Anorexia crept into my life when I was thirteen years old. Insecurities had existed long before; I had hit puberty earlier than all my friends and my body looked different than all of theirs. My problems only arose when I decided to do something about it. I decided that I would change my body and take control of it: I would go on a diet. As with most eating disorders, my diet quickly spiraled out of control and soon my relationship with food was wrecked. I weighed myself multiple times per day and body-checked myself religiously. I was miserable; my mind was consumed with thoughts of food. One day I casually mentioned to my mom that I hadn’t gotten my period in a few months. She became concerned and took me to the doctor where I was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa. My desperate parents got me a therapist and dietician whom I didn’t listen to at all. They hid my scale and tried to force me to eat. I began to hide food, purge, and I continued to lose weight, avoiding recovery at all costs. I was in denial that I had an eating disorder and yet considered it my identity that I wasn’t ready to get rid of. Multiple times throughout my “recovery” I was threatened with inpatient treatment, and so, to prove I didn’t need treatment, I would gain weight (which mostly meant I would drink lots of water and wear heavy clothing to my weigh-ins), but then lose it all again and the cycle would continue. I found the scale that had been hidden from me at when I was diagnosed and resumed weighing myself. I lost most of my friends and felt hopelessly alone as I started high school.
Depression crept into my life and I began to engage in self harm. This photo on the right is from when I was in the depths of my disorder, though I wasn’t even at my lowest weight (I am the one on the left). It was taken at my friend’s birthday party. The only things I remember about that night was that I was freezing cold the whole time and was too afraid to have any pizza or cake. My life was spiraling out of control, and my treatment team realized this. When I was fifteen, I was put on the Maudsley Family Treatment plan. Maudsley is an intensive outpatient plan where every meal was plated for me and I was supervised by my parents all hours of the day. For me, it was hell. I gained weight rapidly and it seemed almost too much to handle. My depression was at its peak at this time, and I contemplated suicide on a regular basis.
After months of tears, bloat, screaming, and lots and lots of food, I was finally weight restored. Suddenly both my dietician and therapist were offered new jobs which they took. My parents found me a new dietician and therapist, but I felt like I’d just been dropped onto someone else’s doorstep, like I would be someone else’s problem now. Depression clawed at my insides every moment of every day. I despised my body and my life in general. At this point in my life, I had genuinely accepted that recovery was something that could never happen to me, that I was too far gone and yet not sick enough to ever heal and love myself again. Having emerged from this part in my life is what has truly made me believe that recovery, though never easy, can come to everyone no matter how desperate and far-fetched it seems.
Three new team members came into my life: a dietician who specialized in eating disorders, as well as a psychotherapy and psychiatrist. I credit all three in coaxing me to make some of the biggest mental steps that have made me the recovered and strong person I am today. I was prescribed antidepressants, something that I to this day credit with saving my life (I hope to someday make a post regarding the specifics of finding the right drugs for me in my recovery). And slowly but surely, life began to get better. I transitioned from Maudsley to a plan still structured but not Alcatraz, centered around more sustainable thought processes than the numbers and measurements that had gotten me into this mess in the beginning. I was gradually given more trust when I proved that I could maintain my weight. Hard times came again, in the form of bulimia subtype soon after my weight restoration with the new dietician. Despite the agonizing battle that it was, experiencing two totally opposite ends of the spectrum was one of the experiences which was standing in my way of full recovery. Increasing desperation led me to realize the huge need I had for full recovery. This “final straw” was completely non-ideal and extreme, but after overcoming it, I headed straight to happiness and life and I haven’t looked back at the ugly face of disordered since (except to contemplate my changes, remind myself of its ugliness, and sometimes to give it a big ole middle finger).
And so here I am today. To say “fully recovered” is very strange to me. But my eating disorder no longer plays a part in my daily life. It remains past tense: it WAS my eating disorder, has taught me many things, but will never ever gain that strength to overcome such a vulnerable soul again. The mental illnesses that accompanied/spurred it in the first place remain, though also in significantly reduced strength than before. I feel freer, more myself, and prouder of who I am that I could have ever imagined and I cannot wait to share more with you about my journey and the life after an eating disorder.