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We’ve all heard the saying, “Everyone is addicted to something that takes away the pain.” It is often paired with black and white images of young adults and/or teens drinking, smoking, self-harming, purging their latest binge, or black tears sliding down a porcelain face. Don’t believe me? A quick search on Tumblr should prove you wrong.
Although painfully cliché and overused this term is, it is true. I can tell you for a fact that this statement is true.
My addiction began towards the tail end of my middle school career. It started off innocent enough: a few spoonfuls of euphoria here, a sprinkle of invincibility, and a dollop of emptiness. It made me feel like I was better than everyone. I was unstoppable, subhuman, something beyond this physical realm on Earth.
Soon, it became dangerous. I began lying to my loved ones. I began hiding things and keeping quiet. Screaming matches with my parents ensued and I would usually end the night in tears. People were worried, but I couldn’t stop. I was scared. This feeling was beyond my control and there was nothing me or anyone could do to bring it to a grinding halt. Eventually, I recovered, but not fully, and this still lingers in my brain to this day.
You’re probably in shock right now. An addiction at thirteen? That’s insane! I must have been a serious party girl back in the day to get hooked on something. The truth is, I never went to any parties. Hell, it’s a decade later and I still haven’t been to any parties. I was never around illegal substances and my childhood can easily have the NORMAL label slapped on it.
So, what’s my addiction? My Strange Addiciton?
My name is Amber.
I am addicted to hunger.
I hit puberty a lot earlier than my other peers. By fifth grade, I had boobs and hips. All the other girls were still rather thin while my sides burst out the top of my jeans. To get rid of this “extra stuff," I knew I had to lose weight. I began exercising and refusing to only eat foods I considered healthy. This continued well into my seventh grade year.
The summer of 2008, I knew I had finally made it. All of those years of putting myself through grueling workouts I found in Cosmo!Girl and Seventeen and skipping lunch had finally paid off. My extra small shirts and size 1 jeans fit me with ease. I had the body every girl my age wanted.
However, this was the same summer I was diagnosed with Autoimmune Hepatitis. I was immediately slammed on Prednisone, a nasty medication that made me gain thirty pounds seemingly overnight. I was devastated. All of my hard work was ruined. I couldn’t stop eating junk and exercising seemed pointless. I joined the basketball team in hopes of losing weight, but instead, I gained even more weight. I felt hopeless.
Spring of 2009, I swore to gain back my control. I began counting calories religiously, never letting myself go above 1000 calories a day. When my appetite got the best of me, I would slide my fingers down my throat until I was empty, pure, and clean.
I always felt the best, however, when I didn’t eat anything at all. The hunger made me dizzy and weak, but made me feel incredible. I somehow felt better than everybody else. I could survive without a basic human necessity.
I spent the next few years nibbling at dry cereal and rice cakes during lunch, chugging black coffee, and throwing up my dinner. This sense of perfection, of cleanliness, became something I chased. I strived for it. I craved it more than the cookie shoved in my face. I wanted it more than the taco dip at the family gathering. I needed it more than the hot chocolate offered to me at the marching band competition. Each time I said “no” to food, I felt more invincible. It was a constant feeling of euphoria.
I lost weight rapidly but at this point, it wasn’t about the weight loss; I just wanted that feeling of emptiness. My friends and family became scared. I was constantly asked if I was eating and food was always offered to me. As I broke down and panicked when these confrontations and offerings occurred, the fear turned to anger.
“You need to fucking eat something,” a friend once told me before a five hour color guard practice. I recall she had forced me to take a small bag of Chex Mix and I had started crying and threw it immediately in the nearest trashcan.
Learning To Heal
At some point, I decided to eat again. I would get better only to fall in the same dangerous cycle of starvation. It’s terrifying falling down the rabbit hole back into your eating disorder. You never know how long the free fall will last or if this time, it will kill you.
Unfortunately, I was never formally treated for my eating disorder. I saw a nutritionist and went to an ED support group at a clinic, but I never went back. For what reason, I don’t know. Most of the work I’ve had to do on my own. It’s hard. Nearly impossible at times. My story isn’t over yet. Knowing that my addiction to hunger may kill me is terrifying. But I won’t let it hurt me anymore.