Struggling with an eating disorder, Melinda Nelson finally realized that, in her life, she had two choices: “Have an eating disorder OR do anything.” Melinda chose to do anything! What about you? Of course, no one chooses to have an eating disorder, which is a life-threatening illness, but people absolutely choose to get better. Melinda is the winner of last month’s Pinterest Dream Big Contest. (Be sure to check out that link to get inspired by all kinds of dreams—from singing and writing to graduating from college and becoming a mom.) Thanks, Melinda, for sharing your beautiful words and pictures with us.
My darkest days have come to be the ones that impacted my life the most. When I was 16, life took a turn for me and I began battling an eating disorder. Although it wasn’t my happiest time, that period played a critical role in molding my future.
While I was “in” my eating disorder, I sacrificed so many things I loved: activities, events, relationships, happiness…and travel. I avoided any type of trip at all costs. The only thing that mattered to me was my disorder, so any type of activity that interfered with my food routine felt excruciating.
Being hospitalized on several occasions for my eating disorder gave me a lot of down time to decide what I wanted out of my time on this planet. I knew I had two choices: Have an eating disorder OR do anything. People with eating disorders tend to be determined, and I was no exception. I knew once I made up my mind, I would give it everything I had. I could either use my energy to exhaust and abuse my body or use it to accomplish something extraordinary.
I started to realize how limited my experiences had been up to that point. I realized the world was a big place and I began to consider all of the possibilities it held. My imagination ran wild with images of foreign lands I had never seen, people I had never met and emotions I had never felt. The possibility of those things kept me holding on. As a result, I developed a case of wanderlust and I made a promise to rekindle my love for travel if I could get myself to a healthy place.
When I was 18, I spent six weeks studying in the heart of London. Even on a day without an agenda, a simple afternoon stroll or a trip to the park turned into an adventure. I enjoyed observing a different culture and being surrounded by so much history. I roamed the beautiful city streets without purging, without excessively restricting, without exercising and without letting my day revolve around food. I cried on my flight home, because I knew I would return to my disorder the moment the plane touched down on familiar ground. It was then that I decided I wanted to fully recover and one-day move abroad.
I began living by the motto, “When you make peace with yourself, you make peace with the world,” and after years of work, the day finally came when I knew it was time to fulfill my dream. I was in a solid place mentally, physically and spiritually, and I developed confidence in my ability to stay in recovery. In January 2013, I left the U.S. and headed to Phnom Penh, Cambodia for TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) training. In February, I moved to Chiang Rai, Thailand where I am currently a lower elementary English teacher at a Montessori school.
Not every day is perfect, but every day is significantly better than life with an eating disorder. I live on my own, enjoy delicious foods and workout when my body feels good enough to. I am also a NEDA (National Eating Disorder Association) volunteer and hope to give back to the recovery community in every way I can.
So many people struggling with eating disorders have very similar stories. The details of my story don’t matter, but here’s the one thing that does: Recovery is possible. It didn’t happen over night and it’s a choice I continue to make every single day. But no matter where life takes me, recovery will always be my biggest accomplishment because it has allowed me to live the life I’ve dreamed of.
– Melinda Nelson
To see Melinda’s Dream Big Contest Entry, click here.
What will you choose: have an eating disorder OR do anything?
What is your dream?