Looking back on my life I am able to see that my relationship with food has been messed up since about five years old, but it was never something I really thought about or talked about. I remember the moments when I realized I was battling with anorexia. This is crazy — because, truthfully, I did not realize it. I had been fat, and then I wasn’t. I thought that I had won the battle that cursed my name, until I realized that the real fight had only begun. Eating disorders settle in in a way that is hardly noticeable.
Here is ‘how an eating disorder disrupted my brain” in a simple story: you make a new friend, and you get really close with that friend. You go shopping with them, you go on runs with them, you go out to eat with them, you go to movies with them, you talk to each other at school and at work. You go on vacation together, and you spend holidays together. Other people notice when your friend is gone, and they anticipate for them to come back, because it’s almost as though you are not you without them. Then, slowly, your friend starts to leave her things in your house. They start small – they leave a pair of earrings on your dresser. Then, on a day it’s raining, you need an umbrella and you grab one from your stack of umbrellas and it’s one you have never seen before. You ponder and try to recall where you got said umbrella, but when you can’t remember, you just go about your day as if nothing is out of the ordinary. Then one day a brand new lamp shows up in your living room. You’re confused, but you don’t know how to address your confusion. Then as weeks and months pass more of your friends things start appearing, slowly and still hardly noticed, but then it’s midday on a Thursday, and you realize that your friend has unpacked all of her belongings inside various rooms of your house, and you do not know what to do. You stopped noticing her things were appearing, and you became comfortable with them being around. You know that the best thing for you is to ask her to leave, and take her things with her, but at first you cannot get yourself to do it. She made you feel safe, and loved, and you were able to hide behind her when things were not going well, because she was good at getting people to notice you. But, eventually, you get sick and tired of her always getting in the way of your relationship with your family, and how she makes you talk about her with your other friends, and she steals away your joy with all of the havoc she causes in the middle of the night, so you try to kick her out. She doesn’t budge. So you keep screaming at her and fighting with her, but she continues to negotiate with you, and she brings up valid points as to why you should keep her around. There comes a time when you have to pull her out of your front door while she screams profanities for all to hear. She won’t leave without a fight, because she knows that you are finally for real about not inviting her back in. Finally — she is gone. You get back inside of your house, ready to sit down, and enjoy a nice book, when you realize that you are sitting on her furniture. All of her things are still here. This is the hardest part, because now you have to figure out a way to get rid of all of her things that are still in the way of your things. When this happens you begin to look back on when your friendship began, and you see all of the warning signs. You see the flaws that people pointed out to you when you were still best friends. You begin to remember all of these things that seemed so normal at the time, but you see them in a different light. They are tainted with the harsh reality that your friend was out to get you your whole entire friendship. She did not want to give you anything, rather she wanted to take all that you were without permission and without thought of giving in return. The only thing you can do now is slowly take her things and throw them in the dumpsters three towns over, so you’ll never have to see them again. At first – her things seem bigger and worse than they were before she left. Some days moving her things is easy, but other days they become too heavy, and it feels too sad to part with them, so you sob and sob and give into the pull of their call. But after all the days — her things begin to dissipate. Eventually there are only small traces that she was ever around, and you hold onto the hope that if you keep moving forward with removing her things from your life, she will only become a distant memory. One that you will be able to look at and say “this. This made me stronger. I am who I am today, because I fought to find myself.”
Realizing I had anorexia was the beginning of my recovery from disordered eating, self hatred, and body dysmorphia. It is true — I did not realize that I was anorexic for nearly a year. I had not seen my behaviors and habits as anything but “losing weight,” and “getting healthy.” I wish that I could say that realizing I was sick made me better immediately, but it did not. Yes — if I had not come to the fact that I was on a journey of disappearance — I would have never chosen recovery, but it was only the beginning. I did not have proper guidance in my recovery, and anorexia lead into binge eating disorder, which is a discussion for a different day. So my journey was one of being lost and immense confusion, and at the beginning of my recovery I was so angry at myself. All of the control I thought I had was stripped from me, because I was trying to combat against anorexia. I look back on those first few months of my recovery, and I ache for that girl. She was so lost, afraid, and she had a burning hatred for her own existence.
I am thankful for this battle with eating disorders, because it has made me stronger. My persistence in fighting for truth has brought me to the me I am today. I have relapsed more than once, but even after weeks of crying puddles around my own feet, by the grace of God, I have been able to find my way back up. I have been able to discover who I am in Christ, and that is a women of peace. Someone that does not need to be perfect to be loved, someone that does not need to continually chase after unachievable goals. I am still fighting in this battle that is recovery, but I am beginning to see how worth it recovery really is. I am holding onto the hope that one day this fight will be one for the memory books — that this fight will be a distant memory. That this fight molded me into someone that is a steadfast, tenacious, bold daughter of God.
If you are struggling with an eating disorder, body image, or self-hatred I would love to talk to you, because I know what it feels like. Please know that you are not alone in this fight — I know how isolating it can feel — as if nobody understands what you are going through. I promise you — this is not the case. You are not alone in this. Seeking help does not make you weak — it makes you brave. There are people and resources that can lead you in your recovery. Keep fighting — even if it feels worthless — because there will come a day when every moment of recovery will be worth it. We are in this together.