I am a recovering anorexic.
I am not fully recovered, nor will I ever be.
However, I am at a point in my recovery — and a point in my life — where I feel like I can share my story.
My story isn’t the same as anyone else because every person who struggles with body image issues gets to a point where they develop an eating disorder is different. The only thing that unites us is our struggle with something potentially life-threatening and the stigma that comes with eating disorders.
I hope my story will help those who are currently struggling find some solidarity and support as well as provide information for anyone who has never heard the story of someone with an eating disorder.
I have anorexia nervosa. To this day, that is still hard to admit. To myself, to my family and to my friends.
The first time I fasted was as a sophomore in high school. I would go through the motions of eating breakfast and would lie to my parents about having eaten lunch at school. For weeks and months at a time, my only meal would be dinner, since we had to eat as a family and they would see me eat. However, I would still eat the smallest amount I could without raising too much suspicion.
The first time I blacked out was during my sophomore track season. I still refused to eat more than the bare minimum necessary to keep me alive. My exercise regimen increased, and I started to gain weight. I went from being 95 pounds to 115 pounds.
I stopped eating breakfast and lunch. On the days I could get away with it, I wouldn’t eat dinner either.
I called myself obese.
I would stare at myself in the mirror and be angry with every aspect of my body. My thighs were too large, my stomach was too big, my arms were too fat.
My ribs would show through my skin, and I was still never thin enough.
Being the “skinny friend” became my identity. Everyone within my circle of friends would call me skinny or a stick or tell me to eat a sandwich.
It didn’t help. It never does. That is not the way to support someone struggling with an eating disorder. All those comments did was hurt my self-esteem even more.
I was never perfect.
I couldn’t gain weight because then my social identity would be lost, or so I believed. The voice that nagged at the back of my mind — the same little voice that would tell me I’m fat or that I wasn’t good enough — tricked me into believing that the only thing I had going for me was being skinny, being a skeleton, being a stick.
And I listened. For nearly five years, I listened. To this day, I still hear that little voice. That little nagging voice, telling me I’m fat, or that my body isn’t good enough, and ultimately that I’m not good enough.
That voice is one of the things most people don’t know about eating disorders. Whether or not someone goes through official treatment, or, like me, surrounded themselves with supportive people who helped us realize our own self worth, that voice stays.
In the back of my mind, I can hear that incessant little voice, every day. And every day I have to fight it. I have to fight the urges to lose weight, to call myself fat, to believe that I am not beautiful.
This isn’t just my truth either. The people I have known with eating disorders struggle every single day. Any comment or ad or TV show has the potential to set back recovery or to cause remission.
So please, dear reader, if you haven’t struggled with a disorder, don’t believe you know everything there is to know about eating disorders. Don’t make offhand comments about how your friend is “a stick” or “super skinny” because that isn’t a compliment.
To those of you who have struggled or are still struggling to overcome, I just want you to know that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Don’t listen to that little voice in your head. Don’t let it become the only thing you hear.
You are beautiful. You are strong. You are loved. And you have a community who supports you. We are in this together. You and me, and roughly 25 percent of the population.
You are not alone.
A recovering anorexic