Reconnecting over dinner with an old friend recently made me realize how close one can feel to someone who has either lived or is familiar with struggles alike. Numerous times and to various friends, I tried explaining what anorexia is about, or how recovery transforms you. But I rarely feel heard, as much as I feel acknowledged yet brushed off, by statements like “you look amazing, you’re doing great, you are the same, it’s all in your head, you must get out of your comfort zone, it’s all in the past now, etc.”. All these people provide amazing support. They are patient and they love you, but every now and then, you come across someone who actually gets it. Their empathy and compassion goes beyond anything you can imagine.
For the first time, in a long while, you feel heard. They are the people who understand the emotional strength it takes to come out of the depths of suffering, the ones who are familiar with the internal growth that arises when fighting for “freedom”, the ones who recognize that transformation will follow. They are the people who aren’t chasing after your past self, for they know that behind the high spirits, joyful eyes, cheerful smiles and ecstatic movements, something deeper was marinating.
Walking the road of recovery from anorexia is more like hiking Mount Everest. As you start climbing, the first months don’t feel so hard, you feel empowered by the journey, not really knowing what lies ahead. The further you get, the more challenging it becomes: you are tired, you feel restless, it is hard and everyday you question whether continuing the expedition is really worth it. Months go by and as you start seeing the peak, the steepness to get there is all the more clear. Reasonably so, you become scared, but you keep going. Indeed, with an evident view of the top, you stop questioning whether the voyage has value. You become so curious about what life up there is all about, that you wouldn’t even consider a free ride back. And so, you’ve made it. You reach the summit, and in hindsight you see the entire mountain of struggles you have come to conquer to get where you are.
In attaining this stage, it can feel as though you gain a different sense of self, along with a new sensitivity for values in life, leading you to almost see old social circles differently. It’s hard to understand, for only those who are brought to face mental tests alike can truly relate. They too, can feel this change.
You can stay at the top, emotionally connect with the like-minded, wait for newcomers and share in each other’s experience. You will always feel heard and appreciated, for you have found your herd. You can stay and start building on the community. Or, you can go one step further, be the bravest you can be and descend back. Find your new self in a world where you were once happy.
And in this quest of rediscovering your place, whilst figuring out how to grow in the post recovery era, every now and then you will come across someone who hears you. That connection, it goes beyond anything you can imagine.
(Featured on www.nedic.ca)