March 21, 2018

Finding Myself, Beyond the Northern Lights
 - Alyssa Gutierrez

I still remember the days of my illness with clarity: I would go into the corner of the dark, bare hospital bathroom. Oh, how I noticed the bruises on my legs rapidly growing and resembling the Northern Lights.
 
After weeks of being hospitalized, my heart rate was still not improving; I was slowly fading away. I felt it, too. I felt the chest pains, the pain in my bones, the blurry vision, purple fingernails, and endless faints.
 
I was days away from my deathbed and I knew it. At the time, though, I was not scared of dying. I told myself that if I were skinny enough, I would leave the world feeling victorious, accomplished.
 
But one day, things changed. On November 10th, I received various gifts from my friends, family, and teachers: adult coloring books, fuzzy socks, homemade gifts, and cards. I began to cry in my mom’s arms as I read the cards; I yelled so loudly the nurse had to come into my room to calm me down. I actually missed school. I missed smiling. I missed coming home and seeing my dog pee and cry from happiness when she saw me. I desperately wanted to live again.
 
That night, I went into the cafeteria determined to finish my entire night snack; it would be my first time in two years completing a meal/snack. The motivation in me grew and the realization in me sparked: I hadn’t been happy in so long; I was a living corpse.
 
I was tired of coming out of the shower with chunks of my OWN hair clumped into a ball. I was tired of seeing my parents for a limited amount of time. I was exhausted of being isolated from the real world.
 
That night, I decided that living in the trenches of my eating disorder had done nothing but cause gruesome wounds. I deeply desired the old me: the Alyssa who would order the yummiest looking pastry; the Alyssa who danced, smiled, and laughed. Most of all, I missed the Alyssa who enjoyed living life.
 
It took such an extreme for me to realize that I missed… me.
 
Finding recovery
 
Eating disorder recovery was not solely learning how to have a healthy relationship with food. It was about gaining the old version of myself back; the me that smiled while the sun was glistening on my face; the me that licked every bit of ice cream off the cone without any care in the world; the me that sang my heart out in the car while singing my favorite song with the windows rolled down and the wind brushing against my face.
 
Recovery taught me how to enjoy the Lindor chocolates sitting patiently in the bright, red bag; it taught me how to laugh again at the jokes my friends made; it taught me how to focus in school and remove my focus away from food. I gained love for yoga, love for pasta paired with creamy, rich, sauces, and love for essential oils and meditation. Above all, I gained love for my own self and body.

Recovery was about finding myself again.
 
I know the fear that recovery can provoke: the fear of gaining weight, the fear of feeling fat, and, most of all, the fear of losing control. However, most individuals often forget the other things that recovery provides: happiness, joy, life, and real emotions.
 
Yes, eating disorder thoughts still sometimes crawl up in my head and bathroom mirror on extremely hard days, but I remind myself of the light that recovery has guided me towards.
 
Recovery was a brainwasher; it cleared my mind from the dark, raw thoughts of the girl I used to be. The feelings of guilt slowly diminished, the urgent need to exercise decreased, and most importantly, the hate for my body turned into love for myself. I came to the conclusion that an eating disorder was not a way of living; instead, it was pure torture; it was dancing with the devil. I never wish to go back to the days where I could not even walk three steps without fainting or feeling dizzy.
 
Recovery wouldn’t have been recovery without tears, breakdowns, anxiety or depression. But, recovery was so worth it. Recovery gave me something my eating disorder could never give me: true happiness.
 
The idea of “not being sick enough” to have an eating disorder or of not being worthy of recovery could not be more ludicrous.
 
Everyone is worthy of recovery and there are no requirements to pursue recovery.
 
I was once so lost, but I found myself. I just had to look past the “Northern Lights” to see the real me. And, thankfully, I was still there.
 
My name is Alyssa Gutierrez and I am a 15-year old passionate about recovery. I strive to help others find the light that hid from me for so long. No one should have to endure such pain and harmful behaviors as I did. I, along with various others, are encouraging you to continue/start recovery. Read more about my story here where I am raising awareness of eating disorders in the Latino community.
 
 
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