It is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week and those who know me, or have followed my blog since the beginning, know that I am open to talking about living with depression and anxiety, as well as my struggles with and recovery from Anorexia. I think it is important to talk about these issues together, as they often go hand in hand.
Had I opened up about my depression and anxiety when it began in my early teens, I might have avoided the eating disorder that plagued my young adult existence. But I didn’t.
Some people think that those who suffer from depression are unable to even get out of bed or function. While that can be true through some of the darkest lows, most of us look like normal and fully functioning human beings on the outside, while we are crying and dying on the inside.
I didn’t want to burden my parents with my inner battle, so I kept it to myself. It took all the strength I had just to get up and go to school each day with a fake smile plastered on my face. I threw myself into my schoolwork and extracurriculars in preparation for college applications. I did everything within my power to be the perfect daughter, and hid everything that seemed to blacken that image. On the days when my depression was too much, I would fake sick to stay home. In the event of a panic attack, I would hide in my room, crank up my stereo, ball up into the fetal position in my closet and press a pillow to my face to muffle the sounds of my screams.
Years of this repression coupled with the stressful final years of high school lead to a frightening level of self-loathing, self-harm and the beginning of my 6-7 year eating disorder battle.
My self-esteem had never been any good. I can recall thinking I was “fat” when I was only 9 or 10 years old. Many of the girls in my grade were tiny and petite, and when boys and girls started getting crushes and hooking up I was not unaware of the lack of interest shown to me. I was taller than nearly every boy, freckled and wore round glasses. It’s not like there were never ugly remarks made about me, and I remembered every single one.
By the time I was 16 I was pretty busy, for a teenager. I had school, clubs, church responsibilities, and a job. I would run late in the morning and forget to eat breakfast, or want to save my money instead of buying lunch. When my pants started getting looser, I liked it. Soon enough, my forgetfulness became purposeful. By the time I got home from my after-school job, my stomach would be aching. It was like a high, and I loved it. It made me feel powerful, like I had overcome a challenge.
By the summer after my senior year I would go days and days on nothing but an apple. I became weak, and the weakness made my anxiety so much worse. After confessing, my parents intervened before I left for college. Of course, I quickly relapsed just a month into my freshman year. It was a roller coaster after that for 5 years before I finally found a healthy balance in my life.
When it comes to eating disorder awareness, I think it is most important for people to understand 3 major points:
An eating disorder is an addiction.
I literally felt a high from my hunger. I craved starvation like it was a drug. I was addicted. Just like any other addiction, you can achieve recovery, but the taste for the drug is always there. There is no cure. I have been in recovery for nearly 7 years, and I am just now reaching a place where I rarely feel as tempted as I used to.
Eating disorders are about more than weight.
An eating disorder is not a sign of vanity; it is a sign of mental and emotional problems. My Anorexia stemmed from my body dysmorphia issues, but thrived on my need for control and my feelings of worthlessness.
Not everyone with an eating disorder will “look”
like they have an eating disorder.
There are a variety of eating disorders and many levels of severity. While I did lose a significant amount of weight during my struggling years, I never got underweight. And my weight fluctuated with my resolve constantly during the years I was trying to quit. I never “looked” anorexic. The idea that you have to “look” sick to be sick is untrue, especially when it comes to eating disorders.
As always, my hope is that this has reached the heart of someone who needs it. Maybe you have never talked about your eating disorder. Maybe you aren’t sure you have one. Maybe you're concerned about your son or daughter’s eating habits. You can get help. You can achieve recovery. But you need help. Reach out for help today.
GOOD ENOUGH, STRONG ENOUGH, PRETTY ENOUGH. YOU ARE ENOUGH.