iStock_000016399116SmallBrave: Having or showing the ability to do something that is difficult or dangerous. Having or showing the mental or moral strength to venture, persevere and withstand danger, fear or difficulty.
To say that recovery from an eating disorder takes bravery is an understatement.

To wake up every morning and face the voice inside of me that tells me that I am not enough, that I am unworthy of love and that the only way to be more deserving is by using behaviors that destroy my body, mind and spirit takes a type of courage and strength that most people cannot understand.

Being brave does not mean that everything in my life goes smoothly or that I always feel great. It’s quite the opposite. Being brave is about accepting the good and the bad, the ups and the downs, the moments of thriving and the moments of just surviving. It’s about getting up every day and putting one foot in front of the other. It’s about never fully giving up.

Last year, I shared a piece of writing that I wrote explaining what recovery means to me. That experience changed my life because, that day, I found my brave.

Since then, I have continued down the path I started that February morning.

I attended a training that taught me how to tell my recovery story in a way that brings purpose and meaning. After much practice, I took part in an event where I was able to share my story with an audience of legislative staffers and in a professional video documenting the project.

I have also told the story of my lived experiences at trainings for professionals learning about eating disorders.

I was trained to facilitate peer support groups and now volunteer at a clubhouse where I run four to six groups each week for people with a variety of mental health and substance abuse challenges.

And this fall, when the city I live in called a special city council meeting to discuss safety concerns about increasing mental health services at a local hospital, I spoke up and challenged the idea that all people with mental illnesses are dangerous. The next day, I found my words on the front page of the newspaper and the meeting was broadcast on TV several times over the following days and weeks.

Despite all of those and many other positive and recovery-oriented parts of my life, I would be lying if I said it was easy.

Eating disorders and all the related struggles cannot be eradicated by surgery or medication. They are not something a person can have one day and be rid of the next.

Recovery is a lifelong journey of learning to take care of myself. It is about thriving even when I am struggling.

Brave is facing the struggle day after day because the work of recovery continues.

This is incredibly difficult.

Never in my life would I have thought I would be up here right now sharing my experiences. To be honest, less than a month ago, I was worried that I was not the right person to be speaking to you today. Because my struggles still exist.

I’ll tell you that when simple self-care tasks like showering regularly, following a sleep hygiene routine and finding a meal that tastes good to me feel impossible, the idea of standing in front of a group of people talking about being brave seems ridiculous.

But I was told again and again by my treaters and trusted friends that the brave is in the work.

The brave is in the fight.

The brave is in the struggle to make recovery work for me.

I still have a lot of work to do. My recovery journey is far from over. I am creating a life worth living but I’m not there yet. It will always be a process and it will never be perfect.

Being able to stand up here and speak today is part of that process.

Sharing my story, and seeing the impact it has on others, helps me heal.

It helps me know myself on a deeper level.

It helps me see that I am worthy and that I can acknowledge my accomplishments.

It helps me find my brave.

I challenge you to find your brave.

About the author:

Jamie Loud is a recovery warrior who uses her journey through mental illnesses to help others.  She is a lover of dance, theater, gymnastics, math & the show The West Wing.