To my daughter...

I write this at age 24, so we haven't met yet.

If you are reading this, I exhale with relief as it means I successfully got pregnant. Something I had always dreamed of, but also knew would be difficult, and frankly, might not happen.

When I was your age, I lost myself. I searched for something that only stripped me of happiness.

This thing was a big part of my life and has shaped me into who I am today. Through recovery, I developed strength, bravery, confidence, trust and a further appreciation of the world because of it. I hope this has been passed down to you.

I had anorexia. It controlled my life and my entire being for so many years. It was my defence mechanism against all the challenges and expectations I ran into. I couldn’t control the outside world, but I could control my body. I spiralled, my liver was failing, my BMI was deathly low and the voices in my head were completely taking over. I went from a confident and happy young girl to a severely sick person who found it painful to get out of bed. None of the warning signs registered as dangerous in my head. I knew that as soon as the number on the scales went down I would 'feel better'. I became trapped in a dark and vicious cycle. I was constantly torn between the emotions of angry, terrified, confused and heartbroken.

It makes me sad to think about you being the same distraught 18 year old that I was. So I’ve written you a few things that I want you to remember.

  • Self-worth, darling! You're going to be beautiful, I already know that, but having self-worth and confidence is more beautiful than anything on the outside. Our culture and society places a lot of importance on what we look like. But wow, there is SO much more to life than this. I wish it didn't take me so long to realise. You're going to hear people talk about someone else’s amazing body, or their great hair or some Victoria’s Secret model. This is just life. Don't ever place your beauty in the hands of others. I hope you don't buy into the same culture as I did.

  • You don't need to please everyone. Self-care is something that took me a while to learn, but it came so naturally as soon as I stopped trying to please everyone around me and doing things I didn’t want to do. It’s okay if you don’t go to the party…

  • Never apologise for your brains. I moved schools for my last two years of high school and was shocked how it wasn't 'cool' to be smart. All the popular girls seemed to dumb themselves down and thought it was funny to be ditzy. I chose to focus on my studies. I isolated myself as I thought it had to be one or the other. You can be both. That should be celebrated.

  • Be grateful for what you do have and put life into perspective when things get hard. The world changes when we alter our perspective. Tips: find a song that soothes your soul, go for a walk, watch the sunset, practise self-care and reminisce on the phone with your best friend.

  • It's okay to be vulnerable. Let people in and trust that they will look after you. You don't have to hold your own hand forever. Believe that someone won't break you, but if they do, believe in second chances. I didn't have the mental capacity to let someone in, but as soon as I did, everything started to change. I wish I realised sooner.

  • Give yourself grace and don't be so hard on yourself. If things get tough, recognise that this isn't forever. Be gentle with yourself, you're doing the best you can.

  • I'm a perfectionist, so chances are this will be passed down to you. Try not to compare yourself to others, it's a battle you're never going to win. “Admire someone else's beauty without questioning your own.” A quote I live by.

In conclusion, I don't know what kind of mother I'll be. I get anxious when I can’t sleep, I get overwhelmed and overthink things more often than not, and I still find cooking and grocery shopping a struggle. I'm a work in progress. But I believe you have to go through the struggles to find the strength.

Side note: Today is International Women's Day 2018 - the praise and love I have received has made me all mushy inside. The words that people have used to describe me reflect my inside, not outside. I've been told my whole life how 'beautiful' I am, and my disease tricked me into thinking this was the most important part of me. Now my thinking has changed. I still get told I’m beautiful, but the compliments I receive for my attributes, values and soul resonate more with me than an external compliment ever will. It takes a while to realise this, but the earlier you do, the more beautiful life becomes. I'm writing this because I'd hate for you to go through what I did in order to realise that.

-Lauren