I just bought a new camera. It's really nice--a Sony A6000. And maybe that might not seem like a huge deal to someone else, but to me, it's another indication of just how far I've come.
Having a new camera means I'm going to devote time to going out and finding beautiful things, things that I want to take pictures of. It means that I'm going to take the time to learn a new skill, and that I'll have a new way to express myself creatively. Getting into photography means that I'm getting one step further away from the eating disorder that has consumed me for so long.
Re-discovering my creativity has been one of the biggest, and least expected things that has happened to me so far in recovery. As a kid, I wrote novels, went to performing arts camps, and sang for all-city choir in middle school. I was a creative type, to put it lightly. And it felt like I was always going to be that way, until life got in the way and it felt like the only performances I would have to put on would be those related to school, career, and ultimately, my body and how far I could push myself.
There's this saying in the recovery community that when you recover from an eating disorder, you're not recovering back to where you started. You simply cannot return to the life that was so controlled by the eating disorder, because you ultimately got lost in all of the madness. Recovery is about re-discovering who you can be, and who you want to be.
And that's fucking terrifying.
You enter treatment and you have all these different ways in which you carry and define yourself. You're a great student, a kickass friend, a hard worker, a perfectionist. And yet, many of these things are also intertwined with the illness, leading you to value being a perfectionist over having a knack for painting or being creative.
So you get to this point. Treatment is working, you can see that bright as day. And that's amazing and so scary, because that means you're at a place where you can decide what from the past you're going to keep, what's served you, and then decide what you're going to look like on the other side. Will you be more creative, start a blog and submit pieces to be published? Will you take up a hobby, a really hobby, and start taking beautiful photos? Will you simply have more time to appreciate life when you're not constantly being controlled by the eating disorder?
My eating disorder wants me to remind you all that I'm still struggling. The fight's not over yet. And I agree. I've come a long way, and I still have a ways to go. But if I think about the values pies that I made a couple months back, the eating disorder is getting edged out. I WANT to be creative, and I WANT to enjoy life. These are things I simply would never have had the time or energy for when I was engaging in behaviors. You don't really have a lot of free brain space when your life is consumed by food, exercise, and body.
And so, I guess I'm at a strange turning point. I'm almost 23, and I'm reinventing myself, right now. I finally for the first time in forever have the power and the freedom to decide what I want to do and who I want to be. I don't think there's anything more freeing than that.
Hi, I'm Charlotte! I'm a 24 year old navigating life in NYC and mental health recovery. I am passionate about public health and eliminating stigma.