I was fourteen and I thought I was alone. My body was more skeleton than vibrant skin. My mind was bombarded with negative thoughts and desires. My sunken eyes took in the world with fear and trepidation. I was trapped inside myself.
By the time I’d lost enough weight to be a danger to myself, I’d never met another girl with an eating disorder. Sure, I’d seen them in magazines, but never met one, talked to one. I grew up in a small town. Everyone knew everyone and nobody knew how to help me.
At fifteen, I was admitted into the adolescent unit of a psych ward for anorexia three hours from my home. It was there that I first became acquainted with girls who struggled like I did. I met other teens, grown woman, and even a man who had eating disorders. They were all stuck and hurting like me.
At that point, my thoughts were foggy. My brain was starved. I needed help but didn’t know where to get it or if I wanted it. Sure I was in the unit, but I was scared and hurt and not sure I could fight the disorder.
If I could go back and whisper in the ear of my teenage self I would say…
“You’re not alone”
I know it feels like you’re all you’ve got and you’ve got to do this by yourself. But that’s not true. Thousands of girls have gone before you and many of them have found healing. I’m sure if you take a second look at the people around you, you will discover that they are with you too. Eating disorders force us to isolate ourselves, but we don’t have to. Remember, you are never ever alone. If you need encouragement find an eating disorder recovery blog. There are some great ones out there by girls who know exactly what you are going though.
“You are stronger than you think”
Some days it feels like your taking more steps backward than forward. You’re at war with your mind and you feel like you’re losing. Remember, you are stronger than you think. You can make it to tomorrow. The same strength you use to self-destruct can be used to fight. You can live again, be normal again. I know it feels like you’re weak and helpless, but you’re not. You are so strong. Keep fighting.
“The voices are wrong”
The voices in your head that tell you to starve, binge or purge are wrong. I know you know that deep down but I want you to hear it from a girl who’s struggled, who still struggles. I know that some days it feels like the voices are fierce enough to pull you under. The compulsion to restrict is too strong. It feels like there’s an angel on one shoulder and a demon on the other. Unless the voice is telling you you’re beautiful and worthy and desiring of health, fight it.
“You are not a mistake”
When you’re in the middle of the battle it’s hard to imagine being worthy of anything. But let me tell you what I believe…I believe that you were made for a reason. Your being born was not a mistake. You have a purpose for your life and a calling only you can fulfill. You are not ugly or hopeless. You are the opposite. You are beautiful and you have a story to tell, a smile to share.
“Choosing recovery is worth it”
The battle in your mind is very real. I know sometimes it seems easier to give up. The choice of recovery must be your own. Nobody can or should force you to do it. Not doctors, parents, or friends. Recovery doesn’t work that way. It will only work when you decide you want it and then you work toward it with a single minded tenacity.
“Recovery is not a one-time thing”
It’s easy to be confused about the recovery process. I thought once I was strong I could make healthy decisions again with no problem. Recovery doesn’t work like that. It’s a choice you make every day, every meal, every year. It’s not easy, in fact, it’s very hard. But like I said above, it’s worth it. You are worth it.
“You are beautiful”
Don’t be deceived by what you see in the mirror. If you have an eating disorder you probably aren’t seeing clearly. The girl you see in the mirror is not gross, ugly, or imperfect. She is beautiful. Don’t doubt that. Learn to believe it even when what you see reflected back at you isn’t your ideal.
You may be wondering, what happened to me, Shelbie? How did I change?
The answer isn’t simple. The fact is I still struggle with thoughts and temptations almost every day. I’m happy I’ve chosen the path of recovery. If I didn’t I would not be able to enjoy many of the wonderful things life has to offer. I’d be too sick to have a husband or a job, nor would I be able to run and walk and enjoy life to the magnitude that I do. Recovery is a journey.
If you’re reading this and you have an eating disorder, I think you’re worth it. I know you can make it. There is hope. Keep fighting.