I am currently sitting in a local coffee shop, chai tea in hand, while simultaneously finishing homework I have to complete for my anatomy class. At first glance, this situation would be considered quite ordinary for the typical college student. In fact, I considered it conventional myself. But it was not until I placed my order for my tea and opened up my computer that I realized this was a monumental step in my journey to ultimate recovery.
Six years ago, when I was chained to the rules of my eating disorder, which constantly upheld the false reality that food is something to be controlled rather than enjoyed, I never ordered something purely out of desire. I never ate something just because I wanted to eat it. I numbed myself to enjoyment, and fixated my mind on choosing foods that were most consistent with my goals at the time— remaining small, in control, mild, and predictable. Now, nearly one year into recovery, I am sitting down, drinking a chai tea latte purely by choice. Yes, I have a day’s worth of food left to eat, which is nothing to underrate, but for the first time in six years, this does not send me into a spiraling train of thought. It does not illicit anxiety or chaos. I am not shaming the reality that I am enjoying it.
As I am sitting here writing this, the same thought keeps coming to mind: If only the barista knew that the chai tea she made would be such a ceremonial turning point in my life. This thought is balanced by a question. Why did this happen now? What muted the voice of my eating disorder and redirected my mindset towards independence and freedom? How, after six years of struggle, did I transform my thinking almost instantaneously?
I realize now that this question could never have a concrete answer. I have read books about individuals affected by eating disorders who walk downstairs one morning and tell their parents that they are hungry for breakfast. Some people shock their parents when they ask “what’s for dinner?” after coming home from a day of school. It is as if they are finally coming back to life after years of suppression. For their parents, it is as if they are being re-introduced to their child, who for years, was unrecognizable and held to thoughts other than their own. I read these books, and never believed that recovery would be as simple as waking up with a newly constructed mindset. In fact, I stopped reading books like these because of these idealistic endings. I figured they were unrealistic accounts of recovery that failed to recognize the backbreaking work people have to endure before redeeming their health.
It was not until today that I realized that the authors of those stories were not bypassing their hardships and writing the perfect endings their audiences hoped for. They were, in fact, making themselves completely transparent and vulnerable. I realized today that there does not need to be a coherent explanation for every thought, every action, or every decision. The beauty of the stories I have read, and now the story I am living today, is that they came to fruition from the simple thought, “I have a choice.”
Despite this revelation, I do not want to fall into the category of those books. I do not want this chai tea latte to be the happy ending that closes the chapter of my recovery journey. I want it to be an opening entry for my new way of life: enjoying the simplicities of life that I resisted for years.
Today marks a monumental step away from my eating disorder and a step closer to a life of complete freedom and independence.