By: Victoria Hughes
With the recent celebration of America’s independence on July 4th, many of us have sung these words in the last few days. My heart swells with pride when I hear this phrase, Land of the Free, Home of the Brave, and not just because I love America (which I do, don’t get me wrong). But because every word, all eight of them, perfectly describe what I aspire for my recovery to model.
Land of the free. Let’s talk about freedom. What does it mean exactly to be “free” from the clutches of your eating disorder?
First and foremost, it is abstaining from behaviors. (I know, easier said than done, right? Right.) I would be a liar if I told you guys that I don’t still struggle with behaviors from time to time. But they have been significantly reduced since I started my recovery process and oh my gosh... it is AMAZING. There may be a rough patch that you go through in the beginning of giving up your old coping mechanisms. Increased anxiety and intrusive thoughts were something that I personally experienced at first. But... Let me tell you, IT IS WORTH IT! There is so much freedom waiting for you just on the other side of your behaviors. Freedom to eat a meal with your family. Freedom to not have to worry about running to the bathroom after those meals. Freedom to rest your body. Freedom to play.
After that, comes a decrease in thoughts and urges. I can focus on watching my siblings grow up. I can read a book. I can be present with my friends, go on mindful walks without obsessing over numbers, and eat ice cream with little to no guilt. I can even rock a two piece swim suit on the beach.
Which brings me to my next point of freedom... body acceptance! I recently posted a picture on my Instagram with this caption:
“My worst fear use to be being fat. Now, before you comment something like “you aren’t fat!” please reconsider, as that would reinforce the idea that fat is a bad thing to be. Really, what does it even mean to BE fat? I have fat. But I am far more than that. I am funny, compassionate, adventurous, caring, and so many other things that have NOTHING to do with my body composition. I’m beginning to appreciate my body for what it is, an amazing machine! My body, quite literally, takes me everywhere! I can walk. I can hug my loved ones. I can dance and play piano. I can swim at the beach! None of which would be possible without my body that I’ve hated for so long. I am no longer afraid of being fat. What if I am? What if I’m not? I don’t care. So here’s to my body, scars, fat, cellulite, and all! Thank you for all that you do. “
Friends, I am here to tell you that body acceptance DOES GET EASIER. It comes with time, and a lot of work. Often it is said that body image is the last piece of an eating disorder to come around, but when you get there, you’ll see for yourself how marvelous it is. Body acceptance is the first step toward body love. (Although I haven’t quite finished my trek there yet, I am well on my way, and one baby step at a time, I will get there.) Can you imagine how liberating it will be to say, “I like myself today,” because I can. I want that. I want that for me. I want that for you.
So wave your white flag and surrender to recovery, my friends. That is where true freedom lies.
Home of the brave.
I’ll keep this one short because it’s simple to say. Loaded, but simple.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of brave is, “having or showing mental or moral strength to face danger, fear, or difficulty.” If that doesn't encompass what it takes to get through recovery, I don't know what does. All people who enter through the doors of recovery are facing fear and difficulty, and let's not forget the danger that our minds tell us we are in. If this is you, and you have taken a first step, no matter how small, you are amazingly, inspiringly, and tremendously brave. It is no easy feat to work towards giving up an eating disorder and I am so proud of you. Recovery is saying, “welcome home”. You are brave.
So as I work towards my recovery, I will sing these words proudly, for our country and for my newfound life. “The land of the free and the home of the brave.” I am free. I am brave.
Victoria Hughes is a 20 year old from Virginia. She has been fighting for recovery from her eating disorder and self harm for the last three years and has a passion for helping others do the same. She loves to play piano, sing, and write music which she hopes to use in the future to inspire others. Victoria has goals of finishing school and one day becoming an eating disorder therapist to pay it forward.