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  • sherrisacconaghi

Looking Back

I felt sweat dribble down my back when I answered the call. I'd had the number tucked away, deep in my wallet for two years. I don't know why I pulled it out and left a message that day. I didn't have much time to think about it as here she was calling me back.

I was sitting in my car in front of my sister's house, about to spend the afternoon with my niece, when I saw her number pop up on my caller ID. I ignored my immediate urge to let it go to voicemail and forced my hand to answer the phone. The air in the car suddenly felt heavy, and I was having trouble catching my breath.

"Why don't' you start by telling me a little about your situation," Kelly began in an upbeat tone.

"Well, I think I might have some food and body issues," I said vaguely. My heart was pounding with the reality that for the first time, sitting in that hot, stuffy car, I would out the secret that I had kept shoved deep inside for over a decade.

"Okay, tell me a little more about that," she prodded gently.

"I'm thin. "I blurted out, taking a deep breath to calm my shaking body, slowing the rush of adrenaline roaring through me like an angry river. "Too thin."

Five years ago this month, I made that call, the one that started my recovery process from anorexia. It seems like yesterday or a lifetime ago, depending. Reaching out to a person who could help me with my eating disorder was something that had been lingering in the darkest corners of my mind for over a year. Still, like climbing Everest or hiking the Pacific Crest Trail alone, it was something that, for me, seemed impossible.

Living with anorexia was painful—the physical pain of my aching joints, bruised bones, and cracked teeth. The emotional anguish of isolation as I tried desperately to hang onto my disease secretly. The mental distress that came from the obsessive rumination and rituals around food, exercise, and my body that consumed my thoughts every minute of the day. But despite it all, anorexia was also familiar ground, a known quantity, my safe haven.

The thought of recovery, on the other hand, no matter how much I longed for it, scared the hell out of me. The "what if's" were too risky, too unpredictable, too unknowable. What if my life spiraled out of control. What if my marriage unraveled. What if I became lazy and unmotivated. What if I gained too much weight. What if I became average.

It was only when the discomfort of living with anorexia became too great for me to bear that I was able to summon the courage to jump blindfolded and headfirst into the unknown. Confident that any "what if's" that might lay ahead could not possibly be worse than living in "what is."

Sometimes it is helpful for me to look back at the challenges in my past to remind me of the beautiful things that lie in my future. (Ramona Falls, Mt Hood, 2021)

I have shared openly the impact recovery from anorexia has had on my life. The joyous freedom from rules, the authentic connection to others, and an inner strength rediscovered after years of being buried by fear. For that, I am forever grateful.

And today, as I take a moment to reflect on the past five years, I am nudged by a much needed reminder that only by taking risks will the seemingly impossible become possible.


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