I open my eyes and am welcomed by the soft lull of dusk. I check my phone: 5:33 AM. I roll my eyes and try to think positively to myself, "Great. At least I got five hours tonight." I roll my body off the side of the bed and hear a soft thud when my feet meet the floor. I instinctively walk to the bathroom with my eyes half-closed, finally settling beside the toilet and gripping my stomach. This is the glamour that I get to experience now because I sacrificed my body’s functionality to be thin. I thought I would only be spending a few years beside a toilet bowl but that time has now turned into five, because of the physical damage that have been caused by Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa.
Everything started at school when I was 11. My teacher had everyone weighed for PE and I remember what I weighed that first time I stepped on that scale in front of God and everybody. I looked down and read 112. I remember going home and thinking then that I was fat, mostly because I hadn’t started to lose any of my baby fat. I thought that no one liked me because of my chipmunk cheeks and big tummy. I felt like losing weight would finally deem me "pretty", which is all I wanted to be in the sixth grade. I first started with a goal of 111 to see if I could reach it and within a couple days I had accomplished my goal.
I started doing sit ups at night in the dark, going on frequent runs, counting my calories, and eating less. I wore a tight tank top under whatever shirt I was wearing to make sure that my stomach was covered almost at all times. I sat in class with my arms folded over my stomach in hopes that no one would look at my tummy pudge. I remember stepping on the scale at school the second time, smirking proudly to myself because of my new weight. This behavior of competing with my own weight and trying to hide parts of myself continued until I was 15. Soon after I turned 15 I realized that I wasn’t losing weight as fast as I was before, which caused me to panic. I frantically started trying other methods I’d heard of for weight loss- puking and consuming laxatives. I didn’t lose very much weight while participating in these particular methods but I did notice that I didn’t really gain weight, either. Also, I could eat like a king for every meal. When I was introduced to these methods, I truly spiraled out of control. It seemed like any time that I could easily step away and purge, I would do it.
I knew that this behavior wasn’t healthy and I eventually asked my family for help and went to therapy. From there I slowly progressed from purging six to seven times a day to approximately two or three. Like a vicious cycle I would return to my old purging habits when life events became too overwhelming for me, and after an amount of time the cycle would start over. I finally realized how sick I was when I was 18. I was working at my first job ever, going to school full time, and I had just moved out on my own. I would eat one meal at school and throw it up during class afterwards. If I left work with discarded food, I would most likely throw it up unless I was too dizzy. I would get flashes and constantly felt like I was going to fall over. I would return to class and family events with red, teary eyes and say that my allergies were bad that season or that I was just overwhelmed with all my new life changes.
I felt like I could die at any moment and the amount of guilt I felt made me believe that I deserved to have died alone in a huge amount of mental and physical pain. I did irreversible, horrible damage to my own body to be thin in hopes that a thin body would give me purpose. I can tell you now that we all have a purpose, no matter how big, small, tall, or short you are. It has been over a year since I’ve purged last and I attribute that to the effort, love, and support that has come from my boyfriend, Skyler. He saw beauty in me when I saw no beauty in myself and he has helped me to recover and learn to love my body for what it does for me and others every day.
I’m writing this because I wish someone would have shown me the nasty side of eating disorders when I was young instead of showing me romantic images. I wish someone would have shown me the girls with long-term health problems instead of black and white photos of girls showing the prominence in their back bones, hip dips, rib cages, and collar bones. These horrible diseases can lead to heart failure, constant fatigue, stomach ruptures and leaking, kidney failure, and more.
After recovery I suffer from constant nausea, digestive problems, not being able to recognize when I need to eat because I’ve damaged the nerve that tells my brain that I’m hungry, sleeping problems, and I can’t even eat soup without bloating and hours of constant pain. This has affected my work, relationships, and almost every aspect of my daily life. I believed I was becoming more beautiful with every lost pound but what I really lost was so much more than that. I lost days spent with loved ones because instead of being involved I was too busy worrying about what I was going to eat that day. I lost my unstoppable immune system. I lost my childhood. The long-term health effects that I don’t currently experience could be ticking time bombs that haunt me my whole life. As terrifying as it is to say, one of these health effects could even be detrimental and cause my demise.
When I was young I thought that I was invincible, and now I’m consumed with how vulnerable I’ve become. The reality behind eating disorders is that they’ll really make you think that they’re taking care of you until you realize that they're killing you, slowly and surely. You’ll see it when you look at photos of you as a child and see all the joy that was once in your face has vanished. You’ll look into a mirror and see dark circles below what used to be bright eyes. No number on the scale will ever satisfy so you never learn to love your body for how it moves, provides, protects, supports, and truly cares for you like nothing else in this world can. If you’re struggling with an eating disorder, I urge you to open your heart and seek help now before the damage done to your body is permanent.
The voice in your head that is calling you fat and worthless isn’t your friend. Your whole being begins to glow when you’re healthy from the inside out. It will be far less effort to put in the time to heal yourself now than it will be to mentally and physically suffer or die because of any number of long-term health risks. I never, ever believed that I could give up control of my body and be healed but if I could do it, you can, too. There is love, light, and happiness ahead for those who seek recovery. You deserve to feel comfortable in your own body.
You can contact NEDA’s helpline for treatment options, support, and resources at +1-800-931-2237.