AFTER A SECRET 20-YEAR EATING DISORDER
I've had a pretty severe eating disorder for the last twenty years. I kept it a secret from the world for so long because of all the shame I felt about it. Nobody knew about it until literally six weeks ago when I decided to share my story. This was a secret from the internet and the entire world but sharing that secret felt like a huge weight was lifted off of me. I was always worried about how it would jeopardize my career and it has. It's been hard. But, why did I decide to share? It felt right. I was just so tired of the secret and I knew that I wanted to help others who also may have been struggling silently.
I can't say that I'm at a place of recovery or even close to that yet. I just came home after being across the country for four months for intensive treatment and I still have a long road ahead of me but this time, no more secrets. I'm very passionate about spreading awareness that eating disorders do not have a body type and they can impact people of any gender, race, body size, and socioeconomic background. I’m in treatment for the second time this year because the only way I’ve known how to feel safe is by starving myself and purging. I don’t know how to describe the torment of how it’s felt to live with my eating disorder for two decades. What I do know is that turning thirty this October was a huge slap in the face. It was like I was living underwater for a decade or… like I was sleeping all this time and suddenly I woke up with the realization that I’ve lost ten years to this disorder and I don’t remember how that even happened.
While I was in treatment, my therapist kept calling my blog "Avatar Shira" - another place where everyone only sees this perfect, curated version of me but not actually me but another way to keep the walls up. Something about the way she described it made so much sense and I was like: I don't want to do that anymore. That was it for me. The best part was getting messages from fellow therapists that thanked me. It's very lonely and isolating when you are the healer. That's just not realistic - we all struggle and no one is immune to mental illness.
It was easy to pretend that my disordered behaviors were not that big a deal, especially when you're high functioning and achieving goals. But it almost takes my breath away to think of all I’ve lost and couldn’t do because of this disorder. I’m learning that the only way to achieve freedom from my eating disorder is working through the trauma – which comes along with agonizing discomfort and pain that I’ve been desperately trying to run from. I didn’t choose to suffer with this eating disorder and I am currently doing everything I can to recover from it. Until people in ALL bodies can exist in this world without stigma and abuse, eating disorders will remain a huge fucking problem. Recovery is messy and anything but linear -which can feel frustrating and hard to tolerate when you’re a perfectionist. But in my experience, there really isn’t any major “aha moment” and instead, just a whole lot of excruciating discomfort along with picking yourself up again and again, with compassion and patience. This is where I am. It’s messy and I have ways to go, but I am done keeping secrets.
I celebrate showing up for myself. Again and again and again. I celebrate my compassion, my warmth, my humor, my goofiness, my ability to use my struggles with my disorder to help others.
*Shira Rose is a body positive style blogger, Eating Disorder Recovery and Eating Disorder Therapist.
Follow her journey here.