I used to hate articles like this. I didn’t understand why someone would get this personal with the internet. So, why would I write this? Good question.
After going through my own experience, I realize that silence doesn’t lead to healing, but embracing your reality does. Too many people are afraid to talk about mental illness due to the lack of understanding and education on these topics in our society. Eating disorders, in particular, are extremely misunderstood. I know this because I’ve spent most of my life having an ED, anxiety and depression but was unaware of my own symptoms. On the outside, you would’ve thought I was leading an outstanding life and was the happiest young woman. But, inside my head, I
was weak and unable to handle my day-to-day stressors, which lead me to using maladaptive behaviors. After years of letting these behaviors run cycles of “high highs” and “low lows” in my life, my mental state started to deteriorate even more.
The two photos above were taken a year apart from one another. By a physician’s standards, I am a “healthy” weight in both of them, but I was suffering from an eating disorder when they each were taken. Because there was no technical reason for me to be hospitalized due to my weight, I believed what many other women believe: I was not sick enough to get help. I was ashamed that I wasn’t more severely underweight. What would people say about me? Would people believe me? Would they think I’m doing this for attention? Our victim-blaming societal norms rang through my head: this was my fault. I was feeble, pathetic and needed to get my life together on my own. Those thoughts couldn’t have been more wrong. I deserved recovery during both of these times in my life.
In the photo on the left, I was teetering on the edge of being underweight (PSA to everyone who isn’t familiar with the recovery community: we don’t share numbers as not to trigger one another.) Despite eating a very restricted amount of food and over-exercising daily, I wasn’t comfortable with my body. It wasn’t good enough, and I was so insecure about it, I couldn’t take my shorts off to go swimming.
In the photo to the right, I was more unhappy with my body than I had ever been, but I was using even more maladaptive behaviors. My metabolism began slowing down due to my erratic habits, and I was actually gaining weight through calorie restriction. My anxiety and depression became unmanageable every time I tried to challenge myself and eat “normally.” I felt like everything was falling apart.
When I finally started to realize I had a problem, I searched for resources on blogs and Instagram posts, but all I could find were articles that read: “I used to be x weight and now I chose recovery and I’m healthy and happy and hey, look at this recipe for gluten-free, dairy-free butternut squash soup!” I was frustrated. Why was no one else having these issues? Why was it so hard for ME but not for them? Without having any access to the tools that I needed, I physically couldn’t commit to recovery. I felt like a crushing boulder of failure was landing on top of me. I was doomed to be this way forever.
After a long summer of fighting and losing, I hit my breaking point and made a decision: I needed help. So, I removed myself from my career, my relationships, and the city I love to make a significant change in my life. I went away for the majority of this fall and winter to get professional help at a treatment center. I am aware of how lucky I was to have the chance to do this. Many insurance companies turn people away whose weight is technically stable, ignoring their symptom use. Many people aren’t lucky enough to have insurance, or the ability to take time off. I did not take this opportunity lightly.
My purpose for sharing my story is not to receive accolades for my choices, and it’s not to get you to sign up for my “recovery road” meal plan or anything like that. It is to be a voice of comfort that says:
1) It’s okay to not be okay. If you’re struggling with symptoms, you will be surprised that there are others who can relate.
2) Sometimes you can’t get better on your own, no matter how hard you try. Asking for help is not synonymous with failure.
3) The people who matter in your life will support you through this journey. Don’t let your fear of losing them stop you from getting the treatment you need.
I won’t sugar coat the professional treatment route. It is not easy. Choosing recovery is the hardest thing I have ever done. But I would rather go through this experience now than continue to live the way I was living before. If one person realizes that they want to change their life for the better, then sharing my story was worth it.