My Journey To 21, My Journey To Recovery
By Ashley Craven
It doesn't happen overnight - it kind of sneaks up on you without you even realizing. I was about 15 when it began and at first it was gradual - the constant hiding behind baggy clothing, not wanting to wear a bathing suit or anything that made me remotely feel like anybody could see my body. Then the obsessions began of feeling as though I was never good enough and just never feeling content with how I looked or who I was.
High school was hard to adjust to because it felt like a whole new world with people much older than me, and it also was when my feelings of not being enough heightened. Social media started becoming a big deal when I turned 16, particularly when Instagram was launched. Social media took over everyone’s phones, and it certainly took over my thoughts. I became obsessive with how models looked - comparing myself, craving those unachievable, often photo-shopped looks and focusing on all my perceived flaws. The constant thoughts living in my head of not feeling like I was good enough escalated even further. The thoughts started turning into actions, which affected my life immensely. Even though I played competitive softball, I was barely able to keep up anymore because I was weak and didn’t have as much energy as I used to. At the time everybody just thought I was anemic – not getting enough protein in my diet - however, little did they know, I was just hurting my body.
Another year passed, 17 came and things got worse. I started suffering from depression after losing one of the things I loved the most - softball. Not only did I have to give up softball but I also had to quit my job, because I could not keep up with the demands of work. I was losing all these things that brought me joy but for some reason this didn't stop my eating disorder, even as I turned 18 and entered into a new phase of my life – university. Although I started playing softball again and I was happier because of that, my teammates kept commenting on my appearance out of concern for my well being, but I never listened. Despite desperately trying to maintain my eating disorder, I finally ended up in the hospital to seek help. It was a hard year – it was a difficult battle to give up those constant thoughts, the nagging obsessions, and the eating disorder that I had come to know so well. Trying to walk away from something that had consumed my mind for 4 years was no easy feat and it certainly didn’t happen over night. My motivation to make the most of university, a place I have always wanted to be, pushed me to starting changing my ways because I knew I had to get better in order to continue studying.
At 19, I thought the word recovery meant fully healed. But what did fully healed really mean? It wasn’t until I was 20 that I realized what recovery truly meant for me. It meant working towards small goals each day, and not letting the one thing that used to consume my mind, continue to do so. It was in celebrating the little steps in my progress that I started to feel better. My recovery took time – it was a slow and meaningful battle – but I owned it and I fought hard. I was able to beat my eating disorder because of my desire to get better and because of the amazing support system that stuck by my side throughout the whole journey. My best friend, who was always patient with me, was able to recognize when I was falling back into my old ways. My family, who surrounded me with constant love, were able to open my eyes to new pathways in life. I am grateful for all of my loved ones who took the time to listen, led me onto the right path, and helped me celebrate the little wins each day that ultimately led to my recovery. All of these people were part of my success story. Here I am at 21 and I can genuinely say I am happy, healthy and stronger than ever.
For anyone struggling with an eating disorder, I am letting you know that things do get better and easier. Hold onto your support system, and appreciate the help and guidance they give you. Celebrate the daily victories because it means you are on the right path. And most of all believe in yourself throughout your journey, because recovery is possible.
Ashley Craven is currently studying psychiatric nursing and regularly spends time working on ways to make positive changes in the mental health community. Her motivation and passion to help others come from her own eating disorder recovery. She is excited to be more involved in the Looking Glass Foundation programs.