I am a dog mom. I am a twin and a sorority sister. I am a yoga teacher and a future school teacher.

I am proud to say that these words define me and make me, me.

Several years ago, I wouldn’t have identified myself as these things. Not because they weren’t somewhere inside of me, but because my eating disorder wouldn’t have allowed me to.

My understanding of the world – and my place in it – shifted when I lost my cousin to suicide in the 8th grade. The sky seemed smaller, the grass less green and the light inside me dimmed. I was terribly confused, angry, scared and sad. How could the people I loved disappear so quickly? My sense of security melted away and my life was thrown upside down. I desperately sought some semblance of comfort and stability.

It felt like I didn’t have much to look forward to going into my freshman year of high school. But I did have one thing I really loved; I was a good runner. When cross country season started, I put everything I had into it. I became obsessed, spending all of my free time diligently training…and it started paying off. I was placing in races, and I felt like people were noticing me. As an overachiever, it wasn’t enough to know that my coaches were impressed, I had to train harder, run faster and be better.

I didn’t really think about the fact that I was adding extra training sessions after practice, or the fact that I had decreased my food intake.

Overtraining and under-fueling made me feel like I could control my own destiny – and my athletic performance….but I was wrong.

These things actually caused my season-ending injury which left me in a deep depression. I felt inadequate. Who was I if I wasn’t a runner?

For the next couple of years, I had a hard time figuring that out which left me in and out of eating disorder treatment. Even though I was doing what was asked of me, my heart didn’t feel invested in getting well. I didn’t feel like I was working toward anything which made it difficult to remain motivated.

My freshman year of college I hit rock bottom. A switch finally flipped and I realized I wanted a different life for myself.

I was home from school, alone, while all of my friends were having fun on campus. I was unhappy and wanted a chance to feel joy again. It was then that I decided I didn’t need to be defined by my eating disorder.  Having an eating disorder didn’t make me unique – it just prevented me from exploring who I was and could become. I made a promise during my last stay in treatment, that this time, I would work my butt off. I would fight this eating disorder for ME…the younger version of myself and the Sarah of the present and the future.

With my head AND heart focused on recovery I returned to my yoga practice. I had once really enjoyed it, but stopped when my eating disorder convinced me that it didn’t burn enough calories.

Now, through yoga, I’ve learned to appreciate my body for what it can do. I’ve found an outlet that strengthens and nourishes all parts of me.

I also adopted my Golden Retriever, Ringo (named after my favorite Beatle) who has helped me to prioritize my own self-care. I had to be well in order to be the best Mom to Ringo that I could be. And so, when Ringo ate, I ate. When Ringo woke up, I woke up. When Ringo was happy, I was happy, and when I felt how much Ringo loved me, I started loving me too.

Years of the treatment program for eating disorders at Walden taught me how important it was to develop ALL the amazing parts of myself and supported me through exploring them. It turns out that my eating disorder was not one of those parts.

Now that I’m in recovery, I have a safer space to explore who I am and what I can become.

Recovery is spur-of-the-moment adventures, puppy kisses, vast skies, the greenest grass, re-igniting the spark in my heart and learning to trust. I trust my body to tell me what it needs and I trust myself to give it exactly that. No more, no less.

I am now able to experience all of the amazing things that were waiting for me in recovery.

I am evolving and giving myself the grace and time to do so.

I am Sarah and I am finally free to discover the whole of me.

See related post:  7 Secrets to Eating Disorder Recovery.