Eating Disorders Awareness Week: Lizzie's Story

I have written about my recovery many times. I have written about the start of my eating disorder, the darkness, treatment, the recovery process, the slips, the victories, and the freedoms. As I thought about writing for This Is My Brave, I wondered to myself, “how can I make this piece different?” After weeks of staring at a blank screen, the answer seemed obvious: bravery. Choosing recovery is, undoubtedly, the bravest decision I have ever made.

My eating disorder was with me for a long time. It is difficult to put into years, but let’s just say I don’t think I have ever had a healthy relationship with food. However, for most of those years, my illness was hidden under a veil of perfection. You see, ever since I was little, I was the golden child from the perfect family. You name it: acceptance into a gifted program, straight As, awards galore, editor positions, NHS President, publications, multiple college admissions, going to University of Virginia, being pre-med, graduating with honors, getting accepted to Columbia for graduate school, getting accepted to medical school. The list, quite literally transcends from elementary school to graduate school. 

And then my family. We were the portrait of perfection. Blended, yes, but blended into something beautiful. We had the gorgeous house and the cars that friends envied. We spent weekends either on our boat or at the vacation home. We were friendly and accommodating, and appeared to have it all. Let me make something very clear. I said we were the portrait of perfection. Portraits are not reality, and they can shatter very easily.This brings me to bravery. When I chose recovery that meant entering treatment. In doing so, the veil of perfection that I had been carrying around for 23 years had to come down. 

This meant withdrawing from Columbia. It also meant being honest and revealing that medical school was not my dream, but rather social work and mental health. It meant moving home at the age of 24. It meant divulging that what my family appeared to be on the outside, was very different than the reality behind closed doors. It meant relapsing and returning to treatment many times. It meant taking 3 years of my life to dedicate solely to recovery. Is this a description of the golden child I spoke of earlier?

Some say no. Some of my own family members couldn’t handle the disappointment; the shame; the apparent “nothingness” that my potential had come to.

I, however, say choosing recovery and everything that came with that decision is the epitome of the golden child (whatever that means, anyway). Let’s face it – everyone has weaknesses. In choosing recovery, I decided to battle my weaknesses, head on. I risked destroying every façade I had built up throughout my entire life for the sake of health and happiness. The strongest thing an individual can do is take action when they know they are going to be ridiculed for it. I knew people would be shocked. I knew people would disagree. However, I also knew what was right for me. Choosing recovery, knowing that others may view me as weak, was the strongest thing I ever did; stating my truth and never giving up was the bravest. At the end of the day, some people still cannot handle my metaphorical “fall from the throne”. However, had I continued to live my life pretending to be perfect, I would have been unhappy and unhealthy. Quite honestly, I would probably be dead. So people can say what they want to say. Today, I’m in recovery. I’m living the life I deserve. I am here because I was brave, and I am proud of that.

*****

About the Author:  Lizzie was born and raised in Northern Virginia, just outside of Washington, D.C. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Bioethics from the University of Virginia in 2011. After taking a few years off to take care of herself, Lizzie returned to school at Virginia Commonwealth University in 2014. She will graduate this coming May with a Master’s degree in Clinical Social Work. Lizzie’s goal is to obtain licensure, and become a therapist working with individuals struggling with mental illness and other life-controlling issues.

Lizzie is currently in recovery from anorexia, bulimia, and PTSD, and actively manages depression and anxiety. She is an advocate for mental health awareness. Specifically, Lizzie founded an eating disorder awareness campaign in 2013. She has since partnered with a nonprofit organization called Where I Stand, enabling the Purple Love campaign to reach thousands of individuals, internationally. She also writes blogs on various mental health issues for Where I Stand, which can be seen at www.thisiswhereistand.com. 

Lizzie enjoys spending her free time grabbing coffee with friends, snuggling up for Netflix binges, and playing with her adorable 2-year-old pug, Sophie.