Grasping for the Light
**Content warning: This is one person’s story; everyone will have unique experiences in recovery and beyond. Some stories may mention eating disorder thoughts, behaviors, and symptoms. Please use your discretion when reading and speak with your support system as needed.
KP Pauly (they/them) is a queer, nonbinary person recovering from anorexia. They enjoy writing, reading, meditation, yoga, and spending time outside. They are passionate about eating disorder recovery and disrupting diet culture.
The world feels cold and bleak, the sky a constant shade of dark gray. I can see bits of the sunshine struggling to break free from the clouds, but each time it comes up short. There is not enough light to cast a shadow, never enough warmth to enjoy a cool summer breeze. This dark gray world, this black-and-white monotonous movie I exist in, is a product of my eating disorder and the lens it forces me to see the world through.
I never knew how gray my world was when I was actively struggling with her, my eating disorder. She used food as a way to distract me from all the light the world had to offer. She flourished in dark, cold, and gray environments that isolated me from my loved ones. She drew me in, away from life, and drove me to only focus on my relationship with her. I forgot about love, light, and happiness. My brain was crowded with inauthentic thoughts and desires because hers were the only ones that mattered. She was a parasite that continuously pulled me down into the cave of misery. I didn’t know a life outside of the gray because I had no way to envision it, buried deep in this lonely cave.
I hit the bottom of the cave, the darkest place I had ever been. As I started to become nearly blind to the whole world, I began to crave the light. The cave that my eating disorder took me into was no longer a place I wanted to be; it was lonely, scary, and painful. I was beginning to see the rays of light starting to break through the clouds. As I began to see these rays, I broke out from this cave and was met with help. I allowed the rays of light to touch my skin, accepting the help that they provided me. While I begged for my life, trying so hard to grasp the sun rays that were attempting to reach me, I welcomed the light, and I basked in it. I found hope.
As soon as I walked through the doors of residential treatment, I knew I was getting closer to the light. I was met with a team of people ready to help bring me out of the cave. I became part of a community of light seekers just like me, people ready to run toward the sun rays and begin experiencing the light. I began taking slow steps toward the sunshine, and I started to connect with the real, authentic me, leaving my eating disorder behind. No longer was I held hostage to a gray life controlled by her. I began to grow into the human I have always been, that same one calling for the sunshine to cast its rays onto my skin all this time. As I kept taking leaps forward to reach that human, to reach my light, the clouds slowly drifted away.
The path out of the gray was not always easy, but I kept leaning into that feeling of warmth. The warmth was my authentic self, calling to me and begging to be released. As I reintroduced food to my body, as I began nourishing my body and soul, as I looked for meaning in happiness and allowed myself to feel my feelings, everything became bright. My sense of self became stronger, and so did the light. With each bite of food, each meeting with my providers, each difficult conversation I had, I was becoming. I was breaking free, releasing all the gray my eating disorder brought to me, and finally allowing the full spectrum of sun rays to crash into my heart and claim me.
And to my surprise, the light only continued to grow brighter when I allowed others to show me their own light. I grasped their rays of light, held them tightly, and my own light began to shine brighter and brighter. My desire for connection was being fulfilled after so much time spent in that cave, being isolated and gray. That’s when I learned that our lights shine brightest when we share them with others.
Now that I’ve been introduced to the light, my eating disorder cannot entice me and bring me back to the gray. On the days where the sun is struggling to pop out from the clouds, I know that it still exists. I now know a life that is bright, authentic, lovely, and whole, and I know how tragic and dark that cave is. Recovery is not linear, and the gray will still come, but I know what life is like free from my eating disorder: light, bright, and warm sunshine.
Thank you for allowing me to share my light.