I have sat done hundreds of times to try and write “My Story”. I never know where to begin, I never know how to convey my feelings, my thoughts or my experiences. I don’t look sick, so most people assume I don’t have an eating disorder. And that core belief, that since I don’t look sick I am fine, took away the last 8 years of my life. It left me suffocated, allowing the eating disorder to control my life, to take away my memories, my personality, and my happiness.
But I am now ready to finally take back my life. I compare my most recent experiences to those of a toddler- I feel like I am living life for the first time. Recovery is somewhat like a giant identity crisis; who am I without the eating disorder? What do I enjoy other than working out? Am I funny? Am I actually outgoing?
Sharing my story was a tough decision, but I am tired of everyone acting like they have their shit together- when in reality, most of us are struggling but are to scared to admit it. I’ve learned vulnerability is terrifying, but it allows a deeper connection and I believe that’s something we all are craving.
I hope that my experience can assist supports who are struggling to understand their loved one’s behaviors or thoughts. I hope my story can show other girls (and males) that you don’t need to look sick to have an eating disorder, and sometimes being ‘fit and healthy’ can be extremely unhealthy.
I remember first feeling fat in 8th grade. As I became conscious of my stomach, I started switching out my fitted Hollister tees for looser clothes. Freshman year I started watching what I ate and started spending $100 on diet pills a month (a lot for a 15-year-old with no money). As high school continued, I quickly became immersed in a world of counting calories, endless hours of exercise, and the satisfaction of seeing the number on the scale drop. All my focus turned toward getting the perfect body; ditching school events because I could never find clothes I felt comfortable in, skipping parties because I couldn’t bare the calories in alcohol and losing friends because the gym became my priority. I always felt pathetic for working as hard as I did and never achieving a ‘good enough’ body, so I turned to self-harm as I put all my effort into restricting, which only led to a vicious cycle of binging and purging. The issue was from the outside I didn’t seem like I had a problem. I had the whole world convinced, including myself, that I was “just into fitness and cared about nutrition .”
My behavior only intensified throughout college. My food rules became my Holy Grail, honestly believing the world would end if I ate 16 almonds instead of my allotted 12. I traded in the typical ‘bars on a weeknight and 2 am drunk pizza ‘ life of a college student for one of fasted cardio, isolation, and severe dieting. I counted every bit of food that went into my body and calculated the correct amount of exercise to ‘make up for it’. My sophomore year of college I started prepping for a bodybuilding competition- where two a days, macro counting and complete control of my body were simply part of the sport. In reality, my eating disorder was only feeding on this- I just now could use the excuse that I was doing this because I was ‘healthy and fit’. (I am saying now- there are plenty of competitors that can handle this lifestyle. I am not bashing the sport, I am not bashing my coach. I had the eating disorder long before I worked with her and she, in fact, was the one who made me stop my prep for mental and physical health reasons).
By my third year of college, I became addicted to laxatives, overdosing daily, which royally messed up my digestive system. But still, the idea of having an eating disorder still had not dawned on me- I didn’t look sick. I wasn’t skinny enough to have an eating disorder.
It was not until my senior year of college that I began seeing a specialist for eating disorders. I remember being so nervous the morning of my first appointment, fearful that she would just laugh in my face and tell me to stop wasting her time and that I was fine. So when she told me I needed intensive treatment, I thought she was just trying to get more money in the system.
I began my first round of treatment in spring 2016 and it was by far the best decision I have ever made. Although I quickly realized a few months of treatment would not change 8 years of thinking, I am blown away by the progress I have made. I am questioning absolutely everything regarding my relationships, my career, my vision, my family- recovery tips your world upside down and you have no choice but to dive in or drowned. So the adventure is pretty spectacular but it’s definitely a bitch. Every day is still a challenge and I’ve certainly found myself back in treatment since my first intake, but I am grateful for the experience. It has made me question set beliefs and thoughts, reconstruct new foundations and work towards creating a new self for a happier and healthier life.