Before I get into my recovery and where I’m at now, I think it’s important that I start from the beginning. I have a lot of history to cover, so this is going to be a long one!
Growing up, I had everything I needed – food, water, a house, family, friends, clothes, toys, books – basically everything a little girl could want. But the thing that came with that were expectations. My parents always pushed me – especially in school. Not trying to toot my own horn, but I was good in school and was always advanced, therefore, I was expected to always do well. I got in trouble if I didn’t get the challenge spelling words. I was learning long division way before everyone else and was by far the best reader in kindergarten. I got threatened to be taken off dance troupe after a bad grade on a worksheet. I got an A on my algebra test but was told it wasn’t enough because I made stupid mistakes. Long story short, I learned that perfection was the goal.
Another thing about my family is that food and weight were a huge focus. “If I would just lose X amount of pounds, I’d be happy.” “If she could lose X pounds she’d be drop dead gorgeous.” “My fat ass doesn’t fit in these jeans anymore.” I learned that mentality early on. I remember wondering why I was the fat one of my friends. Was I really? No, of course not! But that’s what I saw. Then in fourth grade, I would come home from school, stand in front of the full length mirror in the hall, and run my hands over my stomach and thighs hating what I saw.
Now, naturally I’m a perfectionist. It’s something to this day I have to keep in check. Because of that I always wanted and needed to be better. I constantly felt like I wasn’t good enough. I felt like I was always disappointing my parents – partly because I expected perfection and partly because all I heard was that I was falling short. (Now this sounds like I’m hating on my family. All families are their own kinds of f***ed up. We just don’t show emotions well! Haha) It was really only a matter of time before I turned that inner hatred outside.
In fifth grade, I got my braces on. I had more metal than teeth in my mouth by the time they were done getting everything in. I had so much trouble eating; it had become such a chore. Around that same time all of my friends totally left me. They wouldn’t so much as look at me, let alone hang out. They’d run away at recess, and to this day, I’m still not sure the real reason.
After about a year of braces I had lost quite a bit of weight – not intentionally. When that happened my friends came back. Coincidence, I know, but it proved the story in my head that I was fat and fat people don’t have friends. I vowed to never be the fat girl again. I started being more conscious about what I ate. At first it was just really healthy – so I thought. Looking back now, I know that what used to be my favorite “meal” would barely count as a snack. Then I started to completely cut out “bad” foods, and in 8th grade I became vegetarian. In my eyes, meat was the worst – the Satan of foods so to say. The fat, the calories, it all terrified me. I told everyone it was because I thought animals were cute, and I couldn’t justify eating them – which was partially true. But the reality is that it scared the living hell out of me.
Being a dancer added another layer to everything. My studio was by no means one that pushed that certain look or body size!! It was, however, really easy for me to compare myself to everyone else when we were just wearing tank tops and booty shorts. The other part to it is that I was really active all the time with classes and performances. When you’re active you have to have enough fuel to feed your body, and I wasn’t there. At all. Not even close.
This all continued through my freshman year of high school. I felt great! Or so I thought. I was fifth in my class, had the best friends, wasn’t the fat girl anymore, and was becoming a pretty good dancer! Then sophomore year came and everything changed.
Within the first two months of school, I had a falling out with two of my absolute best friends, which I blamed myself completely for. My grades were slipping (I had a couple Bs – heaven forbid). I had always been ahead and at the top of my class – nothing less than an A was acceptable. All these feelings from growing up and how I never felt like I was enough for anyone came rushing back. I was constantly feeling like I was failing partly because, as always, my expectations were way too high, and partly because all I ever heard was what I was doing wrong and where I was falling short. I was under so much pressure to be the perfect sister, the perfect friend, the perfect daughter, the perfect student, just perfect, and I wasn’t. Every time I didn’t do as well as I felt like I should’ve that voice in my head told me I failed, so the depression grew stronger.
My ED behaviors also changed. I started binging – at first only occasionally, but eventually it became a regular thing. By my junior year I was binging almost every night. I literally stuffed my emotions down with food because it was all I could manage to do. I spent the days avoiding food and nights not getting enough of it. I spent the days planning out how I would get out of dinner and nights scrolling through those awful Pro-Ana/Pro-Mia websites. I spent days smiling as I calculated how many calories I wasn’t eating and nights f***ing it up with binges. Sometimes I would binge for days on end. Others I’d restrict for weeks. My weight was constantly fluctuating, but always under what I should be.
One night it was all too much. I couldn’t take the binging anymore, and the guilt that followed it was unbearable! As I sat sweating and shaking, curled up on the floor in the bathroom, I tried so hard to undo the damage I had just done. It had been such a good week. I had lost a decent amount of weight and was ecstatic. I panicked. I was home alone, so no one knew what was going on. I’m not entirely sure where the idea came from, but next thing I know, I’m downstairs in the kitchen, knife in hand. The pain I felt after that first cut gave me such a rush that I couldn’t stop. It was a way to punish myself for not being perfect, but also to really feel something because I had been so numb for so long. The thing with eating disorders is that it completely numbs you out. You don’t feel happy. You don’t feel sad. You don’t feel angry. You don’t feel. Once I started cutting I couldn’t stop because it was nice to have some sort of feeling even though it was pain, and it quickly became an addiction.
At this point, y’all are probably thinking I’m insane, and I sure as hell wouldn’t blame you. I sure felt that way! I knew what was going on wasn’t normal, and I wish I could say it didn’t get worse than that, but that’d be a lie.
My senior year took another turn for the worse. I had toyed with laxatives before here and there, but I started taking them regularly – at times by the handful depending on how badly I “needed” them. (My diagnosis was bulimia, so my ways of “purging” were restricting, exercising, laxatives, diuretics and diet pills.) I also started taking diet pills. That was a much bigger problem than I ever let on to be. I had gotten totally and completely addicted. I started taking the right dosage, but after not too long that wasn’t enough. I needed more and more – as many as I could get my hands on. It continued for months. Then it started catching up with my body – at least then I finally noticed it. I was always so nauseous and my heart would race. I was shaky and jittery and always tired. I knew I had to stop, but I couldn’t. After another month of arguing with myself, I finally threw them out because a friend threatened to tell my parents.
I thought I was determined to really start recovery this time, so I started outpatient treatment in January of my senior year. I talked to my parents again and went from there. Obviously what I was doing wasn’t working. I didn’t even remember what it felt like to think about things other than food and my body. I talked to my parents again, which went slightly better than the first time. The response I got then was “yeah, high school’s tough, you’ll get over it” and “I’m not sure how we’re going to pay for it. Therapy isn’t covered in our insurance,” so I went on pretending like I was fine and magically “cured. I started seeing a therapist and dietitian each week, but continued with behaviors anyway. I couldn’t stop them; I wasn’t really ready to yet because I needed them still. It was my way of coping with my life. I put on my happy face and pretended like everything was ok. I got really good at convincing people things! “I’m fine.” “Of course I’ve eaten.” “I’m not binging.” “I’m not cutting.” “I feel great!”
Then in July I couldn’t fight it anymore. I needed those pills again. Like I said it was an addiction that was far worse than I let on. Within a week I was right back to where I was before with the corner of my closet looking like a pharmacy between the laxatives, diet pills and diuretics. When I got to K-State it was easier to hide everything. I was rooming with people I didn’t know, so they didn’t know my secret double life like my friends did. And since a few of my friends were there, too, I avoided them like the plague. I was scared that if I saw them they would push food or, worse, help on me because, let’s be honest, I looked awful. If I wasn’t in class I stayed in my dorm room and slept a lot because I didn’t have any energy. It took everything I had to walk across campus to class. I’d get back to my room light headed and nauseated and have to somehow climb up to the top bunk. Diet Pepsi was my best friend. I didn’t care about anyone or anything. And I was so tired. Tired of fighting recovery. Tired of fighting the disorder. Tired of hating myself. Tired of not being able to think about anything but food and my disgusting body. Tired of being fat. Tired of pushing the people I loved most away. Tired of being scared. Tired of being tired. And honestly tired of going to bed just praying to a God I barely believed in, that, if I was lucky, I wouldn’t wake up in the morning.
It was about 3 o’clock one morning, and I felt really weird, so I got up and went into the bathroom. Then I blacked out and woke up on the floor next to my bed. I had been playing Russian roulette with my body for years, but nothing had actually happened. Not until then anyway. I text one of my friends later that day and told him I needed to talk. Shit was starting to get real, and I was terrified. I didn’t think he was going to get back to me. Why would he want to waste his time on me? I knew he was really busy, so I knew he had a million better things to do than talk to me of all people – the fat, worthless girl who couldn’t get her life together. But sure enough he called and had it been so much as a minute later, I probably wouldn’t be here today. I didn’t think I’d ever be able to recover, and the thought of living like this the rest of my life was a really unnerving thought that I just couldn’t handle.
After talking with my family and a few friends we all agreed that I needed more help. Outpatient just wasn’t working. I stopped seeing my therapist a month before school started because she thought I was doing great. I was so good at BSing my way through. That’s when I withdrew from K-State and went to Eating Recovery Center for 6 weeks. After I discharged from ERC, I went to an intensive outpatient program (3 nights a week for 3.5 hours) in Olathe for another 8 weeks. I graduated from there about 3 weeks ago!
Now I’m just taking it a day at a time. It’s incredible how far I’ve come. I’m doing so much better and don’t think I’ll ever be able to thank my friend enough for that wakeup call – literally. I’m so excited about life and proud of who I’m becoming. To think that I could be missing that is heartbreaking. Every day I choose recovery and because of that I’m stronger, happier and healthier!