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"I wish I was skinny."
Ever since I was a child, those words have escaped my mind and my lips tirelessly. Growing up, I was an overweight kid — no doubt about it. I was the fat kid who sat in the back of the classroom with no friends. I was the fat kid everyone picked on. To everyone at my school and even most of the people in my family, I was nothing more than just that: the fat kid.
Living in that sort of environment was the precursor to what would be the longest years of my life. By the time I reached my freshman year of high school, I was no longer considered fat, but I was still overweight, and I reminded myself of this fact on an almost daily basis. Truly, I was being unfair to myself. I was born with a large skeletal system and a body type that held onto fat and gained muscle quite easily, making it difficult to lose weight, even when I decided to play sports in middle school. Despite these factors, I couldn't help but look at everyone else's bodies and compare them to my own.
However, I never imagined myself as an anorexic.
Weight loss is usually dependent on calories burned versus calories consumed, and I knew this. I did all of my homework, learning whatever I could about boosting metabolism. I guzzled water like there was no tomorrow. I switched out my entire dinner for a fat free turkey sandwich. I skipped meals every once in a while.
My weight dropped fast.
I was finally living my dream — I was starting to grow thinner. And soon enough, I was at my goal weight. But it didn't stop there. As the weight kept coming off, I became more scared of gaining it all back. I became agitated and fatigued, sometimes even angry at my family for asking me why I never ate dinner. I had no concept of what I was doing to myself. At this point, the only thing that mattered to me was one thing: that I was going to be skinny.
This unending cycle continued for months. Though my body was at a healthy weight, my mind was starting to go. I spent countless time examining myself in the mirror, upset with anything I deemed imperfect. I craved a lower weight, a lower number, but I wasn't willing to risk my health any further in order to get it.
It all changed when I reached my 15th birthday. I indulged myself that day. I thought to myself, "I'm at a good weight! Why shouldn't I?," enjoying every bit of it. In truth, I was probably just hungry. Ravenously hungry. But I paid the price.
I had gained 5 pounds in one day, and I berated myself, thinking it was the end of the world. It was at this point that I was no longer in control of my life, my eating disorder was.
Over the next few days, I devised the ultimate weight loss plan: 350 calories a day.
This was officially murder. I was at war with myself, and I was losing. For months I survived on only this amount of calories and my own muscle and fat, making sure to stay hydrated to avoid any water weight gain. I could see my ribs. My arms grew tiny. I was in a constant state of sick and tired.
My teachers knew. My friends knew. My partner at the time knew.
The backlash was terrible. My family began questioning me at the time, asking if I'd been doing drugs. My partner harassed me, telling me (in their exact words) that I looked like a starving Jew or calling me an idiot.
The stress and the hunger ravished my body. There were times where my brain would outsmart me, occasionally putting me in a state where I absolutely could not stop eating.
Eat, starve, eat, starve...
This cycle of living was the only thing keeping me alive.
I had several reactive eating periods in which I could not put down food, no matter how hard I tried, or how badly I wanted to. Despite this, I was still starving myself whenever possible. I would go three days or so between eating periods, or I would only eat 400-1,000 calories. I would live off of applesauce or fat-free yogurt for a few days before my body told me that it wasn't enough, that I needed more.
Over the next 3 years, I made two nearly successful attempts at recovery, becoming smaller with each relapse. On the third try, I began shifting towards bulimia.
Constantly dehydrated, my grades began slipping. I was always an academically bright student, but not anymore. It became harder to focus. It became harder to manage my interpersonal relationships. Everything in my life became difficult to the point that I couldn't take it anymore.
I wanted to die.
To top it all off, I no longer had any friends by the end of the school year, because of my breaking it off with a significant other at the time. Even through this pain, however, I fell in love again, rendering this new beau the only person that I had at the time, which made it even more difficult to open up about my eating disorder.
For a long time, I just didn't say anything. I was ashamed of myself. Three years of dealing with the control that eating had over my body rendered me a hollow shell of my former self. I tried my best to focus on my new relationship, leaving my eating disorder to transform in the shadows, sprouting health issues, such as hypoglycemia and low blood pressure. Even to this day, I am in constant physical pain from the stress I've placed on my body.
And it wasn't until I almost died that I finally received my wake up call.
It was the night of the baccalaureate for my school's graduation. I indulged in the snacks they had at the event, reminding myself that I can just purge it all once I get home in order to prevent any weight gain. And that's precisely what I did.
About five minutes later, I started sweating like mad. I was shaking so bad that I couldn't walk straight anymore. My first thought was to get my glucometer and check my blood sugar levels, but I was so desperately tired that I lied down several times before I could remind myself to do so. When I finally did, I was shocked. It was around 34 mg/dL, but still continuously dropping. I told my mother immediately and she rushed me to the hospital's ER.
I received an IV of glucose and had to get lab work done on my blood in order to see if there was anything else wrong with me. Soon after they were done, an ER doctor came to my room to speak with me, informing me that I additionally had dangerously low potassium levels. She then asked me, simply, if I had been purging my food.
I couldn't take it anymore. I told her everything. I was so ashamed of myself that I was shaking once more. I just wanted to be better already. I wanted to go back and undo what I'd started.
After being stabilized and sent home, I talked to my partner on the phone. With their help over the next month or so, I gained back some weight and started following a more normal eating pattern. I also started taking antidepressants and seeing a counselor regularly, in order to address some mental health issues.
There are still things I struggle with, both psychologically and physiologically. I am still hypoglycemic and I still experience chronic pain. I still lose weight when I'm not supposed to. I still see myself in the mirror as someone who isn't good enough for themselves.
But most importantly, I'm still trying to make myself better.