Finding Self Worth

By: Millie Nyeman

Illustration by: Ella Strickland de Souza

Illustration by: Ella Strickland de Souza

I struggled with an eating disorder/ and still do since I was 13- that’s half my life.

As I entered recovery finally, age 24, I expected myself to pull my shit together, and recover perfectly, quickly, and completely. I had this idea that if I beat myself into it enough I would succeed and I would have this “happy, perfect life”. I wanted to recover in my mind, but not in my body. The idea of “self love” made me feel sick and squirmy inside and the idea of letting go of this control I was fighting for over my body was out of the question.

Through being in recovery- showing up, everyday- well most days…! I slowly began to understand what I had been through, through no fault of my own/ The messages I had introjected as a young child, the challenging role I was put in in my family, the sexual abuse I experienced as a child outside my family and had shrugged off as just “Weird” and never spoken about.

I looked back on the pain of entering puberty having no idea what was to happen, and feeling huge shame around my family about my body changing- about becoming a woman-, which to me felt uncomfortable and undesirable.

I started with anorexia. I very quickly became terribly thin- so thin my body began to shut down and I was unable to actually engage in life or school or friends.

As isolating as it was. A part of me felt whole, it felt innocent, -it felt SAFE.

I had always believed I was inherently bad, and this starvation thing, made me feel pure and whole, and innocent. Looking back, it makes me so sad to know this, because I never was bad- at all. I was a young child, with overwhelming emotions and stresses and did not get my needs met.

My eating disorder was a huge cry for help, but by that time, my mind was so unwell, I fought any kind of support tooth and nail. I was told I would be put in hospital if I didn’t start eating. So I did, because no way would anyone have control over me. So I started eating, and with in a few weeks, I discovered making myself sick. And then it spiraled. I got such a sense of relief from it, and it made me feel whole and loved. I was searching for control- but I have never felt more out of control in my life. I hated myself, and I wanted to die- a slow painful death, while everyone watched.

My family did not understand how to help, they tried, they really did, but there was no part of me that believed I could get well so why try.

I very soon started to use drugs to try and control my eating disorder- which then turned into a severe drug addiction.

At age 16 I was kicked out of my home, because my binging and purging and drug taking became too painful for my family to watch.

I ended up living on the street, in a squat, and in a young persons hostel-, which was even scarier than being on the street.

I shoplifted constantly, food, alcohol, clothes, anything- I didn’t care. I was on drugs constantly, often staying awake for days and days. One more score, one more score.

I had no self worth- I would wander in front of cars, fall of buildings, and pass out in the freezing cold months outside.

I was arrested countless times for theft, possession of drugs, skipping bail, over and over etc. etc.

I slept with friends, mostly half past out- I just let them do what they wanted to me, as it seemed their needs were more important than mine.

I was raped, after overdosing on ketamine- I came too- and froze.

Again- I was so ashamed by it, and who would I tell anyway.

All this shit went on and on- I moved to London and did modeling- that was a not helpful lifestyle in anyway.

I moved to Denmark to try and start fresh there-, which was amazing for a while, but slowly my demons, crept in again.

After spending 3 months inside, completely isolated on prescription drugs with just my poor younger brother to check up on me- I made a decision to come home and recover.

My idea of how I would do this was the whole “heal my dirty body” thing. Green smoothies, detoxing, wheatgrass, blah blah blah.

I felt impure, bad, disgusting, greedy, and shameful.

I realize now this was just my eating disorder talking.

What my body needed, what my soul craved, was love. So simple, but so unfamiliar.

Slowly, over the last year and a half, I have learnt to forgive myself, to treat myself as I would a child or a friend.

To be kind, and to be compassionate.

For so many years I was looking for love in the wrong places. And when I found it, if I ever did, it was not in my control, it could be taken away, and it could be conditional.

Little did I know that all along, there was a place in me, where a kind voice flows from.

It started small, but as a seed needs watering, to grow, a tiny voice needs a lot of encouragement and practice, and reassurance from kind people.

I used to feel crippled in my own body. I could always find something wrong with it, and I never believed I would ever make peace with it.

I can now say that I can call my body home, and my heart, my closest friend.

I still struggle at times with old behaviors, but it doesn’t seem to matter anymore- because no matter what, I will pick myself up, comfort myself, sooth my body with kind words and kept trying, keep faith, and keep walking forwards towards myself.

Everyday I feel I am reborn, it is the small things that count, and by holding these words “this too shall pass”, and “I rise, I rise”. I will.