Content warning: The following story contains references to a survivor's experiences with anorexia nervosa, suicidal ideation, and self-harm, which may be triggering for some readers.
"Feel Peace," Becca Meyers
During my first year of college I developed an eating disorder. I had no idea that's what it was for the first few months, until I was finally diagnosed with anorexia nervosa at the end of the school year. I was destroying myself in order to attempt to have control and fit into a mold that I felt was forced upon me. But attempting to have control over my body and food only made me lose myself. I was put into a partial hospitalization treatment program at the end of the summer, and that was where I took the first baby steps in my journey to healing.
I took a year off from school, once I admitted I needed the time to focus on myself and my recovery. That year had its ups and downs, and my personal relationships were tested as well because of the changes I was trying to make and the struggles I encountered. Luckily I had a nutritionist and a therapist helping me along the way, and I learned so much about myself and the nature of my eating disorder.
The following year I transferred to Lesley University in Cambridge, MA to study art therapy, which I had first discovered through eating disorder treatment the previous year. I struggled with body image and self-esteem on and off throughout that year. At the beginning things were rocky; I was treated poorly by my first roommate and felt personally attacked and unable to maintain my recovery, which led to an overnight hospitalization due to suicidal ideation. I was able to get back on my feet thanks to my family and the friends I had made, and got a roommate switch which was a much safer and more fun environment.
However, I still had many demons inside that continued to haunt me and make me feel worthless. That winter, I made myself throw up for the first time, and started self-harming as well. Once again I felt like I had no control over anything, and the only way to cope was by controlling what went in and out of my body. I developed bulimia, and I lied about it and hid it from everyone. I was lying to my therapist, and to the school's health services nurses about all the eating disorder behaviors I was using. I was ashamed, but I couldn't stop. What I remember most is the feeling of hating my body so much, all the time, no matter what I did to try and control it. When I finally confessed to a few close friends a couple months later they helped me get rid of my self-harm materials, and continued to support me in trying to seek help. But right before the end of the school year I reached my breaking point. The eating disorder was out of control, and contributed to my depression and worsening suicidal ideation.
I felt hopeless and full of only self-hatred. I was brought to a psychiatric unit briefly, before being transferred to an inpatient treatment center. I was there for a week, and one of only 3 people on the unit with an eating disorder. My mental health was focused on and treated, but the eating disorder side of things was barely addressed. I could have gotten away with a lot of behaviors while I was there, but I resisted. Some part of me was determined to fight the eating disorder.
After being at the inpatient unit for a week I stepped down to the partial hospitalization program back where I had been in treatment the very first time. However, this time felt different than before - I think I was more determined to recover, and I was stronger mentally.
This time I was ready to really fight back. I still had a difficult time at first, and struggled to stop using behaviors for a couple weeks, and gave into the urge sometimes - until I used a behavior for the last time shortly after I had gotten out of treatment. I was so mad at myself that day for making myself throw up, after all my hard work. But I didn't let it take me spiraling downwards that time. After that last bout of treatment and that last behavior, I worked each day to just make it through just one day at a time without using an eating disorder behavior. I treated each day as a new opportunity, I reached out for help, I surrounded myself with the help and positivity I needed to combat the negative body image and eating disorder. I got farther and farther from that dark and miserable place, and the further I got, the more I realized that speaking about my experiences and being an advocate was another way to fight the eating disorder and make me stronger in recovery.
It has now been more than 2 1/2 years since I have engaged in an eating disorder behavior, and I have gained many more skills in my tool belt for a healthy and happy life. For some time now, the eating disorder part of my life has felt less relevant, and far less inhibiting. Food really isn't an issue for me anymore, and my triggers around food and body image have decreased significantly. I started a graduate program this fall for art therapy and counseling, and in one class I chose to do a project surrounding how I treat myself and my body, and worked on ways to be more loving and gentle with myself. I actually have noticed more positive outcomes than I thought possible. Even though I have been in recovery for a few years, I am still growing and learning how to be kind to myself and love myself as I am. I have worked hard to get to where I am now, and that hard work and determination has helped me stay in recovery. I have had some wonderful professionals work with me, and incredible friends and family who share my values and keep me motivated and supported.
I am really proud and happy to be where I am now, and to finally have a more loving relationship with my body and with myself. The hard work and the struggles have been worth it, because my life is so much richer and I am stronger because of those struggles; and having known those difficulties, I believe I can better help others struggling with similar issues.
Now I can say to myself with confidence that I am enough, I am worthy, and I am more than my looks or my eating disorder. I am beautiful and healthy and strong, and worthy of my own love and the love of others.
If you are struggling, I encourage you to seek help, because you deserve it; if you are in the helping profession, you play an important role in many peoples' lives and I hope you continue to make a difference; for everyone out there, you matter and you are beautiful and valuable exactly as you are.
May we all be happy,
May we all be safe,
May we all feel peace.
About the art:
I was really excited that one of our artists, Becca, was willing to open up about her experiences with an eating disorder this month. I wanted to create a peace that had lots of warm colors, to mirror my experiences with Becca while she was at Lesley. She's such a warm, loving human, so I wanted to capture that in the colors. Juxtaposing this, I wanted lots of white to mirror the chaos of living with the anxiety of an eating disorder. Having one, myself, I sort of understand to a degree how Becca may have felt, or does feel about living with theirs.
I chose the quote, "May we all feel peace," because it seemed to fit most as a piece of standalone art AND because it captures the essence of what Becca was portraying throughout this story. The black creeping from the right side is to symbolize the ever-present existence of our insecurities that may still pop in and out of our lives while we seek this peace, while we seek some form of comfort. It's a tough balance, but I applaud Becca for working hard to accomplish it.