June 9, 2021, noon
From fighting for my literal life during the depths of anorexia, to the countless recovery attempts that ensued, to say the past 8 years have been a rollercoaster ride may be an understatement. A million emotions run through my mind as I reflect on this journey. Words cannot convey how grateful I am to have finally healed, mended broken relationships, and found inner peace.
I shudder thinking back to the height of my eating disorder. My body kept me up at night, pleading for food and yearning for energy. Yet anorexia insisted I had more weight to lose. The vicious cycle of restriction and self-destruction was dangerous. My body was clinging to life, heart faintly beating at 30 beats per minute but that ruthless voice inside still claimed I was unworthy. Although I didn’t realize at the time, it was never about the weight. Weight control was simply a manifestation of keeping my overwhelming and chaotic life under control. Ironically, weight soon became everything and ended up controlling my life instead.
If I had to name my biggest challenge to date, it would be embarking on recovery. There were many “one step forward, two steps back” attempts, relapses, and tears shed along the way. But suffice it to say this tumultuous journey has taught me the importance of exercising self-compassion, kindness, and unconditional love for my body. Rather than criticizing and judging it for all its flaws, I choose to be kind. I thank her for keeping my feeble heart pumping at my weakest, giving me a chance to live. On days when I feel under the weather, I take a deep breath and remind myself how amazing it is to simply be alive and be a part of this human experience.
The most beautiful part of recovery has been reclaiming the joy of living and remembering what it feels like to be my authentic self. Someone ready to embark on adventures, make memories, and simply have fun. Rather than worrying about what others think, I choose to let go of what I cannot control and instead focus on being the best version of myself. I am perfectly imperfect and I will not be mindlessly chasing an ideal of beauty and success. This is me - my unapologetic self, and no one can stop me.
I have gained so much more than 45 pounds of weight throughout this journey. I’ve gained back happiness, purpose, and most importantly, life. I write this as I sip on my caramel latte. The simple thought of drinking a sugar laden beverage would’ve been unfathomable once upon a time, but I have long moved past that. Of course, there are still days of body struggle. Instead of feeling beat up, I remind myself what a healthy body can do. When I notice my jeans getting tighter, instead of vowing to begin another diet, I unapologetically smile and celebrate my womanly curves. I guess it’s just time to buy new jeans! I feel liberated; liberated from the inner demons that once dictated my life.
A major misconception around mental illness is that it is a choice. Let me say this loud and clear: Mental illness is not something people actively choose, no more than anyone chooses the flu. Anorexia is a real physiological and psychological disease which completely dominates your rational mind. Eating disorders are among the deadliest mental illnesses and I remind myself everyday how grateful I am to be alive.
I don’t expect anyone to understand what it’s like to have an eating disorder, unless you’ve been through it. However, I hope people can at least empathize with sufferers and fight the stigma around mental health. There are many suffering in silence who are afraid to speak out, especially during a time when we’re becoming ever so disconnected. Take time to check up on your loved ones. Being there to talk can make a world’s difference to someone struggling.
And to all my fighters out there: recovery is so worth it! It will be one of the toughest challenges, but nothing feels better than living life again. Remembering how fun it is to spend a Friday night eating pizza, going for a girl’s night out, and finishing the night with ice cream. Recovery is uncomfortable, but the pain is only temporary. Beauty is not about how you look but about having a big heart and kind soul. Be your unapologetic self and fight on. I’m rooting for you!
Sandra is a recent university graduate with a degree in Engineering. Having recovered from severe anorexia, the topic of mental health holds near and dear to her heart. She hopes to use her voice to motivate others to recover, create awareness and fight the stigma around mental illnesses.
One of Sandra's pandemic hobbies has been baking. She enjoys experimenting different recipes and sharing the fruits of her labour with friends and family. Her baking instagram handle is @sands_n_pans