A Heartfelt Story of Recovery


A heartfelt thanks goes out to Emily for sharing some insight into her path of recovery, including a journal entry at the completion of her time at Oliver-Pyatt Centers. We hope this provides encouragement to those working toward recovery, strength to those struggling, and a reminder that you can do this.  

For the longest time, I was my body’s worst enemy. I was constantly consumed by my thoughts obsessing over my body and food. This began when I was fairly young. I can still vividly remember being in 2nd grade when I was forced to wear a dance costume for my recital that consisted of pleather pants and a hot pink fuzzy sweater. To this day, I can remember how much I hated my body in that outfit – the thoughts were inescapable. That was the first time I became aware of how much I disliked myself.

I grew up thinking that hating my body was normal; I truly believed that everyone was struggling with the same thoughts. I started to live my life convinced if I lost some weight, all of my problems would disappear. I would be happy, popular and live a life people would be envious of.

I was 15 when I was diagnosed with an eating disorder, but it didn’t hit me that it was a real problem then. It wasn’t until last year when I spent the holidays in panic over the food that I realized things were not okay. Needless to say, my eating disorder had taken over my life. On some days, I was able to recognize things had gotten out of control, but a majority of my days were spent listening to the thoughts that shouted I wasn’t sick enough. I believed them because I never thought I was enough. Sick enough, pretty enough, smart enough, talented enough – it was never enough.

A few days after ringing in the New Year, I found myself having had enough of my eating disorder. Ironic isn’t it? I sat in my therapist’s office and agreed that maybe it was time to really recover. She mentioned Oliver-Pyatt Centers (OPC) might be the right fit for me. I looked at her like she had four heads, ME, in residential treatment? My eating disorder panicked and I went right back into denial. I swore I was fine even though I was the furthest thing from that.

I did not understand how this could happen. How did I end up with an eating disorder? How did it get this out of control? Why couldn’t I stop?

Everything felt like a blur. I very reluctantly agreed that to go. I packed my bags and began my journey. I left New York City and went home to my parents the days before I boarded the plane to Miami. I cried a lot – I was leaving my favorite city, my beautiful family and my eating disorder. I knew logically there was no reason to miss something that was killing me emotionally, physically and spiritually. But we had spent so many years together that I did not know how I’d survive without it.

I will always remember the devastating feeling I had walking away from my family at the airport to fly to Miami by myself. I landed in the MIA airport and was greeted by one of the OPC recovery coaches. She tried her best to comfort me about being there and reassured me I had made one of the strongest choices I’ll ever make in my life.

I walked into the Verde house where I would spent the next few months and took a deep breathe. I tried my hardest to remember why I was there. Not just to lose my eating disorder, but to gain back my life. I, of course, missed my family, but something told me I had just found my new family. The way I was embraced in hugs with girls I barley knew, and staff that only wanted the best for me – I felt at peace for the first time in a long time.

It is so hard to put into words the experience I had at OPC. The five months I spent there were unforgettable. I became Emily again, and god it felt so good. I think the following journal entry when I ‘graduated’ from residential is the best way to share how much it meant to me. I will always remember sitting outside in the tranquil backyard of the house reading this to all the girls I had been with on this journey and crying. Not because I was sad, but because I was so happy about how far I had come.

May 17th, 2015

I can hardly believe this day has come. That all my hard work has paid off. The past three and a half months I spent in treatment here has meant the world to me because I feel so differently than I ever have in my entire life. Prior to getting here, waking up in the morning felt like a never ending nightmare I couldn’t wake up from. I was emotionally, physically and spiritually exhausted. I was miserable and living a life filled of shame and pain. The most awful feeling in the world was wanting to call my body home but never having the strength to.

I dreaded each day knowing I would have to deal with the tiring dialogue and war happening inside my head. What is so special and rewarding about spending time here at OPC is that I’ve regained my life back. I realize now that there is not enough time for hating myself. There are too many places to go, to see and people to meet. There are too many things to make. It’s time for me to go live my life. A vibrant beautiful life – filled with joy and sometimes sadness.

I realize now that there is nothing more important than being happy and healthy. I realize now that there is nothing more precious than learning to embrace the skin and body I live in. Waking up excited about life and it reminds me how beautiful this process is. I am becoming the truest version of myself the one I had been looking for for so many years. I can look in a mirror now and recognize that I am so much more than just my outward appearance and accomplishments.

I am a beautiful girl with likes and dislikes, with opinions and feelings. Who I am is never going to be reflected on my outer appearance. Who I am is never going to be dependent of the number on a scale. One of the most important things I’ve learned here is that I am a combination of what I love rather than what I hate in the mirror.

For the first time in my life I am loving and nourishing my body more and more everyday. I am able to accept love and compliments for the first time. I have never felt more honest and true to myself and I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to learn how to do that. I can finally say I deeply and completely love and accept myself. The time spent here at the Oliver-Pyatt Center was worth every tear shed and every uncomfortable feeling I have had to sit through. I am becoming Emily for the first time and I am using my voice once and for all.

At the end of the day I am also grateful for my eating disorder because it helped me sit through the unspeakable. Even though the comfort of my eating disorder came with a heavy price, I am able to recognize how much I have learned from this illness. I can say now that I deserve more than dedicating my lifes work to losing weight. I feel no shame now for having used my eating disorder to cope with my life, because it doesn’t make me a bad person – my presence still can light up a room.

Thank you to everyone at OPC for teaching me how to love and live again. You saved my life.

I know thinking about going to treatment is scary, even terrifying at times, but I hope this reminds you what you could gain in the process. If you’re struggling with an eating disorder, call Oliver-Pyatt Centers at 1-866-511-HEAL or visit their website for more information. I wish you well on your journey of recovery. YOU can do this.

This article was originally published on the Project Heal website. We thank them for allowing us to re-post and share with our readers.