Most people don't know this about me, but I have had an eating disorder since I was eight years old.
I became anorexic after the third grade, as a result of severe emotional abuse from a couple of people in my life at the time.
I'm 23 now, and I've fought to get my life back for the past three years, living through a grueling and sometimes victorious recovery.
It hasn't been easy. I have a LOT of years of negative and harmful behaviors under my belt, and it is a daily struggle to overcome them.
I spent the entirety of my grade school, middle school, and high school years dying to be thin.
I was stuck in a cycle of starving myself for as long as I could, binging on anything I could find in the house, hating myself for it, and then starting all over again.
I remember my parents freaking out when I stopped eating, unsure of what to do and how to help me. When I was around 10, my mom started putting special foods in my room that I could eat for breakfast--mini muffins, plums, crackers, and more of my favorite snacks--to entice me to eat more.
I stored them in my pretend washer/dryer toy and rationed them to last for days.
I started exercising obsessively, using my Skip-It toy (think early '90s) for hours, until my ankle was shredded from the repetitive spinning against it. I would force myself to run for miles, even though I hated running more than anything.
I even joined the track team when I was 12, running sprints and jumping hurdles until my nearly-empty stomach would make me woozy and lightheaded each day after school.
When I was seventeen, I added bulimia to the mix and began purging after almost every meal. This quickly spiraled out of control, and I began binging huge amounts of food and then purging it immediately after.
I ate entire pizzas, entire cakes, entire quarts of ice cream while hiding away in my room, wrapped in shame that consumed me. One time, I ate an entire bag of Doritos and attempted to purge them in my college dorm's bathroom.
While quietly crouched over the dingy dorm toilet, I felt a sharp pain in my throat as I purged. I panicked, having read about the danger of torn esophaguses. Was this it? Was I going to die bent over a freaking toilet?
Luckily, I did not. Somewhere inside, I wished I had.
I've had an eating disorder for almost 15 years now, and I consider myself to have been in recovery for three of those years. For 15 years, I have woken up every day feeling like my body is not my own; like I am wearing someone else's skin.
I have experienced great pain, and I've caused pain to those that have loved me.
I often find myself heartbroken at how many people I meet that are trapped by the same feelings as me. To wake up each day hating oneself on the inside and out is a curse that nobody should have to live with.
But we do.
I feel extraordinarily lucky to be alive, generally healthy, and surrounded by people (and dogs!) that care about my wellbeing when so many others are not able to make it through.
Through hard work and the love of others, I have stopped obsessing about the number on the scale. I've stopped counting calories, stopped forcing myself to run for hours, stopped starving and binging and purging and hating myself.
I still struggle, and I'm not 100% free of my eating disorder yet. But I'm getting there, and I'm happier than I have ever been.
I will forever be grateful for the counselors that have challenged me on my bullsh*t, the friends that have listened to me sob, and the women that have taught me to embrace my body and my sexuality.
I am not ashamed of my body or my heart. I am proud of who I have become.
I have my own story of recovery. To read it, click here.
To read more stories like mine and Bethany's, click here.
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