Eating disorders are incredibly complicated diseases. The same behaviors and thought patterns morph into various meanings and purposes. For me, it has been a series of opposites. At times, anorexia has made me feel in control and other times out of control. It has provided me with the illusion of achieving health and has supplied me with a means of inflicting pain and harm onto myself. It has created a false sense of strength and of weakness. It has enabled me to numb and to become overstimulated. Most of all, it has been my best friend and my worst nightmare.
My eating disorder began as a means to getting healthy. I tried to “eat clean” and focused on nutritionally-dense foods. The idea was to supply my body with the best chances for getting stronger. But all of that changed when I decided to listen to the diet industry rhetoric and do a cleanse. It transformed me, and I’ve never been the same since.
A few days of not eating showed me the euphoric high that comes from starvation. At first, it seemed incredible. I had so much more energy, focus, initiative, and motivation, all of which made me feel invincible. Consequently, the desire for that heightened drive usurped any inkling to eat. I began to wonder if food was even needed.
It was only a matter of time before all of that changed. I craved that intense hunger and needed to go longer without food to achieve it. Plus, the less I ate, the more obsessed I became. In turn, I studied calorie counts, read recipes that I knew I’d never make, and looked at endless photos of food items. My relentless pursuit of hunger continued until it was all I cared about. Other interests became obsolete. My ability to feel emotions vanished. I became a shell of myself.
At that point, anorexia completely hijacked my life. I succumbed to its power and plummeted deep into its dark hole. Soon, I began to hate myself and projected that loathing onto my body. I couldn’t stand my image in the mirror, yet I couldn’t stop incessantly staring and scrutinizing every inch of flesh. I kept touching each bone that stuck out, as if feeling my skeleton would somehow free me from the prison of my mind. I stepped on and off the scale constantly each day. Every time the number stayed the same, I would despise myself a little bit more.
Through all of this, I began to distance myself from everyone. I canceled on plans for fear that food might be involved. I chose to stay home to look at food pictures instead of getting together with people. I stopped talking to those who cared about me, so that I could listen to the requests of the disease. In short, I isolated myself and closed off.
The resulting loneliness only served as another outlet for the eating disorder. It convinced me that it was my friend. The hunger would keep me company. It would stay by my side, as long as I obeyed its demand to starve. Before long, I started to find the hunger pangs comfortable. I was missing human connection so much that I began to think of pangs as a sensation, like my stomach was being hugged. It was not. Pangs were a way for my body to try to get my attention, metaphorically and literally screaming out to be fed.
The situation continued to decline. I began exercising two, sometimes three times a day. Each time, the first thing I would do when I returned home was check the scale. If it hadn’t gone down, back to the gym I would go. Additionally, I started intentionally making myself purge, hoping that I could empty my stomach and have the feeling of starvation more quickly. I wasn’t eating enough for it to have that effect. However, it was soothing in a way. Intentional purging was a violent act against myself, and I found masochistic pleasure in that self-harm. The amount of self-loathing that I held was intolerable, and making myself physically hurt made sense to me in a perverse way. I felt hopeless and was absolutely miserable.
By all accounts, I was a slave to anorexia. I listened to it at the expense of my health, my relationships, and most of all my sanity. It sabotaged my life by consuming all of my attention and destroying everything in its wake. It caused countless moments of pathetic desperation, incited panic attacks, and sucked away my happiness and energy.
Despite the seemingly impenetrable darkness that plagued me, I resolved that this would not be where my story ends. I recognized that adhering to anorexia was like playing in quicksand. If I engaged in the behaviors, even just a little bit, the disorder would swallow me back into its malicious trap.
With my new found determination, I decided I was done taking commands from the manipulative, twisted illness. I started fighting with every fiber of my being to regain my life. I sought out support wherever I could find it. Most importantly, I enlisted the help of a wonderful treatment team, who continues to push me forward to this day.
My life will forever be altered by my experience with anorexia. I may always have to be cognizant of my food, exercise, and body image issues. However, I now count hope, resilience, and strength as my core qualities. Moreover, I honor my struggles for making me the person I am today.
Writing my story is not easy. Yet, as I do so, I can’t help but be grateful that it is in past tense instead of present. I’ll never forget where I came from, but I am so glad that I am no longer headed in that direction. Recovery is a long road, and there is still plenty of work to do. The key is that I am now focused on making progress towards health, body positivity, and self-love.
No matter what demons you may have in your past, do not let them destroy your future. Any day can be the day you decide to make a change and improve your life. Recovery is incredibly challenging, but it is worth it. Be brave, your life depends on it.
Lil Fighter Bean has been in recovery for anorexia for almost a year. Recovery is tough, but it is a war worth fighting. Follow her on twitter by clicking here —-> @lilfighterbean
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