(Trigger warning — mentions of in-patient treatment, body image, EDs, etc.)
I started knitting this scarf when I was first admitted to Renfrew. Everyone there already knew how to knit or crochet, or were taught these vital skills within the first week of their admission. Knitting was a safe outlet, a form of creative expression amidst pain and a lack of external interactions. It grounded us, and brought us a sense of purpose within our mental chaos.
To me, this scarf represents my journey through recovery. The journey itself is not linear; the scarf’s overall shape morphs and shifts, never remaining as a perfectly straight line. The scarf is filled with gaping holes, like the lapses in my recovery process. Its threads are soft yet itchy–a strange but familiar juxtaposition.
I remember starting this scarf during my second week at Renfrew. I’d take my knitting with me everywhere I went, as did the rest of my peers with their creations. I’d knit during the dreaded discussion groups in the DLR, I’d knit during my time confined to the downstairs level, I’d knit in the evenings and during breaks. It was a form of escapism–a mechanical motion meant to comfort and soothe.
I finished my scarf yesterday. It was a surreal moment, infused with feelings of sorrow and pride. I am proud of myself for getting to where I am today; I hadn’t expected to make it this far. Sitting in the hospital room in August of 2019, listening to the monitor yell as my heart rate dropped below survivable levels, I was more than frightened. I peered through the tunnel of fear and saw light as a tiny dot in the far-off distance.
Now, I am infused with light. Of course, my body image is often negative. I have intrusive thoughts, and have to work very hard to love myself. Yet, I am so distanced from the corpse I once was; I am alive, and accomplished, and strong. It still brings me immense joy when I realize that I’m not perpetually cold, or that I can run without losing my breath. I can eat whatever I want without guilt; my smile is genuine, not forced. I cannot believe that for three weeks of my formative years, I was bound to a wheelchair, and now I can use my legs like a normal human being.
It is hard for people without eating disorders to understand the struggle we face on a daily basis. Just know that EDs are NEVER worth it. They can never compensate for a lack of control you may experience, or an absence of self-love.
Recovery is necessary and fruitful, regardless of what your ED tells you. And it is SO much better than the alternatives.