I have started this email more times than I can count only to delete it. Part of me has been worried about telling my story perfectly and another part has been worried that I didn’t have a story worth telling.
I am almost 22 and have been dealing with an eating disorder since I was seven years old.
When I was 4 years old I was diagnosed with Leukemia and underwent 2 and a half years of chemotherapy. I remember being so happy that it was done and I got to be a normal kid. On my make a wish trip to Disney World I was sexually abused by three strangers and it was shortly after that I remember having the first negative thoughts about my body and sneaking food to binge on.
Shortly after this trauma, I was raped by an older cousin which only sent my thoughts into further chaos.
When I was 12 my behaviors changed drastically and I began restricting. How little I ate in a day is not important. I lost weight, and like many of us, got positive feedback. Unfortunately I kept going.
Throughout high school my anorexia was a secret. I had some other health issues that were an easy explanation for why I was so thin. I remember being on a walk with my Dad when I was a sophomore and in the lowest place I had gotten (I didn’t know then how much lower I would sink). I told my Dad that I had an eating disorder and needed help. Neither he nor my mother said anything for years.
When I went away to college my restricting got worse and obsessive exercise, a beast I thought I had under control, reared its head again and I lost more weight. The only one who noticed and worried was my boyfriend from high school but we were at different schools, states away and it was easy to let him think I was doing better than I was.
That summer I went home, excited to be around friends, to get to spend time with my boyfriend (Andrew) and see my family. I spent a lot of time with a friend from high school, Nick. Unfortunately, my judgment about this friendship was seriously flawed. He sexually assaulted me on several occasions when I was on pain medications that left me vulnerable.
After these assaults, my eating disorder went into overdrive and I lost more and more weight. Six months later I finally told my parents I had had enough and wanted to start treatment. I remember the day of my intake at an outpatient treatment center near school. I was so nervous I thought I was going to faint. They suggested I do their 8 hour a day program. I said I’d come once a week for group because school was my priority.
I was in treatment for four months before I went home once again for the summer and didn’t gain any weight or make any noticeable progress in curbing my behaviors.
That summer at home I lost even more weight in a desperate attempt to deal with spending every day in the place where I had been attacked. At the end of the summer, which was the most miserable time of my life despite being at my thinnest, a place the AN told me would make me happy, I went back to school and started treatment again, this time 5 days a week.
Now, almost a year later, I am weight restored and finally getting a handle on restricting. Today is day 10 without any symptoms and following my meal plan 100%. I am in a place where my body and mind are healthy enough to start the real work—dealing with the sexual abuse I have suffered and the damage it has inflicted on my self image, both physical and emotional.
I am still in treatment and will probably be for the foreseeable future but for the first time in 15 years, there is light at the end of the tunnel rather than a specific number or size. I feel uncomfortable in my body every second of every day and most of the time would give anything to be my thinnest again so I could just hide, but I try to tell myself all the positive things recovery has brought me. I have moments where I’m warm, it doesn’t hurt just to sit, I haven’t blacked out or collapsed in months, I don’t feel my heart palpitating after climbing three stairs, my fiancé can hug me and not be afraid to break me.
I hope that all the wonderful men and women who follow this blog will read this and know that recovery is possible. I’m still in the early stages but it is possible to recover, be healthy and get some relief from the ED voice. And life becomes so much more vibrant and real when you give your body the food it needs and the respect it deserves.
Attached is a picture I love. It symbolizes to me the steady ground that recovery is, upon which I must base my life."