As I read more and more stories of people that have recovered/are recovering from an eating disorder I noticed a certain trend. Usually the ED was “set off” by a particular experience or a series of negative experiences. These rage from bullying/teasing at school, being “dumped” by a best friend or boyfriend, to losing a loved one, physical or emotional abuse, abandonment, rape etc. Sometimes the ED developed as a “coping mechanism”, just something to numb the pain and take away the memories. Other times it was a result of low self worth or a struggle to be accepted and liked by those around. There is a good chance that you also have a past experience that made you walk down the dangerous, deadly path of an ED
I'm here to tell you that you are not the only one. As a matter of fact “we” (as people recovering from an eating disorder) are not the only ones. I dare say that almost everyone on earth has experienced difficult and painful situations in their lives. Some people might have had it better then you, but I guarantee that a whole lot of other people had it worse.
But we can separate these types of people into two groups – the ones that let go of the past and reached out to the future, and the ones who let the past consume and affect them for the rest of their lives. Many individual belonging in the first group achieved extraordinary things during their livetimes and went on to claim a title in the halls of fame. But I dare say that no one from the second group is able to say the same, or at least not to the extent that they could have.
Has life treaded you unfairly? Think of Nelson Mandela. A man fighting for freedom from racial segregation. A noble cause by anyone's standard. He was sentenced to 27 years in prison. Think of that when you feel like you have “wasted” too much of your life on an ED. Mandela spent 18 years at Robben Island, a prison where racial segregation was more prevalent then ever. Were you mistreated in the past? Because of his skin color Mandela was allowed less food then white prisoners. He was allowed one visitor and one letter every six months. If letters came they were often delayed or made unreadable by prison sensors.
Mandela's prison cell:
He could have allowed himself to be overcome by bitterness at such mistreatment, yet he rose to greatness. He led his party to achieve multi-racial democracy and became a president who firmly believed in and propagated reconciliation. During his lifetime he received more then 250 awards, including a Nobel Peace Prize.
You think life dealt you a rough blow because of the way you look? Tired of feeling left-out and unpopular? Do feel completely shut off from the world? Well imagine you actually were in the most literal sense of the word. You can't talk to anyone, not because no one understands you, but because you can't speak. You can't see anyone, because you are blind. You can't enjoy music, normal conversations. Your life is one dark tunnel. Hellen Keller had a life like that. In addition to her physical disabilities she had a protruding left eye (which is why all her photographs from her youth are done in profile).
Talk about feeling different and feeling ostracized and left out.
She had every “right” to lose herself in the dark tunnel of depression, but she didn't. She rose to greatness by becoming a world-famous speaker and writer. She founded the HKI organization, an organization devoted to research in vision, health and nutrition. She was the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. She is remembered for her outspoken opposition to war, and her campaigning for women's suffrage, workers' rights, and socialism.
I'm not giving these examples to minimize your struggles or the blows life has dealt you in any way. I'm simply posting them because they spoke to me. They made me realize that EVERYONE is faced with difficulties, some with seemigly insurmountable hardships. But they rise to greatness; sometimes inspite of their problems, and sometimes because of them. We have a choice to do the same. We can continue to live in the past and let it affect us, or we can let it go.
"Letting go" means different things for different people. For some it means re-establishing contact with someone who has hurt us in the past, and forgiving them. For others it means distancing themselves from situations and people who influence them in a negative way. It means letting go of someone you loved but that wasn't right for you. It means realizing that, although something horribly wrong happened to you, it's up to YOU to decide how you deal with it. Sometimes it means acknowledging that something negative has happened, instead of constanly trying to forget. Leaving the past behind is harder then it seems. But only then can the true healing begin.
Let's not let the past hold us back any more from reaching out full potential. We are all destined to change the world in our own, small way. There is so much potential inside you. Don't let your ED, the past, or anything else hold you back.