Type to search

How one woman found her way from illness to standing tall in her power


After two weeks of processing and navigating how to articulate my story of leadership, my feminism, and my journey thus far, I find myself sitting in a quiet hall, writing these words as I know I would choke up saying them out loud.

photo of danielle melnick

Danielle Melnick

Three years ago I was diagnosed as manic depressive with a panic disorder, OCD, and insomnia

I’ve been on medication and have seen many therapists & psychiatrists. This past May I entered one of the darkest places of my life. My mom was diagnosed with cancer, I was falling back into my eating disorder, and I was getting rejected from every job I applied to. I wanted to crawl into a dark hole and never return

While I am in a lighter headspace today, I know that healing is never a completed journey, nor is it linear. Since beginning my work in sexual violence prevention, neurodiversity, and body positivity, I often tear up because there are brave leaders at the forefront of this work who know what it’s like to go to hell and back. So often in mental health advocacy, body love, and violence prevention, we skim over the tough shit.

In this spirit, I often return to one of my favorite quotes:” I love the person I’ve become, because I fought to become her,” by Kaci Diane.

On the days I feel like a failure at work, get honked at for cutting off a trucker, and neglect to bring the right forms to the DMV, I forget that I worked my ass off to become “her.” Ten years ago I’d look at myself in the mirror and feel disgusted in myself: I wasn’t smart enough, pretty enough, thin enough….or just plain “enough.” I went to extreme lengths to morph myself into a warped version of perfection: starvation, purging, caking on makeup, putting all of my energy into perfect grades, censoring every thought and word that came out of my mouth, and constantly craving acceptance from every classmate, teacher, and friend.

photo of Danielle MelnickYes, on the days of DMV drama and highway frustrations I feel overwhelmed. However, I close my eyes and remember the perfectionist hell and excruciating mental torture I endured so many years ago:

  • 95      My favorite number. It was how many pounds I weighed my freshman year of high school.
  • 1000  My second favorite number. It was how many calories I let myself eat a day.
  • 145    Now…that’s a bad number. It was how much I weighed when I was a chubby “pig” in the words of some folks.

However, the number of times I avoided sleepovers, dinners, parties, and holidays are too many to count.

The hours of fun I lost calculating my daily caloric expenditure and recuperating from my last binge are too humiliating to share.

The mornings I woke up with puke in my hair, yellowed teeth, and crying due to my “heavy” weight on the scale make me sad now.

  • 2        Bony arms. Always hidden and never warm.
  • 00      The dress size I thought I “earned.”
  • 7        Years. That’s how long it took to break those behaviors. That includes lots of trial and error, medication, crippling panic attacks, and screaming.

I have no clever hashtag to package my skeletons in the closet in a neat and shiny bow. It happened, it changed me, hurt those I loved, and I thank God it’s over. All I can say is thank you to those who didn’t leave me to face the world with my armor eating away at itself.

photo of Danielle Melnick smiling

Danielle Melnick

Once upon a time, my body played a numbers game. Today I am infinite…

Yesterday someone asked me if I could talk to my past self, what would I say. After pausing for a long minute, I realized that I wouldn’t tell my younger self anything. I’d just hug her. Sit with her. Listen to her. I’d want her to feel that she IS enough and will become and continue becoming the person she wakes up and fights for.

I’m still fighting for her and always will. She’s worth it.

To all the women making huge shifts in how we stand in our power, thank you. Thank you for bringing your truth and my truth to light. Thank you for your humor and kindness. Thank you for being you. Thank you for surviving and living to tell your story. I am forever grateful.


You Might also Like

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *