I don’t remember a single time in my childhood or teenage years when I could say I loved my body (or even liked my body for that matter). I thought I was so ugly, and my anxiety and depression escalated that thought. That was one of the factors which led to the development of my eating disorder. No one in my life had ever said anything to me about my body, at least that I can recall. For some reason I still don’t understand, I just hated my appearance and constantly put myself down.
As I grew up and my eating disorder came into the picture, I loathed my body even more and didn’t nurture it in the least. As is the case with any eating disorder, I harmed it and pushed its limits. It wasn’t until I entered treatment that I realized how much damage I was inflicting on my body - and what would happen if I kept going on this destructive path. It was eye-opening, and I began to feel the teeny, tiny spark of motivation develop inside of me. It was not easy by any means, and it took a very long time for me to kick the eating disorder to the curb. Even after achieving that feat, my body image and appreciation level were not where I wanted them to be.
My road to body appreciation began in the most unexpected of ways. When I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, I was forced to become more in-tune with my body. I was forced to respect its need to rest and sense its pain signals. Kind of by accident, I began to connect with my body by means of healthy exercise, which is a known pain reliever for fibromyalgia. I began to appreciate the strength I felt and the peace of mind I got, and I didn’t even give one thought to the exercise-related numbers that excited my eating disorder. For a few months, I felt better than ever and finally felt at home in my body.
As you may have read in my last guest post, this is where a new round of random symptoms came in. These symptoms interfered more with my daily life, and caused terrible pain and even more fatigue than what I was already getting from fibro. The shortness of breath that I developed, the weakness in my right leg, and the awful hip/leg/back pain (that turned out to be bursitis) all contributed to my inability to exercise. I was not at a point where I was obsessive about it or based my self-worth on my exercise, but I missed it terribly because I had truly been enjoying it and reaping the benefits of it, and it helped gain a sense of trust in my body.
In addition to the symptoms above, I developed bad nausea, which didn’t respond well to medication. The only thing that made it somewhat bearable was eating. Between these two issues, I felt really depressed and defeated. I felt that I could no longer tr
ust my body to take care of me, and I was devastated – I honestly felt that all of the time I had spent in treatment working on my relationship with my body (and body image) was now a waste.
After a while of dealing with these tough feelings, I realized that this was not true. The work I did in treatment was necessary and could never be wasted - before all of these chronic illness symptoms occurred, I had felt confident in my body, and I had trusted my body. Although this may not be the case currently, I know that it is possible for me to feel at home in my body.
As I work on treating and managing my chronic illness, I am hopeful that, one day, I will get to that place again. Until then, I have no choice but to accept my situation as it is, and do what I need to do in order to heal my body (and life). I may not have complete control over the ailments of my body now, but I do have control over my eating disorder. The nasty, controlling, berating eating disorder voice told me I would be nothing without it. It led me on a path of destruction. This voice has since been replaced by a kinder, more respectful voice – one that says, “You are showing love for your body by engaging in the healing process. That is never wasted time.”
Alison is a passionate advocate for mental health awareness and recovery. She graduated from Salem State University in 2015 with a bachelor's in psychology, and returns to the school annually to speak about eating disorders and share her recovery story. Learn more about Alison on our Blog Squad page.