By the time I started recovering from my eating disorder and self-harm I could see no way that I could ever like myself, let alone love myself enough to stop hurting myself. It seemed impossible, but I knew that without at least some self-acceptance I would never be able to stay in recovery. I was absolutely hopeless until one evening, four weeks into a stay in residential treatment, I had a feeling that I hadn’t had in years. For one brief moment I felt hope.

Hope that maybe someday I could accept myself and be happy in a recovered body. That I’d be able to forgive myself and look in the mirror without hating every part of my being, inside and out. That was the turning point in my self-acceptance and in my entire recovery. I finally had the will to recover for myself instead of everyone else.

Throughout my stay in treatment that tiny spark of hope seemed to flicker in and out of existence, but I was determined to fan it into a fire that would help me burn away my self-hatred. It was very slow going at first. It took weeks for me to finally commit to stop all self-injurious behavior, and many more to fully forgive myself. I had to consciously make decisions that were the opposite of what I had been doing for so long.

When I felt like skipping a meal I had to eat, when I wanted to self-harm I had to stop myself. I could recognize when I was thinking negatively about myself or my body so I started taking the time to challenge those thoughts. Mirrors used to make me cry, but now I forced myself to look in them. Look myself in the eyes and give myself compliments.

Once I started caring for and loving my body I began to see it differently. I was amazed at how everything worked together. How I couldn’t accept and forgive myself when I was abusing my body, but without acceptance and forgiveness, I saw no reason to stop the abuse.

I know I’m not perfect but now I am able to embrace and accept my flaws. I automatically choose to speak to myself kindly and to care for my body. I see myself as strong, healthy, and beautiful though I have gained weight. That spark of hope has turned into a roaring fire. A will to live life to its fullest. And my body helps me do this.

Now instead of depriving myself of food, I use my senses to fully enjoy every mouthful. Instead of pushing my legs into running till I can’t anymore, I use them to ride my horse or take a walk in the woods. Instead of being hoarse from purging, I’m hoarse from singing all of my favorite songs. Instead of aching stomach muscles from sit ups, my muscles ache from laughing with my friends.

Before recovery I would not have believed that I could ever get to where I am now. It has been the hardest thing I have ever done. So many tears and so much pain. But you can’t have a rainbow without rain, and the rainbow is definitely worth weathering the storm.