By: Christina Grasso, IATG Contributor March 7, 2016
It was around this time last year when I was hospitalized for complications related to an eating disorder and then enrolled in an inpatient treatment program for the months to follow.
I begrudgingly put my life in New York on hold, but this wasn’t my first rodeo. Over the past 5 years, I have been in and out of treatment centers and hospitals more times than I can count. I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa at the age of 19, but I truly started struggling before I even hit my teenage years. Needless to say, my relationship with my body has led me to a tumultuous journey.
Which is not to say it’s solely about body image. Eating disorders are about so much more than food and weight or calories and numbers. Though mine began as an innocuous diet, it morphed into something much more multifarious and insidious that took over every aspect of my life and has been unbelievably challenging and rewarding to overcome.
And so last January, in the midst of relapse and subsequent high risk for cardiac arrest, I was admitted to the Eating Disorders Unit; first to save my life and then to help me relearn how to live a meaningful life beyond the sinister confines of anorexia.
The weight I’ve had to gain in the past year has felt extremely significant, mentally and physically. There is a common misconception that weight restoration signifies full recovery – it doesn’t. The really hard work comes afterward. So as I moved closer to weight restoration, I became more and more frustrated. Sad. Anxious. Life as I knew it was over. I was turning into an appalling object of derision, and that was it. The End.
It took me until recently to realize that, no, life was not, and is not, over; it’s just beginning. Those hard-fought pounds and ounces are giving me my life back. Those pounds are my magical cloak, my weapon. Because when every meal is a battleground, they are hard evidence that I’m winning the war. Those pounds represent life. They represent the fierce love and unwavering support of my family and close friends who have stood beside me throughout this painstaking process of fear and heartbreak and frustration and loss.
They represent my own determination in beating this illness, no matter how many times I have stumbled. They represent, in this past year alone, repeat hospital visits, countless EKGs and blood draws, weeks of bedrest, a truckload of Ensure, several IVs, and one very unpleasant nasogastric tube.
And yet, as bad as it was, as many times as I was knocked down, I got back up. And here I am. Those pounds signify the cumulative years I have spent in treatment centers and hospitals, removed from the world in which I was created to live a life spent living, not dying or merely existing.
It’s all too easy for me, like many women and men, to pick out things about my appearance I dislike, especially now as I’m living in a body that still feels as though I am a guest in one’s own home. But reframing my recovering, strengthening body as a sort of battle wound fills me with a sense of warrior pride and gratitude rather than shame.
I am worth so much more than the physical shell that has weathered many storms, we all are. And it’s difficult not to love myself when the bits I would instinctively choose to change or hide are the very things that are giving me another chance at a life worth living.
How do you view your growing and strengthening body? How have you grown to love your body? What is one wonderful, loving thing you could tell your body every day? For one week, take a few minutes every day to tell your body in your own way how much you adore it.
Christina is a writer, activist, and social media consultant. Her writing can be seen in NYLON, The Huffington Post, and Bullett, among other publications. Currently she oversees social media for Monte Nido & Affiliates, a premiere eating disorder treatment center in the United States. She also serves as a board member and heads Public Relations for Project HEAL, a non-profit dedicated to funding eating disorder treatment.
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