Proud2Bme | Celebrating My Birthdays

Celebrating My Birthdays

By Annie Stewart--I really have several birthdays. Of course my first birthday is the anniversary of my birth. But the others? The others are the days I celebrate my recovery.

These days mean something different, each of them significant mile markers. I think it is important to acknowledge the progress I have made in breaking up with ED. These days are meant to be celebrated as a way to remember how far I have come on my journey of healing and freedom.

February 21, 2007 is a day I will never forget. There was snow on the ground and it was cold outside. Yet this was the day where light started to break through my darkest of nights. This was the day I was hospitalized.

For two years I had been in denial—I didn’t think I had a problem. But in that hospital bed, I began to realize what my life had become. I was told I could not play tennis that spring because I was not well enough to compete. The sport I had played since I was three years old, the game I received so much joy from, was taken from my grasp because of the nasty monster of ED. On that day, I began to see how much ED had stolen from me. I was only 16 years old at the time of my hospitalization. I had a long life ahead of me, and on February 21st, I decided I no longer wanted ED to be part of my life. At the time, I didn’t think it was possible to recover. I wanted to recover, I just didn’t think it was actually possible. This was the day I decided to choose recovery, as hard as it may be. I was sick of living with ED, and I was ready to kick him out of my life.

April 6, 2007 represents the beginning of a remarkable journey, this journey of giving and receiving love. We had a small Good Friday at Remuda Ranch, where I was receiving treatment. We were singing songs and all of a sudden, I was weeping uncontrollably. The words of the song being sung washed over me like water in the desert: “Hallelujah grace like rain falls down on me. Hallelujah, all my stains are washed away.” In my eating disorder, I did not believe I was worthy of love. Yet, through recovery, I have learned how important it is to be able to receive love: love from God, love from others and love from myself. So every year on April 6th, I do something to love myself. In reality, I do acts to express that I love myself a lot more frequently than once a year. Maybe I buy a new dress or I treat mysef to a latte or buy a new book or have some alone time at a park. Only my family and my best friend know why this day is so significant to me, and they celebrate with me. Every Good Friday, as well as every April 6th, I take the time to remember. I remember that day where my tears never seemed to end. I also remember how my tears were like the seeds  planted within my heart that gave way to my healing.

May 4, 2007 is the day I was discharged from Remuda. The day had finally arrived. The sun was rising in the distance and I was soon departing for home. I didn’t want to leave the place I had called my home for two months. I wanted to remember everything I had learned and experienced throughout my stay at Remuda Ranch in the small town of Wickenburg, Arizona. I stored up the memories in my heart and they have remained there for the past six years. I remember the wonderful, courageous girls who are my personal heroes and who were my co-sojourners in recovery.  I recall the exact moment I had my first ED breakthrough, while my friend held me close as I wept.

Even now, I can still picture myself in that moment and I can remember every emotion I felt as I was discharged. As my mind looked back and tears rolled down my cheeks, I was ready to say goodbye.  I was prepared to bid farewell to the place where healing had taken place and my new life had begun. The past was a distant memory and I was walking into my future, armed and ready for whatever would come my way. I knew I would have my struggles once returning home but I was ready.

I have not looked back since I began my journey of recovery on that brisk February day while I was lying in my hospital bed in Boston, nor have I looked back since returning home from Arizona on that beautiful spring morning in May. There have been times I have slipped, but I have not fallen. I still struggle from time to time. However, it does not matter how many struggles I have. What truly matters is how I react to those struggles.

Why are these days important to remember? They are important because they symbolize to me how far I have come on my journey. Looking back on these milestones have encouraged me in my moments of struggle, on those days where I have had ED thoughts. These moments, these days, ought to be remembered and celebrated. Everyone has their own May 4th or April 6th or February 21st. Celebrate every single victory, every single triumph.

I am empowered in the fact that I am a survivor, not a victim. Before I leftto study abroad in Thailand, I saw my doctor for my annual physical examination. She filled out a medial form for the director of my program. When I read what she wrote, I couldn’t help but smile and then I couldn’t help but cry tears of joy. She wrote: “History with anorexia, hospitalization and rehabilitation, been in remission for six years." I walked out of her office so empowered in the fact that I am a survivor and then I treated myself to a latte in celebration! As a survivor, I believe it is my personal duty to encourage my fellow survivors. We are indeed powerful because we have survived…“No pity, no shame, no silence.”

I encourage all my fellow survivors to always celebrate their victories.  I hope each survivor has his/her  own “recovery birthday” and I hope everyone does something special to celebrate. Recovery is worth celebrating!

*The National Eating Disorders Association does not recommend or endorse any specific facilities, service providers, support groups or research studies.

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Proud2Bme is an online community created by and for teens. We cover everything from fashion and beauty to news, culture, and entertainment—all with the goal of promoting positive body image and encouraging healthy attitudes about food and weight.

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