Author: Valery B.
The other day, something pretty extraordinary happened to me – something that had never happened before. I got up in the morning, ready to start my usual routine, when I looked into the mirror and noticed the blemishes that were spread across my face: a patch of skin here, darker than the rest, a patch there, drier, an assortment of pimples, randomly generated across my forehead, cheeks and chin. What previously would have upset me, however, had no impact on my mood. Neither the dry spots nor the pimples nor the birthmarks were viewed with negativity. All of a sudden, I realized that these marks and scrapes and imperfections were the reasons I was me. Nobody else in the world had this type of face, with these same qualities and marks, as I did. How amazing is that?
During these past several months, as I have dedicated myself towards recovering from relapses of bulimia and binge eating disorder and symptoms of depression and anxiety, I have been focusing my efforts on building self-love, self-acceptance and positivity. Although I would advocate for these qualities when presenting on eating disorders or advising someone who struggles with mental ailments, I myself could not grasp these concepts. I understood that they were necessary, and I was aware that they made a significant difference in one’s life, especially when it came to creating a life of happiness; however, I could not, wholeheartedly understand how it was possible to cultivate them. Perhaps, I would not allow myself to believe that they truly existed.
As I continued to relapse with the eating disorders, my beliefs in these qualities continued to diminish. I questioned how it could be possible for someone like me to love myself, to accept myself, to look at the positive side of things when everything seemed so debilitating and negative. At the time, the guy I was seeing had broken things off with me; I was beginning to have trouble with my family again; I felt as though I had nobody to talk with – nobody that wanted to talk with me. My negative beliefs continued encumbering me with more and more questions about what kind of person I was and what kind of life I was living and was destined to live.
Everything was so negative – negative to a crushing degree. I started believing that there was something perpetually wrong with me, that nobody would ever love me, that I would never stop binge eating or relapsing with eating disorders in general, that I would never be successful, that I would never be happy, that I would never be free.
I was losing hope.
But, my life slowly started turning around, and I thank myself everyday for pushing forward when I felt like I could not.
I went to Europe, met some wonderful, eye-opening people and saw some of the most beautiful sights in the world. I started practicing mindfulness by going on walks – without checking my phone, without listening to music – and beckoning myself to notice all the little details around me so as to stay present in the moment. I became affiliated with the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Bergen County, building a network of mental health advocates and supporters. I got a job at a local Italian restaurant and began interning at The Body Image Boutique, perhaps the most positive, amazing place that could open its arms to me – a place that has been teaching me the true nature of self-love.
I have also dedicated myself to my recovery from the eating disorders. This has been by far the most difficult part of my life’s renovation, as despite the adequate – seemingly more than adequate – amount of nutrients and energy I provide my body, I still experience episodes of binge eating. These episodes often make me feel ashamed, inadequate and incapable of recovery.
But, this time, I refuse to give up and let the eating disorders win. This time, I am being persistent: no matter how many binge eating episodes I experience, I continue to feed my body whatever it craves, in whatever quantity it craves, because I know that, eventually, everything will even out beautifully. I will finally be free from all eating-disordered thoughts, behaviors and actions. What a wonderful, exciting and blessed thought that is!
With all of these new things happening in my life, I have opened my arms up for change. I was always scared of change. I always feared the unknown; however, I noticed that as soon as I accepted the unpredictability of change, I began feeling a love for myself – small at first but gradually growing. I started accepting myself for who I am, with all my little nuances that I thought were “bad” or “wrong”. I started accepting the binge eating episodes, the bouts of depression, the exhaustion I would sometimes feel, because I finally accepted the fact that these things are ephemeral and that they will pass!
No matter what I am going through, I deserve to live a beautiful, wholesome life, comprised of the things I enjoy and the people I hold dear to my heart. This applies to anyone who feels that he or she is in some way too ill, too inferior, not good enough, not capable of doing this or that, etc., to rejoice in life.
Everyone deserves to be happy, so dwelling on imperfections – no matter how big or small they are – is a terrible waste of time. I am going to tell you honestly that with self-love, self-acceptance and positivity, I am learning how to live my life – something you can and must do as well. Craft your own happiness, seize the day, do not let slips or struggles get in your way. Your life, like mine, is beautiful. Now go after it!