Eating Disorders

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I’m cheap. So it hurt my heart a little bit to spend $3.25 on a single cookie. But I had to do it. You see, this very cookie. This very snowman with blue winter accessories, chocolate buttons and a carrot nose, caused me a lot of turmoil about ten years ago.

I had gone to Starbucks directly after therapy, on one of those “I’ve just worked a lot of stuff out in therapy and I can do this” highs. My therapist had suggested a food challenge: that maybe I try to have a little bit of a cookie, and then save the rest for later. Like there was a beautiful space in between “I’m having no cookies ever” and “If I have one cookie then I have to have ten,” and it was entirely possible I could live there.

I ordered the snowman cookie at Starbucks and brought it to a corner table with my coffee. And then, despite my best efforts, I devoured the cookie. I bought more cookies. I went to the bathroom and purged.

For a longtime after, I cried in my car. A homeless woman talked to herself outside my window, and I envied her. “I’d rather be homeless than have an eating disorder,” I thought. “At least it doesn’t make her binge and purge all day long,” I thought. “At least she gets to walk around and look at the sky and think about things other than bodies and food.”

So now here I am, with a few words for my twenty-two year old self, once crying in the car and envying the homeless:

Dear Self,
You are so much deeper and more beautiful than you realize.

You, sweet girl, are in the fight of your life. And I’m so proud of you for all the ways you held on.

For the fact that you returned to therapy. Sure, you didn’t tell your therapist the whole heavy, embarrassing truth about the snowman cookie. But you returned to therapy. You didn’t give up.

And even though you don’t believe it now, someday you will be able to tell everyone, even strangers, the whole, embarrassing heavy truth of your story…and that heaviness will serve you in ways you can’t imagine.

Someday, you will look into the eyes of others suffering from invisible disorders…and love them with all of your soul.

Someday, you will feel a closeness to the ones who suffer in the dark—late at night in the kitchen or alone in a hospital room or homeless inside of a dog kennel. You will look at them and know their heartache and want to do all you can to help them feel less alone.

Because that’s what your therapist did for you. And the shelter dogs. And your husband. And your mother and sister. They loved you even when you wanted to die.

You, sweet girl, are going to make use of this heavy pain. Believe it or not, you will one day want to live again. You will eat that snowman. And I promise you, the price of the cookie—and all of your struggles—will have been worth it.

I love you. This is not the end.

Love, me

Author of Pound for Pound. National Recovery Advocate for Eating Recovery Center. Rescued By Shelter Dogs!