Stories of Recovery
A LETTER TO EVERYONE WHO HAS EVER HAD AN EXPERIENCE WITH AN EATING DISORDER
Dear Everyone who has ever had an experience with an eating disorder,
Eat. It is a simple three-letter word that that simply means “to feed yourself.” Or is it? This word used to be my absolute worst enemy and I would spend all of my time dwelling on it, figuring out ways to avoid it. To me it was the most complicated thing in the world because if I did it, I would be unworthy of other people’s affection. It stood for weakness, loneliness and trouble. If I did eat anything, bad things would happen to me, because I would be all of those things that I listed above.
I was 13 when the word “eat” became so frightening to me, after the guy that I had a crush on told me that he thought I looked fat in what I was wearing. I had just begun eighth grade and the truth is that I was just looking for someone else’s approval. I felt that my parents cared more about my older sisters because they have some disabilities and I felt selfish for trying to get attention from them when they had more important problems than me. So I thought that if I lost a few pounds maybe the boy I liked would start giving me the approval that I wanted and I would be happier. I began to restrict calories to the extreme and exercise for several hours a day. I lost the few pounds so quickly and I felt so good about it I didn’t see the harm in losing a few more. But the truth is, that there was grave danger in doing so that I didn’t even realize at the time.
My mom and older sister noticed the extreme amount of weight loss. My mom quickly took me to see a nutritionist, but the problem was that I didn’t believe I had a problem. So I just nodded along and only followed the meal plan she gave me half way. I couldn’t stop restricting, you see, because it was a coping mechanism for me. If I missed a question on a test I would starve. If I messed up on a presentation I would exercise. The eating disorder gave me temporary relief from all of my problems. But the problem was just that: it was temporary so I always needed to do more of it to get back that feeling of relief.
I went on like this for nearly a year to the point where my weight just kept dropping and therapy wouldn’t work because my mind was so closed off. I was literally one day away from being put in-patient when I tried something that I never had before: I followed my meal plan. I did it for numerous reasons. One was that I was simply curious about what would happen because I felt so sick from starving and everyone told me that I would feel better if I started eating. Another was that I was going to miss the end of the school year because I would be away in a treatment center. Also, I hated the way I was hurting everyone around me so I figured that I would try to eat for them. That day I decided to commit myself to recovery 110% for the people that I loved. That same week I began EMDR, which only worked because I came in nourished so my mind was working.
It was not all uphill from there, though. I started to see a pattern where I would do great one week, but I would fall the next. That was when I had to ask myself why this was still happening; I had all of the tools I needed to get better, but wasn’t applying them. This is when I used the knowledge that I gained from EMDR. I realized that I was doing all of these disordered things with food because I thought it would bring me happiness. But truthfully all it did was numb me. True happiness came from something that was there all along but my eating disorder never let me see it. It was me. I was the thing that was missing!
I had to start loving and trusting myself instead of my eating disorder in order to get over all of the hardships that it brought me. I realized that I wanted to do things meaningful in my life. If I was too busy obsessing about a number on a scale would I be doing that? No, because there is nothing meaningful about a number! I also realized that by staying in my eating disorder I was not any more worthy of people’s care than I was before. In fact I was so disengaged about what was happening outside my eating disorder that I didn’t even realize all of the positive things that happened to me—because I was me—not because of my size! I also learned that my parents never thought of me as a burden and that they were truthfully proud of me and cared for me just as much as they did my sisters!
So, I gave up all of my eating disorder! I stopped doing just the minimums on my meal plan and started going over them. I started engaging with people. I started adjusting what I viewed as perfect to more realistic standards. Only when I did that, did I see the world of possibilities outside the thin lines of the eating disorder. I soon had that world open to me in way that I never thought was possible and I had the opportunity to find out who I truly am at an early age! And honestly, I like that person a trillion times more than the one who had an eating disorder!
Recovering from the eating disorder honestly made me a better person in the end and I don’t know what my life could have been like if I hadn’t done it. But the truth is that I am happy with the outcome and now I am going to live a fulfilling life that I can enjoy for the first time, and that is what matters! So maybe that word “eat” isn’t so complicated and terrible after all!
Lots of love, Anonymous
The author of this letter is a 14 year old girl from Arizona who hopes it will “be a great help to those who are suffering the same way I did and give them reassurance that recovery does exist.”