Anorexia is not a diet, it is not a temporary fad, it is not a look, and it is not a cry for attention. It is a lifelong mental disorder that relapses in waves.
The first signs of my disorder became prominent when I was about ten years old. I was a part of a gymnastics team, living most of my life in a leotard. We were placed in front of mirrors to watch ourselves perform our routines, and I could never quite pay attention. My mind would drift to the girl next to me, wondering why I’m not as skinny as her. I would study the other girl’s bodies, praying that I could see my bones like that one day. This is the core of the obsessive thinking that comes along with Anorexia.
I remember one evening as a young girl, I had a meltdown to my mom. I told her I hate her because she gave me this body. I screamed and told her that one day I’m going to get surgery and get all the fat sucked out of me. During that breakdown, I remember the feeling of being taken over by another species that wasn’t me. This is what I’d call Anorexia Attacks. Similar to somebody with OCD having a panic attack, but the panic is triggered by your body and food. These attacks became very frequent later in life.
The summer going into Sophomore year. Everything happening in my life was out of my control, but I found one thing I could control. The process was gradual, starting with slight restriction and going on runs to lose weight. Within six months, I was only allowing myself to eat carrots, sugar snap peas, and peanut butter. Don’t ask me why these foods were the only ones that didn’t cause me to panic. At my lowest point, I was running ten miles a day while eating 400 calories a day, give or take a few. Yes, you just read that correctly. I ran every single day, and if I didn’t get around to my daily run – all hell broke loose.
During this time, I had lost around 60 pounds, keep in mind I was no where near overweight to begin with. Body dysmorphia caused me to look in the mirror and completely overlook the fact I was unhealthy looking. All I saw were bones, and how I want to see more bones. My ribs were prominent, but I needed more. It was never enough. It is an addiction.
I had to be taken out of school for the rest of Sophomore year and emit myself into treatment. And let me tell you, I was fucking pissed about it. I attempted to claim to everybody, even my doctors, that there is no problem. All I am doing is eating healthy and working out. I fought with my dietitians, and called them fat when they tried to force food upon me. I wouldn’t open up to my therapists or support team because I couldn’t admit to myself that I had a problem. For a good while there, treatment was useless because I refused to change.
The real turning point for me, was when my doctor looked me in the eye, and told me I am going to die. I remember the look on her face when she took my blood pressure and gasped. At this point, I was severely depressed and had given up on all hope I had for recovery. I was on bed rest, which gave me plenty of time to drown in my thoughts. I had lost all my friends from high school, and none of my classmates had bothered to reach out once I had fallen off the face of the planet. My family was great support and they did what they could, but they had trouble understanding exactly what was going on within me. My brother would say “why don’t you just eat?” The truth is, I can’t answer that question myself.
Laying on my mattress, staring at the ceiling, the room feeling darker than usual. Realizing what my life had become and what I had done to not only myself, but my family. Replaying the memories in my head of me fainting, or not being able to hold conversations due to brain fog. Looking at my arms and seeing the extra layer of hair grown to keep my body warm. If I loved control so much, why couldn’t I control this?
Allowing myself to choose recovery is something I’m grateful for every single day. I didn’t just choose recovery, I was determined to get back on my feet. What the doctor said about my health state, was of no concern to me. I knew that if I put all of the energy I had left into healing – I could do so. I began to gain weight physically, which would cause me to panic and mentally relapse. Recovery was not a smooth wave, it was a journey of highs and lows. There were times I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t gaining any weight, until I caught myself sub-consciously starving again.
During recovery, I was vegan which gave me the structure I needed in order to allow myself to eat. I can solely say that veganism saved my life. It took about six months for me to reach a healthy weight once again – not only had I gained my weight back, but I had gained my entire life back. My mental clarity, my drive, my energy, my peers, my love, and my passion.
As I stated in the beginning, Anorexia is not temporary. Three years later, I still once and a while find myself in the same negative thought patterns. The difference now, is that I can detach from these thoughts because I know they are just a disorder speaking. I love myself like I never have before, and I constantly find myself apologizing to my body for what I put it through. My body is here to give me life, sensations, and health. If you were to tell me years ago that I would reach this level of self-love – I would probably tell you to fuck off.
For anybody who may be dealing with an eating disorder or an eating disorder mindset, never hesitate to reach out to me. It can be difficult to ask for help from your peers who may not understand. There is help out there. The first step is acceptance and allowing yourself. I would repeat a mantra to myself when fighting recovery: “I do not need to have control of my body. I accept recovery. I let go of control. I am not my body, I am my soul.”
I found myself engaging with online communities, and found a love for healthy cooking during the time being. I remember the freedom I felt once I allowed myself to eat and cook again. I am open to answer any questions, I will continue to post more about eating disorder help and guidance, but I wanted to share my personal experience first.
Beautiful photography by Emma Mead.