A Letter from the Past

Today I had two job interviews, and I have to study for a midterm tomorrow. My brain is fried. So instead of writing something new for Day 11 of NaBloPoMo, I’m going to share an email that I got today. I wrote it on November 11, 2012, and set it to be delivered in my inbox one year later. That’s today.

I read it, and I cried.

This letter reminds me of all the hardships I’ve endured, how far I’ve come, and how special I am. I needed this so much after my waves of self-doubt yesterday. How did I know that I would need these words so much? Thank goodness for Futureme.org. I will be writing many more of these in the years to come.

Dear Me (in the future),

Remember when you were in treatment at Walden? Yeah, me too. In fact, I’m there right now. And as a Gwen who is fully nourished and motivated and positive, I am BEGGING you not to go back to your eating disorder.

Here’s the thing. You learned a lot while you were here. And you changed a lot, too. Remember what Carol said to you about your being a completely different person at the beginning and end of your time in resi? That’s so true. Just in the most basic ways, too. For example, when you were in your eating disorder and when you first came into treatment, you were sluggish and anxious. Everything you did had to be meticulously planned out or you would be nasty and irritable. You were rude to the people around you and thought completely irrationally – and you couldn’t focus or concentrate on anything at all. You have to know that isn’t you. That’s so foreign to the person I know you truly are. You’re so much better than that! Remember what people said about you at your rock ceremony? You’re smart, funny, infectiously positive, driven, inspiring, friendly, and welcoming. You put people at ease, make them laugh, and give them hope. And you have a LOT of energy! That person – the person you are when you’re eating your meal plan and challenging your eating disorder – is a beautiful person inside and out.

Remember why you decided you wanted to find recovery? You can never be perfect, so if that’s what you’re striving for, you’ll only be disappointed. There is always a way you could be skinnier or get better grades or be more organized. When are you going to realize that all the amazing things you can do are good enough for you to be happy? That’s why you and I want recovery. So we can finally allow ourselves to be happy. Please don’t forget that. Even when it feels tempting to head back down Perfection Boulevard. You are good enough exactly as you are right now. You deserve happiness exactly as you are.

Here’s the thing. You don’t want to go back to your eating disorder, you really don’t. It may feel like it sometimes, but that’s just your eating disorder tricking you. There are so many more reasons for recovery than relapse. You have so many things you want to accomplish in your life – finishing school, making a career, traveling, falling in love, raising a family, building a home. And there are lots of other things I know you have wanted to try too – like ballroom dancing and playing the harmonica. These things, even the silly ones, require you to be healthy in order to do and enjoy them the way you should.

Remember your coping skills and all the lessons and groups you attended? Those weren’t for nothing. Those are tools and resources that you have to help you fight this. Challenge your irrational thoughts and core beliefs. Use your frozen orange or a stress ball or a candle or a hot shower to manage your stress. Try opposite action – watching a happy movie when you’re sad and meditating when your mind is racing. There are so many alternatives to your eating disorder. If none of them work, call your therapist or a friend and talk about it. Ultimately, choosing the eating disorder over a healthy coping skill is less helpful and more destructive.

You don’t want to die. Remember how scared you were when your heart slowed down and your hair fell out? Remember how miserable you felt when you blacked out in the shower or the hallway? Remember how awful it felt to be so cold all the time no matter what the temperature was? All of those were signs that you were harming your body by failing to nourish it properly. No matter what you think right now, you know deep down that being healthy is important to you. Like I said, you don’t want to die.

Remember how many people care about you? There are people worrying about you all over the country right now. You have garnered a following through the years, even in treatment. Remember when you left resi and Carly cried? Even the counselors, who saw tons of patients, cared about you. Everywhere you go, you impact people. You are important. And you are loved.

I hope that when you struggle, you will be able to remind yourself (with my help, of course) of why you want recovery so much more than you want your eating disorder – and why you deserve recovery so much more than you deserve your eating disorder. You are so much more than that damn eating disorder.

Remember: your future depends on many things, but mostly on you. Make me proud.

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26 comments

  1. I’m crying. I can’t imagine the place you were in not so long ago really. But a year makes a big differences sometimes. Thankfully you are healthy. You are so brave and honest in everything you write!

    P.S. I’m going to write myself an email for next November 11th. Two novembers in a row now I’ve found myself in a place situation where I don’t want to/shouldn’t be in.

    1. Thanks, Gina! Every time I write one of those future-me emails, I always think I’ll remember, and I NEVER DO. So it’s always a surprise! Yay! I think it’s a great idea – it grounds you back to where you wanted to be.

  2. Thank you for sharing this. It was very courageous of you to do so.
    When I read in books that the wisdom of life is within us…it is in examples like these that makes it concrete.
    It’s hard to wrap our minds around it…that no matter what, we really are perfect just the way we are. It’s easy to say “God loves us no matter who or what we are” or “We are perfection in our imperfections”…sometimes it’s hard to believe, but believe me must!

    1. It really is amazing what we can come to understand. I think everybody knows a lot more than they think they do, it’s just a matter of trusting yourself.

  3. Because of you… I can face today. I love this post. I love the idea of writing a letter to our future self (especially in terms of recovery). Thank you again for being an inspiration. I truly think you’re in the midst of a calling.

    1. Well, thank you – I appreciate that. Recovery is kind of terrifying, and it’s always good to remember that you had perspective when the days get really hard.

  4. I had an ED when I was a freshman in college (5 years ago already — crazy!). I’ve been healthy since I was a sophomore, but it was really encouraging to read this letter nonetheless. Thanks for posting something so personal and inspiring.

  5. Oh, also — I’ve sent myself at least three letters on futureme, but I’ve never gotten any of them back! Maybe I just scheduled it for a decade in the future or something…

  6. Holy god, you are an incredible writer. Thank you so much for sharing this piece of yourself here. You have been through so much, and the fact that you are where you are is incredible. You’ve come such a long way. Wishing you only happiness and strength.

  7. I’m sharing this with my best friend who will share it with her sister. Her sister is in her late 20’s and still struggles in a huge with an eating disorder and no one in the family knows how to help her or deal with it.

  8. This is really incredible. You’re a very brave person for having gone through something like this, and for sharing the experience with other people. It just goes to show how powerful believing in yourself really is. 🙂

    1. Thank you so much! Believing in yourself is SO hard, but it’s so worth it. If you can fake it for a while, eventually it’ll become genuine. And THAT’S the best feeling in the world.

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