As a patient in an eating disorder treatment center
, you often hear the statement,
“It’s okay to not be okay.”
And let me be the first to tell you, this was one of the most powerful messages I had ever heard in my life.
Being an elite runner throughout high school and college, I had more expectations to be perfect than most people my age. I expected myself:
- To perform well
- To always enjoy running
- To easily balance running with school, sleep, and a social life
For more years than I can count, I did my best to live up to these expectations and more. Always a smile on my face, waking up at 5 a.m. every morning, getting all A’s, being the “cute, sweet” Madi that I was supposed to be.
Meanwhile, I was dying inside.
I was in a brutal war with myself and
an eating disorder that no one knew about. And, long story short, I finally broke. I was directed to Eating Recovery Center, Denver
, where my life was saved more than just physically.
The message I was hearing repeatedly in treatment, “it’s okay to not be okay”
was one that, in the moment, was perfect for me and my friends to hear. However, when I started to make progress in recovery, one of the parts that scared me most was returning to being okay.
This is kind of hard to explain but I’ll do my best:
- In treatment, I was seen, loved on, and recognized for the real me — more than I had ever been in my life, even when it seemed like I was “okay” but, really, I was struggling in my eating disorder.
- When I finally let go of that façade, and embraced that I was not okay in treatment, I was terrified to leave the state of “not being okay”!
- I thought that, once I got into recovery, and tried to live an “okay” life that (authentically this time!) I would not be seen, loved on, or recognized anymore.
- I feared that recovery would take me back to a place of loneliness because I was “okay” again.
What had held me back, and what I struggled with most in recovery, was the idea that if I tried recovery, if I got to a place where I was “okay
,” I would be back in that awful isolated world where no one would notice me because I was “Happy Madi” and not sick anymore.
So, what I want to say to you is this:
IT IS OKAY TO BE OKAY.
You do NOT need to be sick for people to see you. You do NOT need to be sick to be loved. You do NOT need to be sick in order to feel noticed or not alone.
You can be seen, you can be loved, you can be noticed and recognized — even when you are okay.
I just celebrated two years in recovery in Thanksgiving of 2017 and, wow, I never expected it was possible. I spent so many years isolated, sick, depressed, suicidal and alone — never did I think I would be here.
As most of you know, recovery has ups and downs. It is a process
. Throughout the last two years, the roller coaster has definitely been there. I would say the roller coaster finally started to plateau this past March of 2017. That is when I would go hours (or even a day), where I forgot I had an eating disorder; when I did not have to try
so hard in recovery. When I realized this was happening, it was honestly scary. At that time, I did not know if I wanted to be okay
, as I could feel myself moving into that “okay”
But here is what I realized around that same time: I was being seen for myself
more than I had ever been in my entire life. I was seen for Madi, without an eating disorder, and people actually enjoyed
this Madi. People wanted to be around me more
because I was engaged, talkative, and authentic. People were able to see my authentic self that had been asleep for so many years. I had finally woken up, and they loved it. And most importantly, I loved it.
I loved being myself again.
And the funny part is, that when I started to be myself, as I was starting to be okay,
I started to love myself enough to where I did not rely so much on other people’s love. I could be alone for a while, yet not feel lonely, because being with myself in an okay
state was actually kind of enjoyable.
I started to realize that being okay was okay.
Since I discovered this, life has not been perfect. Life hasn’t been all rainbows and butterflies. I certainly don’t feel okay
all the time. But the difference is, that the “not okay
” moments are fleeting. I am not scared to go back to a state of being “okay”
after having a “not okay
” moment, day, or month. I am able to not be okay
, and then become okay
again. This is a good experience.
When I started to embrace being okay
, I was able to so many things:
- I became more independent, more authentic, and more vulnerable than ever.
- I moved, by myself, to a town where I knew three people.
- I have remained in recovery and remained okay.
- I have fallen in love (which requires more vulnerability than I ever knew possible) with a guy that actually likes me for me.
- I have gone back to college full time.
- I have spent full days alone without feeling lonely.
- I have started to love myself because I am living an authentic life being okay.
I think this is an odd topic to bring up, and I have absolutely no clue if anyone has ever struggled with this fear of being “okay
.” So, writing this is somewhat a shot in the dark, but this insight has been such an important part of my true recovery that I couldn’t not
I’ve never written the word “okay
” so much. And I realize that my message above that “not being okay is okay
” is emphasized a LOT (for good reason). My hope is that this blog will reach someone that might be experiencing something similar to what I experienced.
Additionally, it is okay to let go of the sickness, because I promise you will STILL be loved by people, you will STILL be seen by others, you will STILL be cared for, just in a different way. It may not be out of worry for your health, but rather out of enjoyment for your authentic self. And even better, you will learn to SEE and LOVE and CARE for yourself. Which I will tell you, is truly extraordinary.
With sincere love,
My name is Madi McLellan, I am 22 years old and I have been in recovery for two years now. I am so passionate about spreading awareness about the reality of eating disorders, and I am also incredibly passionate about sharing my story of recovery. I hope to give people hope who are struggling in their eating disorder, in treatment, and even in recovery, because I have been there AND I have gotten through it. The picture shown here symbolizes one of my biggest values that has motivated me throughout recovery: TRAVEL. Before treatment, I would go to great places, but I would never be fully present. I would be focused on food, when I had to eat next, what people were thinking about me, and spending so much energy fighting the eating disorder voice in my head. Now, I am able to go places and be fully present. I am able to really see the beauty of my surroundings as my authentic self. I am able to see things that are bigger than myself, which helps me embrace life to the fullest.