By Julia Radke
Eating disorders are shit. You know this. Eating disorders sneak in and whisper you lies that scurry through all the hallways of your brain and make dark little homes in your body. And you listen to the whispers and soon they are yells and you can’t hear your heart anymore. Soon you are saying, “Be quiet heart. I know what is best. The women on TV, they know what is best. The red pills in the top drawer, they know what is best”.
The eating disorder screams and your heart can only whisper. So you forget your heart.
But it does not forget you.
Every day it pumps your blood and it whimpers. It cries quiet little cries, painful mute sobs. It whines and it stammers and it drops silent tears. Until one day you are sitting at your window and your body feels empty but the world looks full without you and all of sudden your heart fucking HOWLS. It howls and you can’t ignore it and the disorder is sending out all of its best men because even it can’t quiet the heart this time. And then someone is holding your hand and saying they are proud of you and you’re entering the hospital and therapists are saying the word ‘relapse’ like it is your name and you’re swallowing mashed potatoes, glorious mashed potatoes, when all of a sudden the months are over and you are leaving the same hospital with a little gold coin that looks like a cheap piece of fake plastic money from a vending machine. Except this time it says “RECOVERY” instead of “PRIZE TOKEN”.
But no one really tells you that recovery is going to be shit too. They say it will be hard, and you will not always want to do it, and it will feel endless. That is true. That is expected. But no one warns you that it will be just as destructive. Recovery destroys your life.
Recovery destroys the safety of making a cave in your bed for days. It shines light into your room and it brings in people to peel you from the floor of the closet. It destroys your privacy, it tells your secrets, it outs you. It smashes your perfect porcelain masks and it makes you naked, all the time. It destroys your thought that you can fulfill yourself with mental illness, and it makes you find fulfillment in harder things—like friendships, and supporting other women, and caring about yourself. It obliterates your relationships. Your boyfriend will be blind; hands stretched out in the dark trying to find your new soul. He was your caretaker for so long that he forgot who he was and now he is not sure how to love you without cooking your meals. Your relationship cracks and shakes, because recovery has destroyed the way it has been. It blows up who you once were. And you hesitantly blow up right along with it and you hold onto the fragments as you soar through your new life.
But one day in the rubble, you find yourself singing.
This recovery that has been ripping up your life is now sewing it back together. It made all those cracks and rips and cuts—so that the light could find a way in. Soon you find that it is yourself who is doing the outing. You find that while you tried to hide being in a hospital for three months with excuses like a “work trip” or “school thing”, that you are grateful, so grateful, that people saw through you. Your secrets have been told. It is no longer horrifying. It is setting you free. You are not an eating disorder, but you are not ashamed of living through one. And you finally feel like saying it. And screaming it.
So then you run with it. You don’t use social media for diet tips anymore, you use it to encourage body positivity. You hear your voice changing. You hear yourself sharing with anyone who will listen to you that no, they are not the whispers in their head. And no, they do not need to read Pinterest tutorials like “How To Use Make Up To Make It Look Like You Have Collarbones!”. (Side note, we all have collarbones). And yes, a cabbage diet is bullshit for your body. And no, your outside is not your inside and it will not dictate how you feel and it will always be enough.
You will see yourself gently telling your boyfriend you can go to the grocery store alone this time. You will find yourself with your head out of the car window, gulping in air like water. You will smile at yourself in the mirror. You will find joy and light and mediocrity and rejection and pain and you will feel it all. You will get to feel it. The process of your life under your fingers. The slow gruel of making your life into a story.
Not a story about an eating disorder.
Not even a story about recovery.
But a story about you.
My story is fucking finally going to be about me.
This essay is my last “out”. There will be no one left who does not know.
And I find that the howl of my heart was really a song all along.
Julia is a traveler, yoga teacher in training, and graphic designer living in OKC. She’s a true believer in the body positive movement and wants you to know you can slide into her DMs (sorry) at any time if you are struggling. She wants to hear you. Seriously. You can find her work atwww.JuliaRadkeDesign.com or on Instragram/Twitter at @J_raaad.