“Not my lightest, not my heaviest. Still beautiful.”
I took a deep breath, hit publish, and watched the most private part of my life enter cyberspace.
By that day in August, I had been blogging for two and a half years. I started during my gap year, before I entered college. My readers knew all about that year of my life – where I’d traveled, what I’d done, when I’d fallen in love – but they didn’t know one of the most crucial details. I had taken a gap year, in part, because I needed to recover from an eating disorder.
I had lived with OSFED – Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder – for three years in high school. Though OSFED is one of the least-discussed eating disorders, it is among the most common and the most deadly. In the easier times, it barely took up my thoughts. At worst, it consumed my days and my life. I took pleasure in the painful growling of my stomach, and secretly enjoyed seeing my hands tremble from lack of energy. When I caved in to the hunger and binged, I would become so angry that I’d deprive myself of food as punishment.
I began recovery in my senior year of high school, after finally realizing that my behaviors constituted an eating disorder. For months, I saw a doctor, a counselor, and a nutritionist. Taking a gap year became a part of my recovery process, and to my great surprise, blogging helped. It let me express myself in a healthy way after years of keeping my feelings to myself. Writing about my travels, my family, and my budding relationship helped me understand and appreciate who I was.
But as I blogged, my eating disorder stayed a secret. I was ashamed, most of all, of being “in recovery” as who I was; someone who was still 200 pounds and wore size 18 clothes.
After years of blogging and being in recovery, I realized that the shame I felt was something I could help stop. More than that, I wanted to share it. I was tired of hiding such a big part of myself from the world. So I wrote a blog post about my relationship with my body; how I had fallen into an eating disorder, and fought to overcome it. On that day in August, I hit publish, shared the post on Facebook, and shut my laptop.
I never expected the reactions I would get.
Within hours, I had received dozens of comments and emails, both from people I knew, and from complete strangers. Some said that my story helped them with their own diagnosis. One girl told me that my blog had encouraged her to call her therapist after she had been putting it off for months.
So I kept writing. I wrote about recovery, and how harrowing it can be. I wrote about counseling for people who might be considering it. And as my blog has grown, I have continued to receive emails from readers across the world saying that it helped them. Those emails have touched and changed my life more than my readers will ever know.
Writing about my eating disorder has helped me to redeem it. I am no longer ashamed of who I was, or how I struggled. Sharing my story with others – and in that process, trying to let them feel they are not alone – has helped me make peace with my past. In the process, my story of shame has become one of courage.
And for that, I am so grateful.