I was very sick with my eating disorder. That’s a fact. I was both mentally and physically sick. I wasn’t eating enough to sustain any kind of enjoyable lifestyle. I was getting in deeper and deeper trouble, and it was obvious to everyone around except for me. I was feeling crappy and taking terrible care of myself, but somehow I didn’t see a huge problem with this. I was isolating and acting like a whole different person. I didn’t look like me, act like me, and I simply wasn’t me. I was so tired and lacked emotion. People described me as lifeless, pale, nervous, sad, and frail. Everyone was scared to touch me, afraid that they might break me.
I was afraid of everything. I was scared of leaving my home. I was afraid of sitting still. I was afraid of food and water. I was scared of people's judgments, of not being the skinniest in every room, of loss of control. I was most afraid to live. I didn’t want to grow up. I didn’t want to put myself out there. I wanted to stay sheltered and sick and for every day to be the same because of my intense fear of the future. At the same time though, I wanted out of this food prison. I wanted out of this misery and hopelessness. I just didn’t know how to get out, no matter how many people told me what to do.
I’m not sick anymore. That’s also a fact. I’m strong and healthy. My life is filled with enjoyment, fun, light, and love. I eat what I want to eat and I try not to think too hard about it. I’m now able actually to enjoy hobbies and sports. I weightlift, run, play basketball, and play softball. I’m able to do all of my favorite sports again and feel alive and in the moment while doing them. I can bike ride or go boating with friends again. I can sit and watch a movie with my family too. There’s no longer an anxious cloud of energy hanging over my head wherever I go. People can now hug me and feel more than skin and bone. They feel muscle and a real body. The light in my eyes has fully returned and my smile has become bright again. There’s a skip in my step and I’m back to my old shenanigans.
There’s so much more than just the outer layer though. When you’re this far along in eating disorder recovery, people assume you’re just better. I often get recognized and complimented for my work in recovery. People tell me how much happier I look and seem. That makes me feel so good. It’s when that crosses over to another territory that things start to seem hostile and hurtful.
Girls my age often assume that since I look better, I’m just like the rest of them; that I think like they do and am into the same things. I have to say, that’s not actually very true at all. Going through everything I’ve gone through, I’ve matured so much emotionally. I don’t want to fight or gossip. I don’t want to hurt others, I’ve just been through too much myself. There are also the conversations that are downright triggering. No matter how recovered I might be, talking about starving or losing weight will always be so hard to hear. It brings back so many flashbacks all at once, almost like what you might see in a movie. Sometimes girls know exactly what I’ve been through and choose to talk about it anyways. I haven’t worked up the courage to stand up for myself in that area, but with every triggering conversation, I’m becoming more and more ready to express my truth. In all honesty, I do understand that these things will come up in life, no matter how much I hide from them. I can’t expect people to walk on eggshells for me. What I know that I do deserve is respect and space to grow. If there’s no reason to be triggering, then there’s really no purpose.
There will also be girls that make comments about my recovery body. No, they don’t call me fat. It’s kind of the opposite. When I was first starting recovery, girls used to say I was too skinny and called me names behind my back. That’s just classic middle school for you, a lot of girls get talked about. I wanted to get better so badly which made those comments super discouraging and made me more sensitive to them. When I got better, the word transitioned from “bony” to “flat”. Just because I’m recovering from a restrictive eating disorder doesn’t mean that I’m obsessed with being skinny. I didn’t get the chance to grow at the rate of girls that don’t struggle with eating issues. Starvation mode can affect your growth rate. Before my eating disorder, I was growing at a consistent rate. When I got sick, things started to slip. Since I’ve gotten sick, my body just hasn’t been the same. It’s getting closer every single day though, so what's the thought behind making rude comments about it?
There’s a difference between saying something genuine and meaningful and saying something just to say it, especially when it comes to the sensitive topic of mental health. Most things are okay to hear, but lots are hurtful too. What people don’t seem to understand is that just because I was once sick and I’m much better now doesn’t mean that my past illness and recovery from it defines me.
Most of the things I do hear from other people about my progress in recovery actually get delivered to my parents, then to me. That’s just not the way to go. It starts to feel like gossip and all of the genuine feelings get sucked right out of the compliment. I’m old enough to hear that kind of stuff right from the speaker, especially with everything I’ve gone through.
In the thousands of hours of research (I was a little obsessed with my illness in the thick of it), I learned that everyone has some degree of an eating disorder, just to different degrees of severity. When I started to admit and come out about my struggles, people would apologize and make a huge deal out of it. Now when I tell people I trust about it, I’m often kind of shut down about the seriousness of it. They assume that just because I look better, I am better. It’s more complex than that. Eating disorders take a huge toll on your brain. I don’t think about food the same way I did before my eating issues.
Everyone knows somebody that struggles with mental health issues. Our generation needs to wake up and realize that this is a normal human experience in response to the culture we live in. I know that if people struggling knew that they had support and were able to get help without feeling judged or alienated, then that will lighten their load. So why not lighten someone’s load? This post is here to clear up misconceptions about only a piece of mental health struggles, there's so much more out there. I hope that this piece provided you with some insight and as usual, don’t forget to like and subscribe!
"You may find that making a difference for others makes the biggest difference in you." - Brian WIlliams