Four years ago, on February 24, 2010, I walked across the stage of the Dr. Oz Show to share my story on national television. Little did I know that those steps would lead me on a journey of self-discovery and redemption from a disease that had nearly cost me everything. After a decade of battling a disease that had ravaged my body and my spirit, I was a shadow of my former self – spent and broken. Having known nothing but the cycle of failure, fear and pain for so many years, I had, aside from a nearly imperceptible heartbeat, made a true departure from what it meant to be alive.
Four years ago my life began again. Looking back, it is hard to fathom how much has actually changed. At times I feel as if it was all just a terrible nightmare, but the scars I bear have left me forever altered. Although I will never know the man I would have otherwise been, the man I am now has rediscovered what it truly means to be alive. I have spent the last four years soaking in, albeit painfully at times, the gamut of experiences I had previously been anesthetized to: love, beauty and the rich complexity of human relationships. I feel blessed to have had the support of a loving family, an amazing treatment team, peers who walked beside me in their own journeys, and countless strangers who witnessed my return to life. Today I give thanks, for I am also fortunate to be surrounded by true friends – people who have accepted me for who I am as well as where I have come from. Life, while at times challenging, is something that I will hold onto, fight for, cherish and embrace.
Four years ago I was not in the state of mind to realize that I began my journey of recovery at the start of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. It seems appropriate that I should share my anniversary with a week dedicated to spreading awareness in the fight against eating disorders, a cause that has become my passion. It is my wish that my story of recovery will serve to break stereotypes and dispel ignorance about a disease that has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. Further, I hope that in its telling, my story may serve to inspire others to put aside their fear and face their disease with the knowledge that recovery is possible. For everyone. Always. Even me.