My Untold Story
Updated: Mar 13, 2022
Everyone has an untold story. There’s always something going on behind closed doors, whether one wants to admit to it or share about it or not. I know personally that when I hear others’ stories, I feel less alone. With that being said, I think it’s time I share my own untold story about my past couple of years, raw and real, in my own words.
I have always been a pretty happy girl, taking adventures every chance I got and making the most of each day. People described me as being a little firecracker, always full of energy and carefree. I loved sports, writing, and starting little projects. I was a family girl too. I’d tag along with my mom on her birdwatching expeditions or bring pom-poms and cheer at my brother’s football games.
I lived like that up until the beginning of my 6th-grade year. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment that everything changed, so I believe it was a gradual thing.
In 5th grade, I had made the best friend I’d ever had. She was new to our small town and for the first time in years, someone new had finally moved to our school. We immediately bonded. It has been like we were best friends our whole lives and we did everything together. This was a huge deal for me because I always struggled to find friends that I truly related to. I always had friends, but none that I genuinely felt happy around and was excited to see. She had moved the previous summer and left me devastated, having to pick up the pieces of our past friendship and use that energy to go back to past friends, for the sole reason of having to. I started that school year with built-up sadness and anxiety that I had no idea that I even had. Things were running pretty steady when the year first started. I hit my 12th birthday and had a fun time. Things started to go downward from there. Different TikTok stars started blowing up, and for the first time, I actually noticed how different they were from me. Their bodies were perfect, they had gone viral for a reason after all. I wished I could put on a tight shirt and be noticed by everyone in a positive light. Maybe then it wouldn’t matter that my best friend left. Maybe then all of the girls would chase ME to be their friend. It was when a boy announced to the class that “I ate too many hamburgers” after trying to move me in my chair that I broke. No one had ever called me fat or implied that I was fat, but seeing the celebrities lately, I definitely felt that. This boy had just confirmed my suspicions of myself.
The first major change within myself that I noticed was on Halloween. Halloween was always something I looked forward to. I loved candy and dressing up! This year felt different though. I didn’t want the candy and I couldn’t stop looking at myself in my costume, checking to see if I looked different than I did five seconds ago. I went trick or treating with friends that I wasn’t crazy about and felt pretty bad about that. I took home a LOT of candy as usual, but as soon as I got home I wasn’t sure what to do with it. So it sat. And sat. And sat some more. I’d look at it and know I wanted it so bad, but couldn’t let myself have that pleasure. While every other 12 year old was splurging on their Halloween candy, I was merely just obsessing over mine. I slowly gave pieces away to friends until all of it was gone. My parents noticed but didn’t think anything of it. The month of November was tough. The lunches my mom packed for me started slowly going into the garbage, little by little. I wasn’t even sure what my end game was yet, but I knew it had to result in me being popular and having a six-pack. 6th grade was when not eating became “cool”. The girls in my grade would compete to see who could eat the least or would throw comments like “I didn’t eat breakfast this morning” out there to get attention. Maybe it had always been like that, but for the first time, I actually noticed that they were doing this. The girls were definitely not underweight, so the things they said about food were most likely not true. They were eating somewhere because they were able to perform well in sports and have a healthy figure. My mind was warped. I saw them as everything I wanted to be, mostly because they seemed happier than I was.
By the time Thanksgiving rolled around, I had more addictions than just food restriction. I now knew that I could lose weight by exercising too, so I would work out every chance I got. I also would go through packs and packs of gum each day to avoid eating. I was in absolute misery and had no idea what was happening to my mind. The thoughts were coming up more and more and I became disconnected from my friends. Thanksgiving was a nightmare. The whole holiday I was just comparing my family’s plate to mine and trying to avoid the dessert table. By this point, my siblings had started to notice a change in me too. The month of December was when I started heading closer towards rock bottom. I shut myself in more and more and by this point was limiting my food intake to nearly nothing. My parents were well aware that there was something going on with me now, so they were constantly prompting me to eat. That made me have to get sneaky with how I was going to starve. I’d hide food in my clothes closet, shoes, under my bed, in the toilet, basically everywhere anything could go. I'd chew my food to show my mom I was eating then spit it out in napkins. Christmas break started and I was in the worst way I’d ever been, having lost a significant amount of weight. Along the way, the restriction of food stopped being about becoming skinny and started being about control. I couldn’t control lots in my life, but I could control how much I ate and what my body looked like. I took out all of my pain on my poor body. It numbed the pain of being alone all of these years, with my siblings in college. It numbed the pain of my friend moving away. It numbed everything. The less I ate, the more empty and less I became. My parents got me help for the very first time over Christmas break. It was obvious things had become out of hand and teachers at school and other people in our town had started to notice. There was nowhere in our town that I could go without people asking me if I was okay or asking my mom what was wrong with me. It was obvious the people in my town were loving it, having something to focus on in our small town. My mom took me to the doctor where my doctor confirmed that I did have an eating disorder. He recommended a dietitian and a therapist and just like that, my life wasn’t my life anymore.
My days were now taken up by appointments and driving to them. The more appointments I went to, the more obsessed I became with not eating. I went back to school after winter break with even more weight gone. My new doctor and I didn’t see eye to eye and spent most of my appointments arguing. My gym teacher was afraid to let me participate in class and my swim coach emailed my mom with concerns about my energy level and health. I went from one of the best swimmers on the team to the girl that could hardly get out of the pool. The appointments became even more frequent to the point where I was leaving school early 4 times a week to drive 30 minutes to get to an appointment. The light in my eyes had fully disappeared and I had no life anymore. I dreaded waking up to live in my own mind and I dreaded going to bed and tossing and turning with hunger all night. I had no escape. I remember my therapist telling my mom that it wasn’t Arden that was making these choices, it was her eating disorder, someone named ED. I didn’t buy that in the slightest, but looking back, I see what she meant. I really wasn’t doing this out of my own selfishness, it did feel like someone was inside of me forcing me to do these terrible things.The dietitian recommended all different types of expensive protein shakes and nutrition bars. My mom and I embarked on a never-ending quest to find the perfect shake and bar for me, wandering the food isles, store after store. I thought if I could just find the right thing, all of this would just go away. I couldn’t stop wanting to starve. It gave me a feeling of euphoria that I just couldn’t escape. I needed that high that it gave me. It slowed the world around me down. Once that feeling wore off, I felt a million times worse than before. All I wanted to do was make all of the hurt disappear and I thought I found a solution, and really ran with it.
My parents and I were in a constant fight over food. Each night ended with the three of us crying or screaming at one another. Things were scary in our household, all because I refused to eat. My parents were so worried about me, and sometimes they thought they could snap me out of this by being scary, which would lead me to my one and only coping skill, starving myself. My mom would make me empty out my pockets, take off my shoes, and pat me down each time after eating, yet I still got away with throwing food out. She’d make me take home food wrappers from school, but I pretty easily lied about that one. My siblings, who had in the past been my best friends, had grown angry at me. I ruined Christmas break and I was constantly stressing my mom out. They believed it was straight out of selfishness too. I just wished I could make them understand how terrible I felt about all of this, about how the fear had become so intense that I would rather die than have to eat a full meal.
I pretty much collapsed into the New Year attending what should’ve been a fun party but was ruined by my mom and I fighting over food. I remember assuring myself it would all be fine, because I’d wake up the next day completely changed because it was a New Year. I woke up the next day and felt the exact same. I remember heading to the mirror that morning and looking at myself and for the first time, I actually saw myself. I saw that I was completely skin and bone and weak, and I was terrified for my own safety. I remember looking in the mirror and just screaming at myself to get better. You’d think that was enough to convince yourself to eat, but it didn’t do it for me. I walked up to the fridge and looked around for 10 straight minutes, but couldn’t bring myself to eat anything. I ended up grabbing a few almonds and heading out for a run in the freezing temperature. I had no idea why I was doing this, but I couldn’t stop. Even if I was scared, this behavior had become safe for me and I couldn’t stop now, even if every step I took needed great effort, even if I couldn’t remember what I had done five minutes ago because my mind was so hazy. The craziest part of it all was that the girls I had done this originally to impress were starting to pay more and more attention to me.
I did so many things that should’ve been fun; I went on a girl’s trip to Washington DC, I hosted a Valentine’s party, I even did a Christmas choir with my mom. All three of those experiences were the worst times of my life because of the arguments and the sick feeling involved. Most 6th grade girls would be excited to stay home alone for a day because they’d be able to play loud music or eat junk food, but I would just take it as an opportunity to starve myself and exercise alone in my bedroom. I hit rock bottom at the very end of February. I remember that day very clearly, because it was one of the most traumatic ones of my life. It was a Friday and my class was going on a field trip. There was fast food involved and I remember eating less than I ever had before in my life that day. After school, I had another one of my hundreds of appointments, this time with the doctor. As usual, she had me step on the scale. The problem with that was that I had a granola bar in the bottom of my shoe, so if I were to take it off to step on the scale, the doctor would see that I was stashing food. I excused myself to the bathroom before I stepped on, but that was already too suspicious. She unlocked the door to find the bar in my shoe, and that was when she knew that I needed help. I stepped on the scale to see that the number went down, again. She took my blood pressure, which was very low. Then she gave me an EKG. The cold, sticky parts were so freezing against my bones and layer of skin. The EKG showed that my heart rate was extremely low and that if I didn’t go to the hospital immediately, there’s a chance I wouldn’t make it much longer. There was no reason that I should be living at home. I begged and begged my parents not to make me go, but they didn’t have a say in that at this point. I went and had my first stay in the hospital, kicking, screaming, crying, and begging God to let me just die.
I know I left on kind of a hopeless cliffhanger, but if I were to write my whole story, this blog post would be too long to read. Keep in mind that this was only the beginning of 2020, so there was a lot of recovery and self discovery to happen yet. I plan on writing more about my story in some of my next posts, so be sure to subscribe so you can be one of the first ones to read it. Thanks again for taking the time to read my writing, and every like and comment is so highly appreciated.
By: Ardie N.