To All Who Have Struggled With Eating Disorders
To those who have struggled with an eating disorder:
After three decades of working with individuals struggling with eating disorders, their families and loved ones, I am nothing but in awe of your stories, your journeys, your perseverance, and your triumphs.
I have always approached my work from a humble stance. I have talked the talk but have never had to walk your walk. So, with that said, my experience of your experiences has been one of admiration and of how worthwhile it is to come out on the other end, whole, stronger, and ready to take life on.
If there is one thing that I would want to pass on to all who are struggling now, it is this: how worthwhile recovery really is.
I have made it a habit to let this be known to those who are willing to listen. Every time I have been involved in the discharge of a patient from care, I have mentioned this. I say,
“Your recovery is your work. It is your turf. Guard it, defend it, and make it personal.”
Those have often been my parting words. And perhaps more than just words, these have been my parting wishes. Because of all of the thousands of people that I have seen recover from their eating disorder, not one, to my knowledge, has regretted it.
Recovery is not just a new lease on life. It is, in my opinion, a personal opportunity to make a new life, to take what you have suffered and learned along the journey and use it to grow into a stronger and more resilient person. To bring it all home and experience life fully, as a whole human being.
Many struggling individuals become consumed by the fear of growing in size and weight. I believe that the real growth in recovery is not external. It is what happens inside.
Those that go on to live lives worth living have done it on their own terms — not terms dictated by society or others about what they should look like and how their lives should be. It has been about finding passion and connection, which makes their external appearance fall from the top of their priority list.
Their worries become not their jean size or calories in but career choice, wedding dress, a place to live, if and when to start a family, passion for their job, making a difference, their values, spiritual connection and fulfillment. Put simply, it’s just being themselves and being happy. Life is so narrow while in the eating disorder and, in contrast, life becomes so rich.
I do not want to imply that after nearly six decades on this earth I am naïve enough to believe that life is easy or simple or that “everything just falls into place.” Life is complex and at times quite challenging but worthwhile nevertheless. It has been helpful to me to observe the cycle. We start with simple needs like love, nourishment and attention. As we age, we tend to come full circle and end up right there again. So, in some ways, recovery simplifies life. We move away from the chatter of internally and externally imposed demands and lower the background noise.
My hope is that science and our knowledge base will continue to advance and that we will find a definitive cure for eating disorders. I hope in my lifetime we can view eating disorders as a thing of the past, like polio. But in the meantime, the treatments that we have to offer work.
I hope sufferers, family members, and professionals will continue to be willing to show up and “fight the fight.” Those who overcome eating disorders will continue to not only experience the joy of recovery but also carry the torch of awareness, de-stigmatization, and hope.
We need you.
Best wishes and regards,
Ovidio Bermudez, MD
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