I Am Healed. I Am Free.

This is for anyone who feels as if an eating disorder has taken over their life or a life that they love. If anything, I hope to encourage those who feel as if they’re stuck in a hopeless place and to assure them that there is always a way out.

Three years ago, the girl that I once was stood in the shower contemplating her purpose. She looked down and saw nothing – nothing but the gift of life fading away. She spent days in solitude questioning if the world had more to offer her than her appearance. She was constantly praised for her thin, athletic figure. Meanwhile, she was held hostage in her own body, chained to her rigid routine that she was tricked into thinking kept her from drowning. Yet it was pulling her deeper. Deep down, she wanted more for her life. The days passed, each the same as the one before, and she grew cold, tired, and weak. Her family remained silent. They did notice the changes in her behavior and in her physical appearance, but they too praised her for her for what they labeled a “healthy” lifestyle. They failed to see the truth – the truth that she was dying. She was alone in her war. When she finally hit her rock bottom, she knew that she had two choices: to fade away or to give up control, choosing life.  

She chose life. She accepted help, took small steps, and stayed faithful to the guidance of professionals. Her days no longer looked the same. Nothing became easier. Rather, each day was a new battle to conquer. Controlling her intake and her physical appearance became less and less important as she got to know the girl inside of her – a girl who was made for more. That girl today is ME. I am whole. I am renewed. I am healed. I am liberated from my dark past and free to explore a new future. Throughout my recovery, my hope came from the boys and girls, the men and women who would one day need to know my story. I stayed the course of recovery, and today I walk in freedom. But I am not done with my eating disorder. It is a part of me, and it will always be a part of me. I embrace the trials that I faced as a part of my story that has only just begun.

Family and friends can and should play a huge role in the recovery process. It’s important to walk hand-in-hand with a loved one through this time, to help care for their hurting heart. Unfortunately I did not have my mother or father’s encouragement through my toughest years in my eating disorder. This did, however, motivate me to seek professional help. My treatment team was incredible; they saved me. I’m so thankful for the care and guidance I received, but I cannot help but think that if my family had had a greater understanding about what I was going through, I would have entered treatment sooner, perhaps saving me from at least some of what I endured. Knowing how to communicate with empathy with someone who is suffering from an eating disorder is critical. Having people in my life who understood my struggles, who truly cared, who listened without judgement, and who treated me like they would anyone else helped me to find a safe place to heal. While fighting for my life, I learned to become stronger than my eating disorder.

For those of you who feel like an eating disorder is taking over your life or a life that you love, let me finish with this: “Don’t let the enemy win a battle that you never had a chance to fight” (George S. Patton). Take on the challenge of recovery. I promise that it’s worth it. There is freedom in the healing process. And with healing comes life. I am healed, I am free, and I urge you to allow yourself or to give someone you know who is struggling the push they need to start on their own path to recovery so that they may too experience what it means to truly live.

Visit the National Eating Disorders Association website for more information about eating disorders and to seek help.

by Nikki Budreau
Senior, Olathe Northwest High School (Olathe, KS)