Coming Out – Going public with your ED Recovery

Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.

— Oscar Wilde.

When I began my journey into Recovery, I never thought I would be capable of the vulnerability required to share my story. Many of my peers in treatment were very public with their journeys, and received a ton of support as a result. And though I craved that support, I was terrified of showing this side to people. I had always been “perfect,” or at the very least had tried to be. ED told me I was nothing, and I didn’t want anyone else to find out that beneath my perfect veneer I was a mess. A terrible, no good, very bad person. A worthless person. For 12 years, ED had convinced me of this, and for 12 years I had hidden my true self, distancing myself from others to keep them from finding out I was a fraud.

Thus, publicly decreeing that fact to the world seemed impossible. ED was still convincing me — even in treatment, even after giving everything up and choosing life — that I still had to pretend. That if others saw who I really was, I would be ostracized. Hated. Shamed. But the truth is, vulnerability is inspiring. It is the ultimate strength. It empowers you to be unapologetically yourself, and to move beyond the limitation of living by other’s opinions. Of living in fear of being who you are, deep down. And until you are able to do that, to be vulnerable and to begin to let go of the fear that you are not good enough in someone else’s eyes, you give yourself the opportunity to really live.

Below is my “coming out post,” the first public post I had ever made about my ED. I was terrified posting it, even though I felt it was so important for me to do so. Initially, I thought going public was another way of changing what others thought of you – of manipulating your narrative inside their heads. But by the time I wrote this post, I realized that that was all ED-mind talking. Going public, for me, was about keeping myself from hiding and taking away the power hiding holds. When you are hiding your struggles, it is so much easier to slip back into them. For me, I felt like if I didn’t go public that ED might convince me to go back to him – to go back to hiding and using behaviors and being sick. So I took that option away. I was vulnerable and honest and terrified, but I knew by telling my story – by telling my struggle – I was finally free from hiding and the shame it brought. I was holding myself accountable to the journey I had sent myself on. And most importantly, I was breaking the facade of perfection that had kept me entrapped for so long.

“Coming out” about ED was an act of liberation for me. An act of protection. And I was shocked at the amount of support that poured in afterwards. People were proud of me for being so vulnerable. They were inspired. Empowered. I felt so validated and free. This was one of my first major acts of rebellion against ED, and told me, definitively, that ED was wrong. The world didn’t end. People didn’t hate me. No one thought I was weak or worthless. They were proud. Inspired. Empowered. And so was I. ED was wounded, his facade splintered. And I knew I was on the right path.


May 23rd, 2019 – Durham, NC (Facebook/Instagram)

A week from today I will “graduate” (discharge) from my stay at Carolina House, where I have spent the last 5 months in intensive Eating Disorder treatment. 

For the past 13 years I have struggled with my ED in silence and shame, and it’s not something I want to hide any longer. I was very nervous about sharing this part of myself, but secrets keep you sick and I am so proud of the work I have put in, guided by my amazing team here and supported by my incredible peers. 

Although my journey is just beginning I am so glad I took the step to enter residential treatment in January and work towards overcoming a disease that has taken everything from me for more than half my life. 

My ED turned me into a depressed, anxious shell of a human being who felt incapable of doing or achieving anything. It made me believe I was broken beyond repair and that life wasn’t worth living. 

My Recovery has given me back my self and a chance at a real, fulfilling life directed by my values. It has given me the chance to be what my ED told me I could never be – happy, myself, alive. I am uncertain what that life will hold as of now, but I am so excited to have the chance to live it. 

I am creating a life directed by Joy, Connection, Freedom, Authenticity, and Growth. I am figuring out who I am, what I want to experience, and what I care about. This journey is a struggle every damn day, but everyday is worth it because I am finally living rather than just existing. 

It is never too late to pursue a life worth living. I want to thank everyone who has played a part in this journey thus far and all who will play one moving forwards. You know who you are – I am so grateful for you all. 

I will continue working with my Outpatient team in Boulder as I progress in my Recovery and look forwards to continuing to fight each day for this life, this second chance, I’ve been given.


Resources

One of the best resources that led to my ability to be publicly vulnerable was the author Brené Brown, a researched into courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy. She was such a huge influence throughout treatment and into my recovery journey, and I recommend her TED talks and books highly. Below are a few of her publications that particularly influenced the developments in this post.

To learn more about her work, visit https://brenebrown.com

Depression lies

When depression has been your life for so long, sometimes you can forget that its not just a normal way of existing. That there is a reason everything exhausts you, that you are constantly overwhelmed, and that your motivation is often lacking even when you’re dying to participate in the things that you love. It can begin to feel like maybe this is just who you are — an unmotivated, lazy, negative person who can’t seem to do anything right. This story can really bring you down. Once you begin believing its the truth, your life starts to fill out around that truth, and you get sucked into a hole, stuck in the misery that your life has become. 

I have been in this place a long time, believing the old stories my ED and depression have told me about myself, when in reality I am struggling because of those things, not because of who I am. It takes fight to question this construct that you’ve allowed to become your reality, and that is something I am battling with right now. And its fucking hard. 

But I am starting to realize that perhaps the depression is the problem, not me. And Ive been in this place so long that I have accepted it as the norm, when in reality it doesn’t have to be. I am working on rewriting my vision of myself and my past under a lens of reality instead of one framed by the old stories my depression, anxiety, and eating disorder have told me for so long.

For everyone out there struggling with these issues, please remember that these are mental illnesses, as real as any physical one. And just like physical illness, they can alter your capabilities, tolerances, and can increase limitations. And that’s okay. There is nothing wrong with who you are. Being depressed doesn’t make you a bad person, or a worthless one. It just makes life harder. Don’t let that affect your reflection of yourself. Don’t let the “shoulds” and “if only”s make you believe that you are not doing enough. 

All we can do is what we are able; some days that’s more and some days that’s less. But you are never less than — you are enough.


Resources

This post was inspired by the below article from PuttyLike, a site which provides resources for and articles for people who have many interests and creative pursuits, deemed Multipotentialites. I highly recommend this article as well as the site in general.