It’s been five years, and the thoughts still consume my mind. Not as much as they used to, but the little voices inside my head, the ones that yell at me about the food I eat, still exist. They never seem to go away, and I doubt that they ever will.
It’s been five years of doctor’s appointments, arguments, tears, therapists, highs and lows – five years of people thinking I’m vain, obsessed, and selfish. I’ve had to deal with people judging me on my weight fluctuations and how frequently I go to the gym; whether I choose that side of fries or opt for the acai bowl. It’s been five years of constantly hearing that only people who belong to the middle-upper class have issues with food and that I don’t have a real problem – that I’m just going through a phase because everyone in California eats super healthy and loves being fit. Yet, these five years I’ve been misunderstood because my eating disorder isn’t really about how much I weigh, the size I wear, or what I eat – it’s about the lack of control that I have in my life and a coping mechanism for when things seem to be slipping through my fingers.
I thought that I had finally closed the door on the disorder that shares the same name as me about a year ago. That I had finally fully recovered. That I could enjoy any type of food whenever I wanted. That the number on the scale didn’t mean anything to me. That I had forgotten the calorie count of every food that I could potentially consume. That I was finally living life like I was supposed to.
But I was wrong and they were right. Every day is a continuous battle. Some days I win. Some days I lose. But the voices inside my head are always there.
As I reflect back on this past year, I can clearly see all of the red flags of relapse. Skipping meals. Working out excessively. Not going out to social gatherings. Making up a slew of excuses to not eat. Lying. Saying I’m too full. Cutting out food groups. Trying to be a vegetarian. Spending hours in front of the mirror. Weighing myself daily. Starving myself to make up for a bad day of eating. Not eating during the day to make sure I don’t go above my calorie budget during a night out. Trying on all my clothes to make sure they still fit. The list can go on and on but the truth is that I’ve been living this past year in denial.
Fortunately for me, I had been brave enough to share my past with a few of my close friends and they were able to see the signs. Did they really understand why I was struggling so much with the way my body looked? Absolutely not. But they had learned how to provide their support and were able to subtly make sure I didn’t fall back into a spiral of darkness. They were the ones that provided the reality checks, the ones that knew that I needed to hear the truth, no matter how much it hurt.
They don’t understand how someone they love and respect so much could do so much harm to themselves. How someone they look up to could be so ashamed of their body. How someone they see as an inspiration and role model can’t see their true reflection when they look in a mirror. How someone who is confident about the way they look in public and who seemingly doesn’t care about what people think about them can go home and have no sense of worth. How someone can appear to be so strong but is slowly dying on the inside. How someone who they think is beautiful inside and out doesn’t believe them. And it hurts them to see someone who they care about struggling so much with their sense of self worth.
So this is me sharing my struggles. This is me accepting the reality check that my friends gave me this past weekend. This is me realizing that I need to make a change in my life to stay healthy. That my life’s worth living and that I have so much potential. That relapsing will only bring back the pain and emptiness that I experienced just a few years ago as I was fighting for my life.
But this is mostly me pleading you to take three minutes out of your day to talk to someone – a friend, a family member, a coworker – who you think might be struggling. Be the person who is willing to hear them despite the uncomfort you might feel while having the conversation. Because this isn’t about you. It’s about them. And in those three minutes, you could be saving someone’s life.