It’s National Eating Disorders Awareness Week and YouBeauty is publishing articles to educate our readers on eating disorders and how to get help.
5:45 a.m. Beep. Beep. Beep. My heart starts pounding as I’m jerked from sleep back into reality. I rush to stop my alarm before it wakes up my whole family. Like most mornings, I contemplate denying my eating disorder and going back to sleep, but the rush of anxiety that I get from even that one thought tells me that I have no choice. Time to start working out.
6:30 a.m. Thump, Thump, Thump. The sound of my dad running up the stairs signals the end of my workout, so I frantically jump into bed, fumble with the sheets, and close my eyes. My dad comes in to wake me up, so I roll over and let out an unhappy sigh, which is enough to convince him that I’m just waking up.
6:45 a.m. My feet stop half way down the stairs as my eyes catch sight of two rectangular Pop-Tarts sticking out of the signature silver packaging and a large glass of orange juice. Shit. My heart starts pounding, and I consider running for the front door. Hot tears burn my eyes and make everything go fuzzy. I can’t. The eating disorder voice is loud, shouting insults at me, enticing me with thoughts of restricting. My head is suddenly filled with a million ways I could avoid eating, but my little sister is watching me. I refuse to drag my innocent sister into this, I tell myself while taking a seat at the kitchen table.
8:10 a.m. Thud, the car door slams shut behind me, as I run from my dad’s car into school. My eating disorder has ruined the relationship between my dad and I. His harsh and unrelenting approach to my recovery has changed him into someone I hate, and to him I am nothing more than my disorder. Neither of us recognizes the other anymore.
Classes whiz by: math, history, science. I don’t remember any of it. I can’t sit still because my thoughts are consumed by all of the triggering things around me. I can’t help but compare myself to everyone, which only results in me hating myself more. I’m ashamed that I believe the only thing I am good at anymore is my eating disorder.
12:25 p.m. The bell signals lunch time, and I slip into the bathroom waiting for my phone to ding “I’m here.” I’m not trusted to eat lunch at school with my friends, so every day, while they are happily eating and chatting, I am crying over the food my dad has brought for me as I sit in his car. We sit in silence.
12:45 p.m. Running from the car with tears still streaming down my cheeks, I head for the bathroom to wash my face. I want no one to know I’ve been crying, because I can’t handle the questions. Looking at myself in the mirror only makes me want to cry more, though. How am I expected to go back to class and pretend like everything is okay?
3:00 p.m. Classes are over and once again I have paid no attention. It’s been two hours since lunch. Why am I still thinking about it? I blink back tears as my mind automatically calculates the calories I have already eaten today.
3:15 p.m. My weekly weigh-in looms in the distance, and just the thought of the blinking red number on the scale fills me terror. I’m so afraid of gaining weight that the possibility of being even a fraction of a pound more than the week before paralyzes me. I’m on high alert; my thoughts pull me away from the present moment where I am sitting on a bench with my friends. They are laughing and eating candy from the school store while I plaster a smile on my face and hope they don’t notice my glassy eyes.
5:30 p.m. I’m torn with my weight. Part of me — the healthy part — is happy that I have gained because it has eased some of the tension between my dad and I. But the unhealthy part is raging, wondering where I went wrong and how I let this happen. Sadly, the unhealthy part wins, and I’m force to spend my night silently exercising in my basement. My weakened joints hurt from the continuous jumping, my heart races trying to keep up, and I’m on the verge of passing out. Why can’t I stop?
10:30 p.m. Finally I’m allowed to get into my bed and I silently cry myself to sleep.
Present Day, 2015:
There is nothing glamorous about struggling from an eating disorder. My skin was so cracked and dry that my knuckles bled. My hair fell out in clumps that clogged my shower drain. My body ached like I was 100-years-old. My skin pulled tight around the corners of my mouth when I attempted a smile, and worst of all was the emptiness of my eyes. I was no longer me, the stubborn, strong-willed, confident person everyone around me knew and loved. That girl had disappeared, been cast aside by a disease that overshadowed every aspect of her life.
“You are as sick as your secrets, and your secrets keep you sick”
I became tangled in a series of lies and deception. At home I did everything I could to get away with acting on eating disorder symptoms without being caught and at school I was forced to pretend like everything was perfectly normal. My freshman and sophomore years of high school were lost to my illness as I tried to keep up with all of the secrets. My grades tanked because there was no time for both studying and anorexia. Even now, two years later, balancing school, my friends, and my recovery is a challenge.
There is mounting pressure in high school to succeed, get perfect grades, be accepted to a prestigious college, and have a social life worth posting about on social media. It’s no wonder that more boys and girls are developing eating disorders as a way of coping with the stress of meeting the standards placed upon them. The existing stigma around mental illness and eating disorders make it difficult for people to receive help. These illnesses are not about food, weight, or exercise; those are merely the tools from which we find control when we feel we have none. It’s about the combination of internal and external pressures that make people of every race, gender, socioeconomic status, and sexuality susceptible to developing an eating disorder. Making mental illness easier to talk about and more socially acceptable opens the door for recovery.
“The first step towards freedom is realizing you are enslaved”
I didn’t know just how much I had lost to keep my eating disorder until it nearly took my life. Recovery is a choice, one that has to be made multiple times a day, everyday. It’s a hard choice to make; one that even now I struggle with, but I’ve seen how rewarding it can be.
So, wherever you are in your journey, I promise it’s worth it. Recovery is possible, and you deserve it. Please keep fighting.
If you need information, referrals or support contact the National Eating Disorders Association at (800) 931-2237
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