NEDA Week Stories – Saturday
During National Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2011, Operation Beautiful is sharing survivor stories to inspire, motivate, and help others realize they are not alone. Check out Monday’s Stories, Tuesday’s Stories, Wednesday’s Stories, Thursday’s Notes, and Friday’s Notes.
I still remember it vividly: stepping on the scale at age 13 and crying at the number that stared back at me. I looked in the mirror, determined to "fix myself." I began a simple diet, limiting my calories and dancing more. I took ballet classes nearly every day of the week, and in a few weeks I lost the weight I felt I needed to lose. But I didn’t know how to maintain that weight. So I kept losing. I dropped down to a very unhealthy weight, and I noticed my hair falling out whenever I took a shower. Still, I didn’t feel good enough. I didn’t feel beautiful. My body image was completely distorted: I thought my thighs and butt were fat even though sitting in a chair caused immense pain in my bones. I was convinced I was chubby, though I felt cold all the time. My parents tried to get me help: a nutritionist, a therapist, etc. I visited the doctor’s office at least twice a week. Still, no therapy helped because I didn’t have a desire to change. Anorexia had distorted my mind, and it didn’t release its grasp until June of my sophomore year in high school, when I was 16 years old. I’d started having seizures, and three ambulance rides were enough for me. I could see the damage my illness was doing on my family and friends, and I was sick of it. I still remember it vividly: eating a slice of my favorite chocolate cake without guilt. My body needed it. My body deserved it. I deserved to get better. That was over two years ago, and now I’m college-bound and a survivor. I even started a blog at http://semisweetblog.wordpress.com/ (it’s not about eating disorders) to show the world just how beautiful I feel.
It’s been a long and arduous road, but the end is finally in sight. My eating disorder battle began at age fifteen. After losing a few pounds by following a low-calorie diet, I was hooked. My body was slim and I enjoyed all the positive attention. For some reason I also found the calorie counting, meal planning, and rigorous exercise schedule comforting. Unfortunately I couldn’t keep up with my strict routine and began to regain the weight I’d lost. Feeling anxious and out of control, I began to binge and purge. It was infrequent at first and by the time I was in college, my day revolved around bingeing and purging. I not only abused my body by denying myself adequate nutrition, but I was also promiscuous, drank excessively, and allowed negative self-talk to rule my thoughts.
It should come as no surprise that it was only a matter of time before I hit rock bottom. Even though I’d been seeing a therapist on an outpatient basis, I decided it was time for more intensive treatment. For 3.5 months, I worked hard in an inpatient program to heal my mind, body, and soul. I maintained my progress for a few years, but the stress of a rocky romantic relationship was more than I could manage and I returned to my eating disorder behaviors for comfort.
Eventually I finished graduate school, my significant relationship ended, and I began a new career. I’m not sure what caused the shift, but my bulimic behaviors subsided and I began restricting my food intake and compulsively over-exercising. Within a matter of months I’d lost 30% of my original weight. Despite concern from family and co-workers, I continued my deadly behaviors for 2 years. Then I began dating a guy who had been my best friend. It was hard for me to understand how anyone could love me as I was, knowing that I was living a very disordered and dysfunctional lifestyle. I’m not sure what happened, but I reached a tipping point—I was either going to choose my eating disorder or choose to have a future.
It was extremely difficult and scary, but I decided that I had to take the risk. I chose to risk losing all sense of control to have the chance to love and be loved. I suppose I knew deep down that my ED would only lead me to a dark and lonely place and so I took a chance. Although I was terrified to part with a coping skill I held near and dear, I was more terrified to give up on love. I know it sounds cheesy, but I believe a part of me still remembered that I was worthy of love and worthy of a future.
It’s been a year since I actively began addressing my eating disorder again. I still hate going to therapy, mourn the body I once had, cry when I look at the body I now have, and sometimes think that bingeing and purging would relief the stress I’m feeling. Nevertheless, I trudge along. To be honest, there are days I don’t know why I continue to fight. And then there are days I can make plans, eat lunch with my boyfriend, and spend time with good friends without having to angst. My eating disorder robbed me of so many simple pleasures.
I now can envision a future without my eating disorder, which is not something I could have said a few years ago. My battle is far from over, but I feel as though I’m over the hump and although the future is unknown and even bleak at times, I have no desire to turn back.