I’ve been there. I lied awake at night planning my meals for the next day. I planned my schedule around when I would eat and how many calories it would cost me. I exercised and exercised until my joints hurt. I refused invites to spend time with my loving family and friends, because spending time with them would clearly interfere with my eating schedule.
I planned eating times as if I was my own pet. Worse, even. At least I actually feed my cat. I ran to the nearest mirror every time I ate, just so I could take another glance at my stomach in private. As if another 300 calories in my body would cause a visible weight gain.
I was a freshman in high school when it all started. Was I insecure? Maybe. Were my hormones completely out of whack? Most likely. Did I feel like I had to look like the girls in the magazines? I really don’t know. What I do know, however, is that I was mentally sick. And this mental illness was causing me to become physically sick.
My knees ached. I couldn’t fall asleep at night. My chest burned, and I lost my period. The scary part was, it never occurred to me that I could be jeopardizing my chances of ever having children. Not once. I didn’t even think to get it checked by my doctor. It wasn’t until I noticed my exponentially growing hair loss that I decided to turn to google. Google told me I had an eating disorder. Google.
Don’t get me wrong, my family and friends looked out for me, but I think some people were too scared to ask. And some were in denial. I instantly cried. I finally truly saw what was staring back at me in the mirror. I told my parents I thought I was going to have a heart attack. I remember my dad hugging me every night as I thought, “What if I don’t wake up in the morning?” I had read horror stories online.
Too many lives taken too quickly from something that can be fixed, prevented, cured. This is how I learned that recovering from an eating disorder is much more than simply loving your body. It’s about being happy with your own life. It’s about discovering your destiny.
The part everyone understands is that you must start eating again. You must stop denying your body of what it needs. I read an article online and someone said, “just eat again.” They simply said, “do it.” I thought it was ridiculous. I thought they didn’t understand that it was so much easier said than done, but I knew I had a problem. I knew I needed that push. I needed to “just do it.”
So I did. I began eating again. I would relapse. I would still stare at my stomach in the mirror. I would count calories, and I would isolate myself from the ones I loved. These things take time, but I pushed away the negative thoughts as much as I possibly could. I began to recover.
The part that most people don’t understand is that you lose your identity when you develop an eating disorder. I lost who I was. It had caused me to become depressed, withdrawn, and mentally unstable. I didn’t know what my hobbies were anymore.
All I did all day was count calories and use whatever energy I had to get through another day of school. Finding myself was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I had to learn to think abstractly again. I had to learn to love art all over again. I had to force myself to pick up a guitar. Activities that use to define me suddenly frightened me. I had to force myself to sit down and read books. I wasn’t able to concentrate before because food consumed my thoughts.
Learning to love and appreciate my family, friends, hobbies, and nature again was such a long, strenuous, but ultimately, incredible journey.
I went to field hockey camp. I felt strong. I even ordered a milkshake. Ordering pasta at restaurants wasn’t so scary anymore. I played my guitar and I started painting. I played music and I picked a college. My job at the movies became more exciting, and I felt happy with lazy Sunday afternoons with my family. I hiked, I swam, I fell in love. My new passion for living suddenly distracted me from my horrific thoughts regarding my body and calories. I learned that mental illness is stronger than I realized, and I developed a passion for helping others. It made me understand the world better.
I will not sugar coat recovery in any way. I did it, but it’s in no means easy. I cried until my period returned over 2 years later. I laid restless at night wondering if I ate too much that day. Some nights, I wondered if I ate too little. I had to learn how to eat again. Talk about going back to being a kid.
It was so much more than simply accepting my curves. It was about loving my body, but even more so it was about loving my personality, my hobbies, my education, people, and my future.
So ignore the people that say, “that girl needs to eat a hamburger.” They’re just ignorant and uneducated. Forget about the people who view anorexia as a weakness. Trust me, you will become stronger and more compassionate after recovery than they ever will be. I hope whoever reads this takes away the idea that eating disorder recovery is so much more than loving your body. It’s about finding yourself again and learning what you’re passionate about. It’s about rekindling relationships.
It’s about taking every last drop of happiness out of this crazy life we make for ourselves.