And I am alive

Cozy Huggins, a junior political science major, embraces life after an eating disorder in front of Foster Hall. “Things are not as hard for me anymore, and the more I talk about my experience, the easier moving on has become.” Photo by Taylor Stevens

Cozy Huggins, a junior political science major, embraces life after an eating disorder in front of Foster Hall. “Things are not as hard for me anymore, and the more I talk about my experience, the easier moving on has become.” Photo by Taylor Stevens

Holden smiled at me when I got to Shaw and hovered slightly behind while I selected nourishment. I’d appreciated that he was so quick to answer my text about needing an eating buddy, but desired some alone time while picking the tools of my soon to come surrender.

It was a bad day, I could tell, spurned by a lack of sleep and inactivity after my grandma passed away. I was operating in a haze, dedicated to being okay. We sat down and I carefully peeled open my yogurt, hoping it would render me hungry and I’d snap out of it. That didn’t happen, as each spoonful burned my throat on the way down and my stomach retched in shame that I just couldn’t give myself what I was supposed to need to live—food. Holden asked no questions and I gave no answers. We ate in silence. The kindness I felt from him grounded me to the task at hand, but the funeral march continued in my head: one more bite, one more bite.

Recently, a good friend remarked to me that she was afraid at how easy it was to have an eating disorder in college and even more startled at the rate in which one might re-emerge. Like it ever went away in the first place. Stuck between the good days and the bad days, which saw the languishing effect of always feeling ‘too much.’ Do I take up too much room? Do they want me to take up less room?

The start of college saw good days that slowly crawled out of what I thought was an impossibility of delight, and we collaborated to vanquish the bad days into brief periods where leaving bed felt like giving up and my surroundings served to taunt. Too fat, too much food, too much space. Though, I was feeling better than I had in years and was eating more. This was frustrating. It felt like enough to completely heal but wasn’t. Like all the time I had been screaming into the void had culminated in the void sending a microphone and asking me to speak up.

In all honesty, I couldn’t tell you when I started existing between spaces of not eating and eating too much. It happened years ago, in patterns of self demise, planned and unplanned, all with the goal of disappearing—into school, into my facade of self deprecation and into anywhere left for me to fit that wasn’t my body. Do I take up too much room?

It worked. Soon my jeans fit loosely around my hips, like I’d always wanted, and people started to treat me differently, heralding my terrorized accomplishment as someone who appeared to have beat laziness and actually ‘put the fork down.’ I was the high school heroine, someone who finally shed the weight, and now the rest of my life awaited me. How could I not love what not eating and eating too much had done to me, when my will to become a shadow was the most impressive thing about me?

Things are not as hard for me anymore, and the more I talk about my experience, the easier moving on has become. I am lucky enough to be surrounded by friends who do nothing but love and support me, along with the most wonderful parents. After some visits to the therapist, I’ve learned other ways which to be hurt and tie these emotions to the intangible instead of food. Now, whenever I am caught in thinking about my old ways, I see the love I am surrounded by. And though it’s not enough to exist on love alone, it makes trusting in tomorrow and my ability to carry on worth it.

After Holden said goodbye to me at Shaw that day, he texted periodically to check in, ending with one final message before dinner. Please eat Cozy, you deserve it. My life is no longer categorizable into dark and light, as both have taken up residency in my being for the better. With that came the confidence of recovery and the purpose of the nothingness that ignited the question of what else I would experience and carry with me.

There are no more good days and bad days, with both having merged into a steady pace of existence. You deserve life Cozy, in all its complexities and emotions. Only lately have I realized this means living with an eating disorder. That’s okay, because I can conquer it, and that battle is not something anyone should face alone. We can do anything, and I am alive.