In the Fall of 2014, my documentary professor stood in front of the class, and asked us what we were the most passionate about. After my initial thought, 'obviously Ed Sheeran'.., it struck me that the thing I was the most passionate about, was also my biggest struggle:
Eating disorder recovery.
It is possible to believe in and support something that you yourself do not practice; and it's quite common for those battling an eating disorder. Even though my BMI hinted that I was fine, my mind was still very much consumed by the thoughts I had produced during my darkest days.
At first, I wanted to make the documentary for others. The 'Hey, I'm a girl who struggled with an eating disorder, you're not alone. Lets do this together!' type of thing. And though, this was the perfect spark of motivation I needed to gain the bravery required to speak on laxative abuse and self-harm on camera, it was only just the spark.
At the beginning of the filming process, I was uncomfortable and annoyed with myself. I am not the type of person who particularly enjoys being in front of the camera, especially during a time when I was still tackling my poor body image. Lucky for me, I had two amazing co-partners working with me, who made me feel incredibly comfortable and capable of making a great piece.
After a few weeks of filming, not only did I notice a change in the way I was able to express myself, but, to my surprise, I was eating more and struggling less. Opening up on camera was a therapeutic method more powerful than any psychiatric technique I've ever seasoned. And though cognitive thinking exercises and appointments with nutritionists works for some people, it never did for me. While I was making progress during filming, I realized that it was okay. This was my journey, and I was allowed to recover the way that best suited me.
Despite a minor 'break-down' in between shoots, the process proved to be a healing experience, as I was able to come to terms with issues I did not even know I was pushing away.
When it was all said and done, the day came to finally show it to my classmates. This was incredibly difficult, simply because none of them knew about my struggles. The honesty I displayed throughout the documentary was too much to handle when I was editing, so I couldn't imagine how a second party would feel hearing it. I thought that I would be deemed as an attention-seeker, or annoyance, but the response I received was much different. I am not going to sit and brag about my feedback, but I am going to mention the amount of girls who spoke with me after, saying that they were going through, or had gone through something similar. I honestly believe this is when I started to truly recover.
I felt like the pain that I had suffered served some sort of purpose.
The spark turned into a fire, and though some days the flames may be stronger than others, the blaze has never gone out.
Recovering from any thing is a tough battle, but food is an element that has to be in your life no matter what, as does the body you live in. This can make things more difficult because there is no way to escape your only way of coping; instead, you have to learn how to live with these factors, but in serious moderation. It is not uncommon for any human being to be unhappy with their bodies, but for someone who has or has had an eating disorder, the triggers will always be there. Sadly, life becomes a horrible game of dodging the triggers that come your way, and even after recovery, the triggers are still loud and clear. It is true that the eating disorder will always be there, lurking in your mind, whispering to you some days, and deafening you on others. Just because I am allowing myself to eat a pizza, doesn't mean that I wont still feel the guilt and shame associated. Now, the emotions attached to eating may be minimal, or secondary, but they are still present within my mind. And just because I am not vocal about them, doesn't mean that I don't want to ask for validation. Questions like:
Are you sure I'm not fat? Was I bad for eating that? Have I gained weight?
are just pushed to the back of my mind, while I try and find a permanent home for them in my negative 'trash can' by giving myself, what I like to call, a 'reality check'.
It has been almost one year since I have poured my heart and soul into recovery, and I still attend group therapy weekly and individual counselling when I feel like I need it. I practice mindfulness and positive thinking. I say daily affirmations. I take moments to myself when I need them. I know my limits and I will not risk crossing them.
But most importantly, I am open about my struggles so that others do not feel alone. To me, this is the cherry on top of the somewhat messed up ice cream sundae life has served to me.
I wish that I could give a hug to everyone struggling with an eating disorder. But I cant physically do that. So here is my award winning documentary, 'Less Than 100' to act as a virtual hug, for any one who may need it.
Remember, you are not alone.