This is a letter to a young girl who is very close to me. While this is a direct letter to her, please know that I pray this finds others who struggle with an eating order and can offer them even an ounce of hope.
Dear little sister,
While we are not blood, but since your sister and I have been close for so long, I see you as my younger sister as well. Did your sister ever tell you that “Starry Night” is my favorite painting? Would you like to know why? I wish it was for a sophisticated and intelligent reason but here is the truth. When I was a small child, before you were born, I loved a show called Boy Meets World. In one episode, Topanga asks Cory what he sees in this painting. He responds “An attack. An attack from another world.” She continues by telling him “God is protecting the people in this little town! They live their lives and they come out of their houses, and they see this sky and they know God’s protection and love. And that everything will be all right.” This is why I feel so connected to this painting. It reminds me that even when we cannot see a light in the darkness, it is still there. We just need a little help to detect it. It reminds me of the beauty that the natural world has to offer and that if something that amazing can exist than the whole world cannot be bad even when it feels like it is crumbling upon us. The image offers peace and assists us in finding it. This is why I love this painting and why I think of it as a reminder that I am not alone in my journey and you are not either.
Please understand I do not come here to judge you or pretend I know everything about recovery. Every person has a unique story. Each individual struggles differently and every case of an eating disorder stems from other issues whether they are family, friend, image, social, addiction or fear related. What I do know is that you are scared. I will not lie to you and say that getting through this will be easy. Some days you will feel like retreating back into your shell and never coming out again, but that is not an option. I have known you since you were a little girl and I have seen the beautiful young woman you are growing into and I must say I am proud to know you. Your family and friends are there to love and support you even when it feels like they are angry or upset, it is just their reaction to your disorder. They desire you to be healed as much as you do, if not more. They miss the smiling face that greeted them each day, the ambitious girl who was going to start her own business and could conquer the world. I have written this to tell you that the girl you think you lost to your eating disorder is still there. She never went away, but simply got lost in a storm and cannot see her way back right now. The storm will clear. The whipping winds and violent thunder will pass, but the only way that happens is with your drive to see the other side. You will be healthy again. You will be made stronger and more beautiful than before because of this time you spend recovering.
When I talk about beauty, I hope you know that I refer to your caring spirit. Our society pressures us to feel beautiful in other ways with a pound of makeup and by weighing under what is healthy. Ignore society. Ignore social norms and pressures. Only wear as much makeup as you want and dress how you feel comfortable. These tools should not be used to make you fit in, rather to help you stand out. Show off the wonderful personality that I know you have and do not be afraid of it. I was teased as a child for everything from my looks to my hobbies to the music I enjoyed. I could not figure out why people were so cruel. I realized as I grew that once I stopped caring what they thought, I gained the ability to embrace my quirks and found people who love me for those qualities. You will find that too. I promise that despite what seems like a never-ending trail of judgmental faces, you will find those people who accept you for everything that you are and more.
Now the difficult part; please seek treatment. This could mean nutritionists, therapists, psychiatrists, prayer, medicine, yoga, meditation, an eating disorder clinic, a hospital, a doctor who specializes in eating disorders or a combination of these. I was afraid too. I thought I would never eat three meals a day and wake up smiling again. When I left my internship in Florida, I thought about just lying in bed and I did for a few weeks until I came to the realization that I wanted my life back. I needed to get help so I could find my way back to things I love like being on stage, dancing, hiking with your big sister, reading and meeting new people. You will get there. There are few things that I can promise in life, but this is one thing I know. If you seek help for your disorder, you will find more joy in the things that fill your heart and discover that girl lost in the storm, maybe even reveal new wonderful things about yourself along the way. Do not lose hope. Do not let go of your dreams. Use those dreams as motivation to be healthy. You can do this. We all believe in you. My prayers, thoughts and love are with you.
Your honorary big sis,