It’s freedom.

It’s realizing you haven’t stepped on the scale for as long as you can’t remember. It’s being able to eat a cookie and enjoy the taste without eating twenty cookies at once. It’s having dessert without wanting to punish yourself after.

It’s not constantly stopping at the mirror, lifting your shirt up to check how flat your stomach is and sucking it in when you feel like it’s too fat. It’s not pinching your stomach when you sit down. It’s not crying yourself to sleep and waking up in the morning not wanting to get out of bed because you hate yourself.

When you realize that you’ve finally discovered to like your body and developed a healthier relationship with food, you realize that a cloud’s been lifted. There’s this blinding, almost overwhelming sense of freeness.

But you also know that recovery’s not easy. I don’t think that anyone truly ever “recovers” from an eating disorder. It’s like an uphill battle — sometimes you slip and fall, but you just hope that you’re strong enough to continue the long trek upward.

It’s taking it day by day. There’s always the fear that you might slip and accidentally binge, but they key is telling yourself that it is okay, that tomorrow is a new day and that you don’t need to beat yourself up over it.

Recovery feels like an overwhelmingly aloneprocess. Yes, you can tell your friends and family about what you’re struggling with. You can even talk to psychologists and nutritionists. But while they can provide support, they don’t know what it feels like to live your life, to live with your eating disorder.

Because every eating disorder is different, and everyone suffers (and recovers) differently.

That’s why there is no “key” to recovery. There is no magical cure that will “fix” you. But there is you. And you know yourself the best; you know that you’re strong enough to fight this monster inside you; you know that you can overcome this and that you will.

Even when you feel like no one understands, remember that there are people around the world at this very moment who are also struggling, and that there are people at this very moment who have struggled and who have overcome. It’s not an easy fight, but I can promise you that it will be worthwhile.

Take it from someone who’s recovered, fallen harder than I have ever fallen before, and somehow picked myself up again — it can be done. Recovery is like the sunshine at the end of the storm. There’s still a little rain falling, but you know that the worst of it has passed and that you can smile again.

There were points where it was hard, so hard, harder than anything I’d never done in my life. I was fighting this internal battle, trying to hold on to what little hope I had left, and no one could see.

No one could understand.

No one really knew.

Because recovery is so goddamn personal in that you can find resources, but you have to find the strength and motivation in yourself to want to get better, and that’s the hard part.

I wanted so much to give up some days. On days where I was up at 4:30 am to work out and still up at 10:30 pm at practice, and the world would spin and I couldn’t really breathe but I would just keep on going. On days where that feeling of irrepressible anxiety wouldn’t leave, and I ate a burrito and a family size bag of nuts and God knows what else. On days where I didn’t want to leave my bed or look in the mirror or talk to anyone, but also didn’t want to be left alone with my thoughts.

But in the end, I would get out of bed. I would put on a face and smile, and maybe some people were fooled by it and maybe some weren’t, but no one asked. That’s the thing — if you pretend like you’re ok, everyone will assume you’re ok, even if you do a shitty job of pretending.

I was trying to function as a normal person and go about doing normal things like work and school and socializing and living, but it was hard when all you can think of is much you want to get better and how hard it is to get there. Or how you can even get there in the first place.

If you asked me how I got to where I am now — three months later and more okay than I’ve been in awhile, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. Maybe it began with me finally telling my parents, tears streaming silently down my face. It was something that they didn’t necessarily understand, but tried so hard to, and I appreciated it.

Maybe it began with letting go. Letting go of what didn’t matter and holding on to what did.

And maybe it began with control. Yes, eating disorders are often about control. You feel like you can’t control your life, so you control what you eat. To extremes. But I found that I could control my life — what I did, how I felt, and how I lived was up to me.

But there was this initial fear of slipping. Of my world, the freedom I worked so hard to achieve, to come crashing down. It’s not just mild fear — no, it’s almost crippling, anxiety-inducing terror.

But then I was ok for one day, and ok for another, and the days turned into weeks and the weeks turned into months and I realized that I was ok.

I had found peace with myself, made time for myself, made an effort to let go of stress and to prioritize what truly matters to me. I began cooking for myself again, I began doing yoga again, I quit the things that weren’t making me happy anymore, and I found that life became a whole lot better. I returned to who I knew I’d always been, before I’d been consumed by my eating disorder.

And it’s a beautiful thing, being able to eat without fear of losing control. When you can eat just for the simple act of nourishing your body, and you truly enjoy what you’re eating. When you can indulge a little without feeling guilty. When you work out because you like to, not because you’re punishing yourself for eating.

I don’t believe that I’m necessarily stronger than any of you out there, which is why I know you all can recover too. I know that you all have that light inside of you still, no matter what the voices inside of you say. I’ve been at my darkest point and wanted to give up, to give in, but I had another voice inside me tell me to keep pushing, and I did.

I hope that I can be that voice, to keep you pushing through. Push through the unyielding desperation. Push through whatever thoughts you have, whatever feelings you have. Take up something that you love and that makes you love your body, whether that’s yoga, cooking, dancing, being with people who love you for who you are…

When you make time for yourself and give yourself time to breathe, you’ll learn that you do love yourself after all. Not just your body, but that you love you for you — all parts of you.