they didn't take action, they would kiss me goodnight and never see me again. I can remember silently laughing to myself, thinking everyone around me was crazy.

I wasn't thin. I was nowhere near my goal weight. Didn't everyone else see that?

The truth of the matter is, I couldn't see. I couldn't see the life full of opportunities I had waiting for me. I was too busy skipping class to run through the hallways of my high school and get in 100 sit-ups in the bathroom stall before someone barged in.

I was too busy waiting for the perfect moment to shove food down my shirt so others would think I was eating when all I could think about was how I would sneak around the next meal or social gathering.

I was too busy counting each and every calorie consumed, wondering how long it would be until I could be alone and rid myself of any morsel of food.

It was a sad and lonely life. But I didn't see it.

I wanted to be perfect, but perfect wasn't enough. I wanted to set goals and exceed them. Gasping for air at the life I once had, I watched the scale drop lower and lower, surpassing my ideal weight. But it wasn't enough.

Wasn't I supposed to feel happy by now?

My eating disorder had led me to empty promises. I believed that if I followed the rules of my disorder, I would someday wake up and feel like everything I had worked for, every ounce of pain I had put myself through, was worth it. But it wasn't.

The Benefits Of Mindfulness

On October 21, 2008, I left my self-deprecating life as I knew it behind. I dropped out of school, packed my bags, turned over my cell phone, hugged goodbye to the few friends I still had and headed to what I liked to call “the recovery slammer.”

I went to rehab.

The time I spent in Utah wasn't like the stories you hear from celebrities recovering from addiction and taking time for themselves. To be honest, it was miserable and something I never want to relive.

But what I can say, truthfully, is that I gained much more than weight throughout my stay. I gained back a life worth living.

When I returned to the “real world,” I was knocked off of my mystical high horse of body positivity.

No one in the working world stops to sit and be mindful while they eat their afternoon snack. Heck, no one around me was even eating an afternoon snack! And that was a sad thing to see.

When I wake up each morning, I must firmly plant my feet on the ground and say out loud, “Today, I choose recovery.” Even when it feels silly, it's something I will do until I'm old and gray because I know that if I don't work to put my health first, nothing else can exist.

I've been strong in recovery for nearly eight years now, but I had lots of ups and lots of downs, breakthroughs and breakdowns. But I wouldn't change a thing about it.

Eating disorders have been a taboo topic for too long. It's time for an honest narrative about these issues so the people struggling with them can feel supported and heard.

No one wants to talk about the girl in the office who works through lunch with clothes that seem to sag and gap at the curves of her body. No one addresses the quiet friend who spends hours in the bathroom after each meal.

In today's world, we seem to have normalized diet and poor body image chatter. We criticize every lump and bump on our body and enroll in spin class after spin class in hopes of sweating out anything we “shouldn't” have eaten.

Ridiculous Body Trends Demonstrated Through Food

But the truth is, eating disorders are more common than you may think. The signs aren't always physical, and this mental illness doesn't discriminate. I can almost guarantee that you have a family member, friend or loved one who has felt the pain caused by and eating disorder, so how do we stop it?

I'd be lying if I said I didn't still struggle today. Recovery is not something that happens overnight. When I wake up each morning, I must firmly plant my feet on the ground and say (out loud), “today, I choose recovery.”

Even when it feels silly, it's something I will do until I'm old and gray because I know that if I don't work to put my health first, nothing else can exist.

Recovery is possible, and eating disorders are often fueled by silence, so I hope that in reading this, you feel a sense of hope and will join in to help start a conversation.

The resources are out there, and if you can find the right support system, open your heart to talk about the silent struggle you or a loved one may be facing.

No matter what you hear from the media, your peers and even co-workers, I challenge you to remind yourself that you were only given one body to live.

You will always face heartbreak and hardships, but believe me when I say you are stronger than any darkness that tries to break you, and the battle for your life is worth fighting.

If you or someone you know is struggling from an eating disorder, there's no better time to educate yourself and take the first step toward recovery.

To learn about the signs, seek help and additional information visit nedawareness.org.

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Kate Lienesch

Contributor

Im a 20-something gal adulting in Cleveland - a tall flamingo in a sea of pigeons if you will, with a passion for PR, fashion and my ice-cream loving Chihuahua Corgie Mix. Yes, it was an accident. Lover of desserts, positivity, and killing peop ...
Im a 20-something gal adulting in Cleveland - a tall flamingo in a sea of pigeons if you will, with a passion for PR, fashion and my ice-cream loving Chihuahua Corgie Mix. Yes, it was an accident. Lover of desserts, positivity, and killing peop ...

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