It is a common misconception that people struggling with eating disorders can be “scared into recovery.” In fact, the opposite is true. It took five weeks in the eating disorder unit at Children’s Hospital Colorado and years of treatment for me to realize this.
One of the most dangerous components of eating disorders is the illness’s ability to infiltrate the mind of those who are suffering and blur the lines between original thought and unhealthy obsession. People assumed that threatening to take away things that were important to me would push me to want to get better. They assumed that horror stories about other people with eating disorders would be a wake-up call and that I would realize the immediate threat my illness posed to my health and happiness.
This would be true, had I not been engulfed in a civil war between my mind and my illness – a war where the latter was proving to be victorious. Logically, I would have known that my food restriction and exercise habits were extremely unhealthy. I would have recognized the danger of having a resting heart rate of 43 beats per minute. But I was not in control. My eating disorder was. And my eating disorder recognized these things as signs of progress.
My eating disorder capitalized on my type-A personality and exploited my desire to be the best, but not in a healthy way. For me, that meant being the best at having an eating disorder. It meant being the sickest, eating the least and exercising the most. It meant being the most critical of myself and never missing an opportunity to prove that my eating disorder was in charge.
For me, courage meant standing up to my eating disorder and regaining control over my own life. It meant understanding the blurred lines between original thought and unhealthy obsession. Courage didn’t mean erasing those lines, but rather being able to navigate them.
Courage means accepting that there will still be days when my eating disorder is in control. It means allowing myself to struggle while also striving to be the happiest and healthiest person I can be. My eating disorder is still a part of me, and that’s okay. Courage doesn’t mean being able to recover from challenges; it means being able to grow from them.
As a Patient Ambassador, Cora is now raising money for the Children’s Colorado Pediatric Mental Health Institute. Donate to Cora's fundraising page.