Your Eating Disorder Does Not Define You

First and foremost I want to start off by saying that I had a lot of reservations about writing and sharing this post for a couple of reasons, but mainly because of fear and anxiety. I fear that those who read this will no longer see me as a confident, bubbly, and vivacious person, but instead as someone fragile and weak. I also don’t this want this to change anyone’s perception of me, but I’m setting those reservations aside because I believe in the power of honesty and vulnerability, and the power of being so open, raw, and relatable that others feel uncomfortable yet safe and understood at the same time. Secondly, I want to advise everyone who reads this that this post may contain some triggers, and if you’re currently battling and eating disorder (e.d.) or suffering from a mental illness, you may want to stop right here.

With that being said, I’ve always been a pretty confident person not just about the way that I look but about who I am internally. I’m intelligent, I’m funny, I’m kind, I’m resilient, and I have a good heart. Now I don’t say these things to toot my own horn, but I say them because I genuinely feel that way about myself and I think everyone deserves to feel that way about themselves too. After all, humans are amongst the most complicated, fascinating, beautiful, and mysterious species to roam the earth, so what’s not to feel confident about? I grew up in an environment with parents who taught me the fundamentals of being a happy and good person. I was taught from an early age that looks don’t matter and that they’ll eventually fade away. I was taught that being smart and hardworking would get you further in life than just a pretty face and a good body, so I never really focused on the way that I looked and I honestly didn’t really care up until my senior year of high school.

Alright, let’s go back to when this whole thing began. I was a Junior in High School sitting in my AP Pysch class when all of a sudden I felt my phone vibrating in my pocket, it was a Twitter message from this guy who had graduated a couple years before I did talking about some sort of joke I had tweeted about gypsies, and the rest is pretty much history. That message was the beginning of a two and half year long tumultuous relationship. Now you may be asking yourself how any of this is relevant to an eating disorder, and I’ll tell you why. It wasn’t until I found myself dating that person that I really started to focus on the way that I dressed, the way I talked, the way my hair looked, and of course how much I weighed. After the first year of the relationship I began to consume myself with the idea that he no longer found me attractive and would find somebody else that was prettier, skinnier, and smarter than me and I just couldn’t have that happen. I kind of went into this delusional state of mind that anytime he would look at another girl it was because he found her better looking than me. I’m 23 years old now and I look back at that point in my life and I can’t help but laugh because it was so absurd and silly and I can’t believe I ever felt that way about myself in the first place. I was young, I thought I was in love, and I was also pretty insecure.

My desire for perfection turned into an obsession. I started eating less and less and I told myself that once I lost 10 pounds, I would feel good about myself and I would stop. Well that was much easier said than done. I began limiting myself to one “meal,” a day which typically consisted of a couple of fruits and a piece of toast, and if I was I feeling feisty that day I’d even sneak in a Hershey Kiss or two. The weight just fell right off. I was never really “fat,” in fact I’ve always been pretty skinny, but I wanted to be skinnier because I began associating being thin with being beautiful, and if you’re beautiful then you’ve got nothing to lose. There were days where I would eat nothing besides trail mix and drink water just to shake off the nausea, dizziness, and the feeling that I could faint at any given time.

At 5’8″ and 106 pounds I had turned into an irritable skeleton. The slightest thing would set me off because I was so hungry, and WE ALL know how much it sucks to be hangry (hungry and angry). I was hungry all of the time! I couldn’t focus on anything and all I wanted to do was crawl into bed and shut the world out. There were weeks where I would skip eating completely for two or three days at a time and then I would lock myself in my room and devour an entire large pizza, a bag of chips, and candy all by myself just to shove the back end of my toothbrush into my mouth and spew it into the toilet moments later although throwing up was short lived because I couldn’t stand the feeling of purging. I grew to hate food, I absolutely hated it. Most days I couldn’t smell it or even look at it. I would make up these crazy excuses as to why I wasn’t hungry anytime somebody would ask. After I shed the first 10 pounds my mom began to worry. She would hover over me while I played around with the food on my plate until she finally mustered the strength to sit me down and ask me what was going on. I’ll never forget that conversation because I got so angry at her. I felt like she was trying to control me, I had even convinced myself that she was probably just jealous because I was so skinny and could pretty much wear anything. How crazy is that? To think that my own mother’s genuine concern was nothing more than jealousy. But that’s how these things work, they cloud your judgment and make you see things in a completely irrational way.

This went on for months, I had lost 35 pounds and I gained a genuine fear of eating. I had heard that once you lose weight that fast you’ll gain it back twice as fast and twice as much. It was a demon that controlled everything that I did. I stopped wanting to go out, I wore clothes that were extra big in hopes that no one say anything about my sudden weight loss, I couldn’t focus in school, I was completely zombified. It was the summer before my Freshman year of college and I was a mess. I stopped hanging out with my friends because all they wanted to do was go out to eat just like every other normal teenager and I had run out of excuses as to why I wasn’t hungry, even though I would salivate at the mouth anytime I’d see someone around me take a bite of their food. I became envious of them because I wanted to enjoy food again. I needed food but at the same time I needed to stay skinny even more. I spent that summer dealing with an eating disorder and a breakup that I thought was the end of the world, which proves that you can be skinny and still get dumped HAHA. I was dealing with a pile of emotions that I had never felt before, I was distraught, confused, and just really sad for lack of better words. My friends were no longer reaching out to me because I had shut them out for so long, I was arguing with my mom nonstop because I refused to accept the fact that I had a problem, and I was left with a broken heart. For the first time in my life I felt alone, depressed, and completely worthless.

I finally woke up one morning and looked at myself in the mirror, I hardly recognized the girl looking back at me. Who was she? She was frail, pale, there was no sparkle in her eyes, and you could see a big grey cloud over her head. This wasn’t me, this wasn’t May. Who was this girl? As I stared at the reflection in the mirror I fell down on my hands and knees and I started crying uncontrollably. “How did it get this far?” I thought to myself. It was never supposed to be taken this far. What started out as a diet quickly turned into something really dark and really ugly. I had completely lost myself in the midst of wanting to be “thin.” Something had to change, I needed to get my life under control before it was too late. I looked up a local E.D. therapist and made an appointment for myself that very same day. The first appointment went well, I was able to talk to someone without feeling like they were judging me and I spilled my guts out about every emotion I was feeling and had been feeling for the last year.

I’ve always prided myself on being mentally strong, if I want something I’ll go through hell and high water to get it and I wanted to be healthy again, that was my goal. I wanted to regain control of my life, I wanted to leave that ugly point of my life behind me and start my Freshman year of college without food being the main focus. The first couple of weeks weren’t easy, I had to rediscover the love that I once had for myself and I had to mend my friendship with food once again. There was a lot of hesitation embarking on this new journey, and I’ll never forget the first meal I had where that feeling of disgust and fear of food was no longer present. It was a big juicy turkey burger with a side of fries and extra side of sweet potato fries with honey mustard and ranch. I felt proud of myself for devouring the whole thing, I felt accomplished.  I drove home with a big smile on my face that day because I had finally gotten a taste of happiness again and a taste of my old self.

I believe we all go through things in life to make us stronger. Some experiences come to us unexpecedly and we think we’re never going to live past them but we walk out champions with our heads held high. I’m one of the lucky ones that was able to defeat that demon, but there are millions of people who battle with this disease who haven’t been so fortunate. I am no longer in that dark place in life but it’s important to remember that an eating disorder is much like an addiction and the saying “once an addict, always an addict,” does apply. I’m not gonna lie, there are still days where I wish I was thinner but I would never sacrifice my happiness to be in the place I was back then.

I wrote this because I hope my story can inspire others going through similar situations to seek help and regain control of their lives.  Please remember that there is no shame in what you’re going through and that you’re not alone. Eating disorders are far more common than people think because they do not discriminate. E.D’s affect people from all races, ages, genders, and backgrounds. There is an estimated 8 million people in the U.S. alone who suffer from an eating disorder, so again, you are not alone, just keep on fighting.

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If you or someone you know is battling an E.D. please call 1-800-931-2237 the National Eating Disorder Hotline. 

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