The author of this piece is a freshman in high school. She hopes that sharing some lessons she learned from her eating disorder and recovery will help others who may be struggling or who have friends or loved ones experiencing similar challenges. Additional resources and information about ways to get help can be found at the end of this article.
My eating disorder took over my life. I lost an unhealthy amount of weight, looked sick and pale, stopped getting my period, and my heart rate became dangerously low. Eventually, I had to go to the doctor twice a week to make sure I was okay.
I’m healthy now and choosing to try and love my body. I’m trying to get rid of some of the things my eating disorder gave me, and take back some of the things it took away.
9 Things My Eating Disorder Gave Me
1. Distance from my true emotions
Anorexia helped me avoid my actual mental health issues. It distracted me from my anxiety, struggles with self-confidence, and feelings of worthlessness. My anorexia made me believe that being skinny would make me feel confident and love myself.
2. A fear of food
I was afraid of foods that I thought would ruin my image and my body and thought that even one bit would make me fat. I divided food into good and bad categories and limited my calorie intake.
3. A neverending need for attention
I craved the approval of others so that I could approve of myself. I was convinced that being the skinniest would make me special. When people worried about me or complimented me it gave me a sense of fulfillment and worthiness. But it didn’t make me happy or fix my real, underlying issues. I always felt like I needed to lose a little more weight, work on my ab muscles, or look skinnier in order to gain the acceptance of my peers. It was never enough.
4. A mean voice in my head
My inner, anorexic voice was all-consuming. It told me I wasn’t good enough. It made me anxious and depressed and made me want to be someone else. I would over exercise and restrict my food consumption to try and please that mean voice in my head, but it never worked.
I became obsessed with food and my body image. It was all I thought about and all I spoke about – always comparing my body with everyone else’s and knowing they looked better. I couldn’t focus on anything else.
6. A false sense of power and control
Controlling my food intake made me feel powerful, loveable, and in control of my life. It made me feel like my life had a purpose. But my eating disorder was really controlling me – taking away the time I could have spent having fun with my friends or family.
7. An impossible double-bind
I hated anyone who didn’t compliment my body and hated anyone who did. If they didn’t compliment me, it meant that I was fat. If they did, it meant that I looked good – but it also strengthened my mean inner-voice and intensified my fear of gaining weight.
Everything was a competition for me. I was never able to be happy with what I had and who I was. I always had to eat less than my friends at meals. I constantly compared myself with my friends and found myself lacking and unworthy.
9. Isolation & misery
I became isolated and depressed. I hated my mom because she made me eat. I hated my friends because everything felt like a competition that I was losing. And most of all I hated myself. After I left treatment, I was afraid I would no longer be special because I looked normal again. I was afraid of my body changing and afraid that I might relapse. Here are some of the things I am taking back.
5 Things I Am Taking Back
1. My strength
I was able to tame my biggest enemy – myself. I learned that I am so much more than a body. As long as I truly love myself, I will not let anything stop me from becoming the best version of me. I am strong because my eating disorder still tries to sneak back into my life – but I fight back. I am able to ask for help, communicate my boundaries, and use coping skills for my anxiety and unhelpful thoughts.
2. My self-esteem
This journey has taught me to have faith in myself, to love myself for who I am and not allow other people’s opinions to determine my self-worth. A huge part of anorexia involves comparing yourself to others. I do that much less often and have less social anxiety because of my newfound self-respect and confidence.
3. A sense of normalcy
I am re-establishing my relationship with food and with my body. I need to normalize my hunger cues and my feelings about the size of my body and my clothes.
My eating disorder made me feel like I was unworthy of love, but now I am choosing to love myself. I can love my body without comparing it to others and without judging myself. I use these important reminders – and like to share them with others.
5. Appreciation & gratitude
I appreciate my own strength and recovery. I am grateful for my family and their support. I am thankful for the Center for Discovery and my outpatient therapist for helping escape the nightmare of living with an eating disorder. I am even appreciative of my eating disorder for making me stop and focus on my mental health and receive the support I needed.
Learn more about eating disorders and how you can get help or support a friend or loved one.