This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. Their theme this year is “Everybody Knows Someone” and with that theme I’ve mustered up the courage to face my fear and publically announce that I have struggled and battled with having an eating disorder since I was 15. Looking back now I can’t pinpoint where or how it started. I’ve always been average in terms of weight and height. I didn’t have a traumatic childhood that left me wounded. I was a completely normal girl. That’s what makes eating disorders so uniquely terrifying. Anyone can suffer from them. The purpose of this piece is raise awareness on an issue that affects more women you could even begin to understand. To shed a light on something that so many women silently endure and something so many people don’t take seriously.
I’m here to paint the picture for those of you who only see the tip of the iceberg with this issue. Most of the people in my life now have no idea of my dark past. I am a happy 23-year-old girl, living in Boston with my best friends from college. I have job. I have goals for my future. I want to get married and have a family. But my life wasn’t always this way and in spite of how “together” I may seem my eating disorder is something I deal with everyday.
Outside of the family and friends that were present for the worst of my disorder, I, out of fear or embarrassment, have not told a single person about my eating disorder. It’s truly my dirty little secret. I’ve tried to pinpoint why I’m so ashamed to admit that I had an eating disorder and I can’t. I can’t even bring myself to say it out loud. Not even when I’m alone. Why is having an eating disorder something to be ashamed of? Perhaps it’s different to be a survivor of something so many people think is a choice. Perhaps it’s because I can’t see myself as a survivor because I’m still trying to survive with this day in and day out. Or maybe I’m just terrified that letting my loved ones in on my less than perfect past will taint their view of me.
But today I am letting go of holding it inside me for any longer. I’m here to say that I had an eating disorder. I still suffer from the implications of that disorder and I am undeniably proud of how far I’ve come.
For you to begin to understand how an eating disorder begins or where its fire starts you need to first accept that it’s not a choice. I can promise you I never woke up in my twin bed of my parents house and decided I was going to not eat till I couldn’t deciphers up from down or that if I did I would force myself to throw up. Eating disorders are a something that emerges from the scariest, most hopeless parts of our being. It begins in the dark corner where your deepest insecurities lie and it feeds on your self-doubt…There is where it grows and it latches itself to you. It’s a dark, evil entity that takes over your life in the worst way.
When I look back at when my eating disorder was the worst I see myself like you see yourself when you dream. Watching from the outside. I was destroying my body and life without even being aware of it. My memory from that time is so blurred…Like I was living in a constant daze. I was constantly trying to outwardly prove to my friends and family how much I loved life because in actuality I hated it. Looking back now I don’t know how I could’ve been in such a horrible place with so much of my life ahead of me.
While I seemingly have my life together now… my eating disorder is still something I struggle with everyday. Food, nutrition, working out and losing weight control a majority of my thoughts. If I skip a meal I still get the high I used to. I still silently smile when I step on the scale and the number has dropped.
The thing with eating disorders is you can be treated but they never really go away. I can’t try fad diets , cut out gluten or restrict my caloric intake. I can’t try these things because I become obsessed with them. It’s a slippery slope and in a sick and twisted way my eating disorder will rear its ugly head and take control of my life. It happens so fast I usually don’t even realize it until I’m crouched in front of a toilet with my hand down my throat. Correction: I don’t realize it until I’m wiping the tears from eyes in the mirror. It’s then I see the unglamorous world I was trapped in for so long. With my face all blotchy and red I’ll flush the toilet and promise myself it wont happen again.
It’s a promise I’ve made to myself more times than I’d like to admit. But every time I make that promise I remind myself of everything my eating disorder stole from me. I lost my innocence. I robbed my siblings of theirs by forcing them to deal with an issue that was far beyond their years. I lost friends, too many too count because when an eating disorder is it’s worst, you become a selfish, heartless bitch. Your loved ones seem as disposable as the food you hate. I lost years of my youth and when it comes down to it, I stole years from my future. I destroyed my heart, my throat, my teeth, my stomach and god knows what else.
But what I’ve gained is a new respect for life. I cherish my body now, whatever size it may be. That’s why I am coming out and FINALLY letting people know that having an eating disorder is nothing to be ashamed of. I’m proud of how much I’ve grown because while my eating disorder may be something I have to battle every day, it’s also a reminder of how strong I am. It’s a reminder of how far I’ve come and that even on the darkest of days there is always a way back to the light.
For more information or help, visit National Eating Disorders Association here.