NEDAW 2019 – Come as you are

Header_Come As You Are

As you may know, today kicks off National Eating Disorders Awareness (NEDA) week! I have been a huge fan of this movement since I first learned of it, because this is the one time a year I feel a little more justified spamming everyone with eating disorder aawareness info ūüėČ

This year’s theme is “Come As You Are.” Here’s a blurb from NEDA about it:

Our 2019 theme, Come as You Are, highlights NEDA’s movement towards inclusivity in the greater eating disorder community and our goal of unifying the field of eating disorders. In particular, Come as You Are sends a message to individuals at all stages of body acceptance and eating disorders recovery that their stories are valid. We invite everyone, especially those whose stories have not been widely recognized, to have the opportunity to speak out, share their experiences, and connect with others.

We aim to start conversations with a variety of communities that struggle at comparable rates to those traditionally thought of as struggling with eating disorders. We hope to offer them an opportunity to share their stories, see themselves in others’ stories, and recognize that their experiences are valid and welcome, no matter where they are in relationship to food or their bodies.

So this NEDAwareness Week, come as you are, not as you think you should be.”


Given the theme, I thought I would start off the week by being vulnerable and honest about where I am in this moment. I would love to be able to come here and share all the amazing things I’m doing for my recovery, but that simply isn’t the case. I have felt a lot of shame in that. After over 5 years of treatment and more struggling, shouldn’t I just be healed already? I always imagined that answer to be yes for myself.

Right now I’m in a bit of a slump, maybe leaning towards relapse at this point.¬†Okay it probably is relapse…¬†My old friend excessive compensatory exercise came back after a pretty long hiatus. Along with it, I’m restricting food intake and excluding all but my safe foods. This has lead to my weight dropping from where it was stable for many months and implementation of the dreaded “weight gain protocol” whenever I have a dietitian/therapy appointment. (I’ll spare you the details on that one, but essentially it means lots of Boost/Ensure if my weight isn’t doing what it’s supposed to).

I am struggling. It’s many of the same issues I’ve been through time and time again, yet this also feels so new. I feel almost like I have forgotten how to get from here to a better spot, and even if I did know I have little motivation for follow-through.

One thing that has been super frustrating is all the medical knowledge (and treatment knowledge, too) that I have. I know what happens when you exercise without fueling your body. I can list off all the medical complications. I have experienced them in the past and now even. I know what kind and how much nutrition I need. I can tell anyone else how xyz is going to harm your body. I am so close to becoming a nurse, but I am an almost-nurse who wholeheartedly goes against what she knows to be true. I feel like a hypocrite and fraud all at once.

In this season, I am trying to be more gentle with myself because I deserve it.

This disorder has unfortunately been a big part of my life for many years. The fight isn’t easy at all. I am still here, though. I go to my appointments and do hard things. Being here now doesn’t mean I’ll never recover.

I wish my story was a bit different right now, but I truly feel sharing as I am is truly embodying what NEDA week means: ALL parts of your story, even these messy parts, are accepted here. Come just as you are. You’re all welcome here.

NEDA Walk Ann Arbor

My mom and I will be attending a NEDA Walk in April. I am beyond excited to participate this year, it’s been on my bucket list for a long while now! I know it will be a fun day and awesome opportunity to get together with others in recovery/raising awareness, but that’s not why I’m walking.

NEDA walks raise money for the National Eating Disorder Association. The funds will support individuals and families affected by eating disorders. Some programs and services offered by NEDA include an online screening tool, support groups, legislation advocacy, research grants, connecting sufferers to treatment options, and funding initiatives to prevent eating disorders.

As you may already know, I am one of the 30 million Americans who will struggle with an eating disorder in their lifetime. I have spent years in this battle. It’s affected every area of my life – friends, family, school, passions, and overall well-being. It’s been a long journey, but thanks to some amazing support and treatment programs, I am still fighting strong. My hope is that I will be able to help others like me in pursuing recovery and spread awareness about eating disorders.

I am walking for myself and everyone else who has struggled or will struggle with an eating disorder. I hope that through the contributions I can make I will be able to impact others.

I hesitated whether to ask for donations here on my blog, but I’ve decided I would, since this is why I’m walking. If you are willing and able to donate, please let me know. I won’t be posting the link publicly but I’ll send it to anyone who asks via my email revivingemily@gmail.com

Thank you!

For information about NEDA, NEDA walks, eating disorders, and more, visit www.nationaleatingdisorders.org

NEDA Week 2018 – my anorexia struggle (it’s not what you think)

I really love the theme Let’s Get Real because it opens up the opportunity for each individual story to be shared. Every person who struggles with an eating disorder is unique, yet we can also relate to one another. My story, along with everyone who has ever struggled with an eating disorder, is important and needs to be told. Today I’ll be doing it in a little bit different way by sharing some stereotypes about anorexia that I don’t fit into.

I have anorexia, but…

  • I’m not underweight, emaciated, or anywhere close to it.¬†In the 5+ years I’ve had this illness, I was only underweight for around 8-10 months. I came into treatment for the first time with a lower BMI, however; since then I’ve been in the normal range. I went to residential twice without even losing a substantial amount of weight because the outside representation doesn’t matter as much as how you’re struggling on the inside.
  • I don’t feel overly affected by the media.¬†Do I think that what we see in the media influences self-esteem, diet culture, judgment of bodies, etc? Absolutely. Has it played a huge part in my life? No. I do compare myself to people in advertisements, but that happens as I’m walking around campus or the grocery store too. I know enough about how manipulated these photos can be that I basically just take them as false and made up.
  • You cannot tell just by looking at me.¬†I don’t have the “typical anorexic body.” I don’t think anyone would be able to tell I have an eating disorder by analyzing my appearance. I may be thinner as behaviors increased, but I am nowhere near the image most think of when they picture anorexia. I am not alone in this. A huge number of those with anorexia and eating disorders in general don’t look like they have an eating disorder.
  • I have never used laxatives, diet pills, etc.¬†I know many people who have turned to these measures in order to lose weight. It’s just an area where the eating disorder hasn’t fixated on. I definitely have felt that pressure, though.
  • I haven’t needed (or come close to needing) a feeding tube.¬†There are some who wear their feeding tube as some special badge you’ll only receive if you’re a “very good anorexic/bulimic.” I’ve seen countless people and treatment friends who use this as profiles or brag about it. There have definitely been times that I felt like a fraud because I hadn’t been sick enough to receive one. I can see now that being malnourished enough to need artificial feedings isn’t something to be proud of, and I am more than 100% okay with not having one.
  • I’m not on the brink of death.¬†More than any other eating disorder, I see a ton of images and stereotyping that someone with anorexia has to in a danger zone. In reality, complete organ failure and other fatal conditions don’t actually show up until a very critical point. Most people, like myself, are relatively medically stable.
  • I do not enjoy being this way.¬†Eating disorders are often glamorized. I have been told that I must have great discipline in order to lose weight the way I did. In reality, anorexia has taken over my life and made me feel empty. When I’m deep in the ED I become a shell of myself. I would never wish this on anyone or encourage them to treat their body this way. It is absolutely miserable, expect for the brief moments where ED praises me for how “well” I’m doing. Anorexia is not just a way to effectively lose weight and bask in your shrinking body. It is a slow and painful suicide.

NEDA Week 2018 – Treatment myths and truths + an overview of options

Fortunately, there are a variety of resources out there for eating disorders treatment. Unfortunately, there are many stereotypes, worries, and false speculations about what treatment actually involves. I think it’s so important that what really happens with treatment is put out there. I want to encourage others to seek help by showing that it isn’t quite as scary as you may believe. This will be two-fold: dismissing the myths and talking about what types of treatment are available. A note: most of the myths will pertain to groups, IOP, PHP, inpatient, and residential, considering many fears come from being around others with EDs.

Everyone will be underweight.¬†I felt this way, too. The media perpetuates this by showing emaciated suffers and focusing on weight loss. The truth is that most eating disorders don’t need a weight diagnostic. Even those who struggle with anorexia, like myself, aren’t always underweight. I have met a huge variety of shapes and sizes in my treatment experience. The ED may tell you this is a lie, but I can pretty much promise it won’t be the case. Even if that were true, especially with inpatient, it doesn’t make your struggle any less. People have been nonjudgmental of weight in my experiences, too. Also, body type does¬†NOT¬†determine sickness at all.

I’m not sick enough.¬†Whether this applies to residential, outpatient therapy, or even seeking help in general, it isn’t true. If you believe in any capacity that you may need help but simultaneously “don’t need it” given your perceived lack of severity, please still reach out. These are signs that point towards that. Your struggle is enough, period. You deserve help, period.

Going means I’m weak.¬†Making the choice to get better is the absolute strongest thing you can do. Recovery is hard, there’s no sugar-coating it. Take that glimmer of hope and longing for things to be better. It’s worth it. You don’t need to continue living this way for 6 months, a year, or 20 years.

I’ll be the oldest, only guy, “least sick,” largest, etc.¬†Eating disorders are very diverse. They affect all races, genders, socioeconomic statuses, ages, etc. Even¬† if you happen to be the only one in your specific group, you aren’t alone. There are millions just like you, and that can be comforting.

If I’m not in residential or inpatient that means I’m not really sick.¬†Residential and inpatient are not some badge of honor that proves you’ve become bad enough to have an eating disorder. Most people never end up there and that has not a lot to do with their amount of struggling. The important thing is getting the level of care you need and receiving help ASAP, even if you “just” need outpatient.

I will just be constantly eating.¬†It absolutely will feel like this sometimes, especially when in IP or residential at first. What you’ll soon realize, though, is that you have so much more than meals and snacks. You’re kept busy with groups and all of the activities that are going to help you grow in recovery. Eating is a necessary part of treatment but the other work you’ll do is just as important.

All we’ll talk about is eating.¬†Holy hell thank God this isn’t true. Behaviors are surface level. There It’s like an iceberg. You see these awful things on the outside, when what’s causing all of it really needs exploration. I’ve never spent that much time focusing on the food, minus nutrition groups really. It’s just not the main focus, even though it is ultimately an outcome we’re working towards.

No one will believe I’m sick.¬†The thing about treatment is that no professional would ever recommend it for someone they don’t believe is struggling enough to need it. You don’t go through assessments for no good reason. The fact that you go into treatment means that you need the help and that you are sick enough.

No one will ever understand.¬†I was convinced of this when I was first sick. I never thought I would find people who truly got it. That immediately changed my first day of PHP. Suddenly I had 5+ other people who could relate to me so well. I think it’s one of the most beautiful things about treatment.

There will only be anorexics and maybe bulimics.¬†I haven’t been in any treatment setting for very long before I met people who didn’t struggle with anorexia or bulimia. Many have EDNOS (now OSFED) or BED as well. Another thing I’ve learned is that I can connect with any of the diagnoses. It doesn’t matter what the official label you carry is or what your behaviors are. The underlying problems are very similar.

It will be too hard.¬†This will stretch you big time. There will be tears, maybe lots of them. You’ll want to quit, sometimes every day for weeks. You’re not going to like it and will sometimes hate treatment. Regardless, you have the power to press on and keep fighting for yourself. If it were easy that wouldn’t bring change. Trust me, you CAN do this.


Now I want to give just a quick overview of treatment types, mostly based off of my own time there.

Outpatient therapy and dietitian. This is exactly what the name implies: seeing a therapist or dietitian in the office on a regular basis.

Outpatient groups. These groups are made up of many people with eating disorders and may be a therapy style, experiential, art, or other type of focus. I would say that support groups fall under here, too, although those are typically free of charge. These are both a good stepping stone for someone who has never been in a setting with others before. I think the connection and similarities you can find are very helpful.

Intensive outpatient РIOP. Typically IOP will be for around 5 hours a day, covering one meal and one snack. This varies by facility, of course. My center goes 11-4 three days a week. Besides meals and snacks, there are a few groups a day. Some offerings include group therapy, nutrition, experiential/outings, art, and yoga.

Partial hospitalization – PHP.¬†This is similar to IOP but is more intensive. It usually runs for 2 meals and 1-2 snacks. I’ve been to one that was M-F 8:30-3:30 and another that ran every day 10:30-5:30. The setting can be a psych hospital, residential, or just an outpatient center. It allows for the most structure and support that doesn’t involve staying somewhere.

Inpatient – IP.¬†Inpatient, like it sounds, involves being hospitalized, usually in a psychiatric unit or hospital. This is typically shorter term and mainly for stabilization. It’s required if there are any medical problems that would be difficult to manage in another setting. There is a full-time medical staff with 24/7 support as needed. People with other diagnoses are on the units as well. You attend ED groups and support groups part of the day and then general groups as well. Where I was, the average stay is 1-2 weeks and then step down to another level of care like PHP, or even going to residential.

Residential.¬†This is the longest-term and most intensive treatment. Program size varies, but it involves living in a home-like setting for around 30 days minimum. You are completely removed from the environment that allowed you to grow sick. It’s a huge adjustment but also is very effective because of the radical change. Like IP, there is also 24/7 support, but not the same level of medical care. You have to be medically stable in order to be admitted. Sometimes they may bump someone to IP if they need it. Residential tends to be much less restrictive than inpatient. You are able to go outside, do outings, start back with some exercise, and even get solo passes.

Transitional living. For those who live far away and are unable to travel back and forth to treatment, some enters offer transitional housing. In my case, we lived in apartments not far from programming. It offered a supportive environment while still allowing autonomy. I did this after residential, which was a great way to slowly transition back to real life. Some places only do this for PHP, but others allow IOP patients to stay as well.

I hope that this information has been helpful. Feel free to contact me if you would like to know more about my experience or have any questions regarding treatment. I will try to help in any way that I can. 

 

NEDA week 2018 – Introduction & past posts

Today kicks off NEDA (National Eating Disorders Awareness) week 2018! This is always one of my favorite times of the year. Teaching others about eating disorders and spreading awareness is something I’m very passionate about. This is my 4th year doing so in some capacity on my blog ūüôā

I can’t promise a post every day, but I’ll definitely be doing as many as possible. I do have a ton of ideas

The theme this year is Let’s Get Real. Here is a blurb about it from the NEDA website:

Our theme this year is Let’s Get Real and our goal is to expand the conversation and highlight stories we don’t often hear. Our culture has complicated relationships with food, exercise, and appearance.

30 million Americans will struggle with a full-blown eating disorder and millions more will battle food and body image issues that have untold negative impacts on their lives.

But because of stigma and old stereotypes, many people don’t get the support they deserve. Join the conversation and help us raise awareness, bust myths, get people screened, and start journeys to healing.

NEDA website: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/

Eating disorders screening: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/screening-tool

Eating disorders helpline: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/help-support/contact-helpline

Here are some links to posts from previous NEDA weeks:

Lumped into the “eating disorder” category

Living with an eating disorder is a constant battle between thoughts, urges, behaviors, emotions, etc. It can be claustrophobic where suddenly your entire life is clouded by Ed. Separation may seem impossible. I have felt this way for years. There have been times of strong recovery but also deep relapse.

Even with the eating disorder so intertwined in my life, I refuse to be “that anorexic girl” or “that girl with an eating disorder”(since no one would look at me and think anorexia). Yes I struggle with an ED, that’s pretty dang obvious if you know my story well. Being lumped together with all of the stigma and ideas about eating disorders is not acceptable. Unfortunately, I have been experiencing that more lately.

If the average person were to think about EDs and why they exist, there would be a few very common answers. The first obvious ones would be “they just choose not to eat” or “why would you make yourself sick like that?” I’m sure you get the idea. The characteristics will combine into one generic disorder or split into bulimia and anorexia. This leaves no room for the vast majority of people who struggle with BED, OSFED/EDNOS, etc. It really isn’t helpful to do so. While there are similarities between the different diagnoses, each case is individualized. There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to symptoms.

Expanding beyond that, I have many recent examples of what the perceived causes of eating disorders are. As per my abnormal psych prof, the four warning signs/precursors are: perfectionism, not wanting to grow up, avoiding sexuality, and control. My psychiatrist, almost every time I see him, makes comments about how I can’t eat because I think I look fat, as if that’s the only contributing factor. I won’t deny that many of these points are valid. I struggle and see others struggling with some of these issues. The problem I have with it, however, is that there is no room for other explanations. Under these assumptions, how could you ever account for someone who wants to look ugly by restricting, a person with BED who has pretty much none of the factors listed, orthorexia, and a million other circumstances?

This all being said, I do understand that it’s important to have some idea of possible causes for eating disorders. I have no problem at all with lists that begin as “common causes of” or something similar. This offers suggestions and examples to look for (especially helpful in exploring treatment at first). It gives those of us with eating disorders something to possibly make a connection to.

Unfortunately, the negative labels and automatic conclusions come up far too often when someone has an eating disorder. Some that I find most hurtful: “you’re just doing this for attention” “just stop eating/don’t purge/eat your food” “you can snap out of this” “you want people to feel sorry for you” “you don’t have it that bad.” These make me sick to my stomach. I know that the people behind them are most-likely uneducated and fully believe in the stigma behind EDs, but this excuse doesn’t cut it. We are real people with feelings.

Eating disorders are not one-size-fits-all. We struggle with similar thought patterns and behaviors, but you cannot ever lump us into one person. If you hear of someone or find yourself believing these examples and others, please stop and think. Realize how much harm this can cause. Consider our feelings.

I am unique. I am not just some girl with an eating disorder. My story is all my own. Please see it as that.

You might have an eating disorder if… (stigma v reality)

Some of this may seem pretty darn ridiculous. This is because many people’s expectation for eating disorders is just that. I want to explore the general, uninformed thoughts of what someone with an eating disorder is like vs the reality of eating disorders. My hope is that this can help distinguish what is the truth.

Stigma

  • you look like a walking skeleton
    • Eating disorders have no weight or size limit. Have you ever heard of BED, OSFED, BN? None of these disorders are defined by weight (and anorexia to an extent can be the same). You could be severely underweight or obese and still your struggle is valid.
  • you believe you’re extremely fat
    • Feeling you are fat definitely can be a factor of having an ED, but isn’t always. For example, one study found nearly 50% of “normal” BMI women believe they are overweight. Not even close to all of these women have eating disorders, and not everyone with an eating disorder even struggles with this belief.
  • you order only salads and other”clean” foods
    • Under the premise of judging mental health based on foods people eat, every vegan or vegetarian would be labeled as an ED patient. Heck, tons of people have salads daily¬†simply because they enjoy them.
  • you are an upper/middle class, white, adolescent or young adult woman
    • So, in order to debunk the myth about who can have eating disorders, let me give you a sampling of who I’ve met in treatment: adolescent and young adult men, people of color, a 70-year-old woman, children from 8-12, people with lower-income, middle-aged men and women. Hopefully, you get the point.
  • you are a vain person
    • The fact that some believe vanity is central to an eating disorder kills me. This has nothing to do with thinking you’re better than someone else or putting yourself up on a pedestal. For the most part, people with EDs tend to think very little of themselves.
  • you choose to have one
    • If I chose to have this eating disorder, that means someone would choose to have cancer, Parkinson’s or kidney disease. It’s clearly just for all of the wonderful attention we receive.
  • you just don’t eat
    • Finally, the “you just don’t eat” argument. Quite obviously, no one will survive if they literally eat¬†nothing for an extended period of time, so that’s automatically false. Adding onto it, this assumes that the only/easy way to have an eating disorder is by starving.

This first list is either outside focused or under the assumption that mind-reading is possible. ¬†News flash: no one has special mind-reading capabilities and can look into a person’s head to determine if an ED is present! An eating disorder is so much more than what you eat or look like. to me, the last three statements

Reality

  • you are a person
    • WHOA. So I’m telling you that just by being alive you can have an eating disorder?!? So weird, because you probably thought you must have some sort of obvious signs, maybe even a big blinking light. That would help.
  • you have ANY disordered eating patterns (ex: binge eating, eating in secret, eliminating all “unsafe” foods, purging..)
    • That’s right, folks. There is more than one disordered eating habit. The list here isn’t even comprehensive. Essentially, if something seems extremely out of the norm, it could be a sign of a subclinical or¬†full-blown eating disorder.
  • your everyday existence is ruled by thoughts of food, behaviors, exercise, body image, calories, etc
    • Eating disorders are not something that only happens at meal time, while exercising, and as you look into the mirror. It encompasses your whole day (an average I’ve heard is around 12 hours a day!). Got a test tomorrow? Whatever you are studying will have the lovely background noise of the ED whispering or even screaming at you.
  • you have a body
    • Yet another mind-blowing fact. You only need a body? It doesn’t have to be a certain size or shape?
  • you have mass
    • Going along with what you look like, the amount you weigh is another false determinant for the presence of an eating disorder. EDs happen all across the BMI chart and a vast majority are in the normal-overweight range. (Another tidbit: BMI = bullshit meaningless information because it cannot begin to tell you a person’s health level.)
  • going into the kitchen creates a huge amount of anxiety
    • This is something that is pretty much a given. Whether you deal with binge eating, restriction, or anything in between, eating is a fear in some way. Since food is prepped and stored in the kitchen, it becomes a room full of all the anxiety.
  • you have different physical symptoms due to a MENTAL illness
    • I find this last one to be of utmost importance. No matter what someone may look like on the outside or even through their actions, you will never be able to tell what’s going on within. This is not a physical struggle, even though there are often physical results of the behaviors. So many people in this world have invisible illnesses – both mental and physical – that can only be seen by looking below the surface. You have to realize this when dealing with eating disorders as well.

I hope that this can serve as a (somewhat sarcastic) guide for those who aren’t quite sure what eating disorders are and aren’t. I hope that you have a few takeaways from it:

  1. Physical symptoms of anorexia are all too often used as a reference point in deciding whether someone has an eating disorder.
  2. It is way too easy to believe you can read minds and use this magical power to determine whether someone has an ED. News flash: mind-reading is impossible, even when someone shows *all* of the signs you know of.
  3. Eating disorders look different on everyone. A person of any gender, size, socioeconomic status, race, age, BMI, etc can be struggling. Never assume elsewise.

Thank you so much for reading! Do you have any others you would like to add?

World Eating Disorders Action Day – Why I care and you should too

Today marks the first World Eating Disorders Action Day. Just seeing that this is a worldwide event really means something. NEDA week and other campaigns have grown over the years in the US, but rarely have I heard of anything like this across the world. Today we can begin implement change. Key messages and goals include advocating for early intervention and treatment, showing the diversity of ED sufferers, calling for treatment that is more accessible to all who need it, promoting treatment and the truth that recovery is possible, changing policies regarding EDs, and sharing the “nine truths about eating disorders“. More on the goals here and key messages here. The organization’s mission is to “advance understanding of eating disorders as serious, treatable illnesses” and the vision is to “unite eating disorder activists, professionals, parents/carers and those personally affected to promote worldwide knowledge of eating disorders and the need for comprehensive treatment.” All of this excites me. How amazing is it that we are calling global action in the fight against eating disorders? It’s possible that today could plant seeds of change in policies, attitudes, and knowledge of these illnesses all over the world.

There are 70 million people worldwide who struggle with eating disorders. (For reference that is more than the total populations of: UK-64m, Canada-35m, and Australia-24m).Within that group there are those with early interventions, knowledgeable treatment providers, great support, lower stigmas, and ultimately a good prognosis. This is sadly the minority. Instead, most with EDs deal with little to no public knowledge, a huge stigma/shame surrounding eating disorders and mental illness, no access to ED specific treatment or treatment at all, financial barriers if there are options available, feeling alone, and a lack of outside support, leading to a low chance of recovery.

I am very blessed to be in the former. I’ve seen a therapist since relatively early on. My parents have known a long time and are helpful and supportive (especially my mom <3). I also have some friends who are there for me. I live 45 mins from FV, where I have stayed inpatient and done PHP. It may not have been the greatest experience and quality of treatment but at least I had it. I was able to take off school to go into residential (which my insurance not only covered but paid for in full). I haven’t been denied any claims by insurance. I’ve switched therapists a few times to find the right fit and now have one at home and school. My dietitian is amazing and works specifically with EDs. I say I am lucky because all of this means I have greater chance at recovery. It still isn’t easy, but I also could never be where I am if I hadn’t had this support.

Eating disorder awareness is personal for me. I am forever changed by living with an eating disorder. This is for myself but also for the millions more struggling along with me. I know what it’s like. I know how serious these disorders are. I know how alone you feel. I know the hopelessness and being out of control. Because of this,¬†I want use my voice to give others with eating disorders the ability to speak out, a society full of education without stigma, and treatment they so desperately need.

Assuming you aren’t struggling with an eating disorder, why should you care about raising awareness today at all?

  • If it isn’t you, it could be your family member, friend, neighbor, teacher, child, etc. In some populations, such as college, up to 1 in 4 people have EDs.
  • You may not know anything about eating disorders. While you may assume that’s just fine, consider how many people with eating disorders you’ll know over your life.
  • Others need education about eating disorders too.
  • People with eating disorders matter. They deserve acceptance, support, and professional help.
  • Eating disorders are extremely low on funding (which leads to less research, treatment, etc). Funding per person, according to NEDA’s 2011 study: Alzheimer’s-$88, Schizophrenia-$81, Autism-$44, EDs-$.93.
  • Eating disorders are serious and need intervention, which can only happen if we have a greater availability for quality treatment.
  • Better laws and policies regarding EDs are necessary to combat them.
  • Together we can change the lives of millions all over the globe.

My hope is that one day we won’t have any barriers with recognizing, treating, and supporting those with eating disorders. We cannot get there without a global, communal effort. Please join me and thousands more in the first World Eating Disorders Action Day!

To get involved:

  • Use #WeDoAct and #WorldEatingDisordersDay on social media
  • Share the 9 truths of eating disorders video
  • Spread awareness of the campaign, information about eating disorders, etc
  • More ideas¬†here

For more information, please visit the official website, www.worldeatingdisordersday.org and blog http://worldeatingdisordersday.org/blog/

My story

*Disclaimer: This is not my entire story. Instead I wanted to talk specifically about my eating disorder journey and what its been like for me, (mostly) uncensored.My hope is that this can give insight to what an eating disorder is really like. Because this is going to have lots of details on behaviors and thoughts, there is definitely a trigger warning. I will not be going into weights/bmi/sizes/etc, however. 

The first time I ever felt badly about my body, I was around six years old. I spent the day with some neighbor kids, swimming at the beach and having a great time. We came home and our moms decided to give the girls a quick shower together to get the sand off. One of the girls spoke up, “Ew what’s wrong with your chest?” In that moment I realized I was different. I was born with a sternum deformity called pectus excavatum (PE). Of course, having nothing to compare it to, I never saw my chest as abnormal. That moment, however innocent and seemingly insignificant, was the seed that planted body hate for me.

I can’t remember a time growing up where I wasn’t considered skinny. Adults would always tell me how lucky I was and¬†that I needed to keep the weight off as I grew older. Skinny wasn’t just a compliment to me; it was my identity. At some point I decided I absolutely wasn’t allowed to ever get to a point where people didn’t call me skinny.

There was never a time I was okay with my body. Yes, I felt better about myself when I got the skinny complements. That didn’t fix the negativity. It honestly just made it worse. I received more and more negative comments about my PE as I got older as well. Adding that and the belief that I was nothing without being skinny to an already low self-esteem didn’t work out well for me.

In 8th grade I finally decided to do something about my “disgusting/weird” chest. I went in that December for surgery where they inserted two bars to pop out my sternum into a normal position. I hoped that this would clear up any and all body image thoughts I had. It ended up doing the opposite. My PE was considered very severe. Because of how deep it was, my heart was enlarged and pushed to the side. My lungs were also shrunken. These both were a huge part of the reason I’d stayed so underweight and malnourished all those years. Once my body was in better shape I gained weight – and fast. I couldn’t deal with it. Suddenly I wasn’t skinny but average. No one gave me compliments on my size anymore. I had lost a huge part of my identity, self-worth, and slightly better view of my body in just a few months.

The next few years brought an interim period. I didn’t lose any of the weight I so desperately wished was gone. My body hate never wavered or went away, and really just grew. I hadn’t started using any behaviors yet, but the ED thoughts were there.

The timing around here gets hazy. I’m at the point now where I can’t remember when the switch from unwell thoughts to using behaviors came about. It wasn’t like I woke up one day and decided to become anorexic and boom I was sick.

I had so many bottled up emotions, along with the ever-present self-hatred. My eating disorder started as a way to feel better about myself. If I could just lose that weight I’d hated for years, then I would magically be happier and confident. The main factor, even more than building self-esteem, was harming myself. I felt such strong emotions: guilt, depression, anxiety, perfectionism, hatred, loneliness. By starving myself and running my body ragged I could take care of some of the discomfort I felt.¬†

It all began innocently. I wanted to lose the unnecessary (in my mind) weight I gained after my surgery. My first goal was just a few pounds. I figured that once I got there I would certainly feel better and just maintain after that. I was clearly wrong.

I started counting calories. I wouldn’t say I was actively restricting quite yet, but I was very hyperaware of everything I put into my mouth. My view and reason behind exercising took a 180. I played soccer from eight years old up until fall of junior year. It had always been 100% about fun. Not once did I wonder how many calories I was burning or how much I needed to work out in a day or week. I practiced and played games to the best of my ability. During my last¬†season, however, that all changed. I began pushing myself harder than before and would also workout outside of practice and games. If I ate “badly” during the day, I work¬†myself past the point of exhaustion that night at practice.¬†Soccer wasn’t all that fun anymore.

In addition to the extra exercise, I mildly restricted. Within a few months those coveted few pounds were shed. I was on top of the world. I had this great sense of pride that I couldn’t get anywhere else. After so many years of hating myself, completely hating my body, and feeling hopeless about any of this ever changing, it did change. I loved it.

I continued with the mild restriction and use of exercise to lose (at this point maintain) weight. The stress of starting early college my junior year was catching up with me. I could never perform well enough to satisfy my own perfectionistic standards. This only fueled my depression, anxiety, and other negative thoughts. There was, in my mind, just one thing I could control: my weight.

I set calorie limits for myself each day. I began running on the treadmill. It was a huge relief being able to focus on anything other than my inadequacies. To me, this was the best way to cope.

My weight fluctuated and lowered a little bit more, but not a whole ton. By the summer before my senior year I actually gained some back. The stress of school was gone which helped stop some of the negative thoughts I was having. I definitely wasn’t following a very healthy eating and exercise pattern at this point, but it also wasn’t so bad. I exercised to burn calories, but only felt the compulsive need to after eating “too much” food. None of the depression, anxiety, or self-hatred lessened here. In fact, they all continued to grow.¬†

Fall of senior year was technically the true beginning of my eating disorder, but I don’t really like that way of viewing it. I was sick before this. I already had a distorted view of myself, disordered eating habits, tons of ED thoughts, spent hours in front of the mirror body checking, and used exercise in a compulsive way. It all just happened to get worse at that time.¬†

The fall was a crazy adjustment. I now had classes at a career tech center in allied health, on campus at the community college, and a few in my high school. To say I was overwhelmed and stressed is an understatement. That coupled with the fact that I had gained back nearly all of my weight since first trying to lose led to eating disorder thoughts and behaviors like I’d never had before. It wasn’t until then that my parents noticed something was wrong. I hid it very well previously and continued to shield them from the truth as it all progressed.

My new purpose in life was to take back control of my weight. I was more carefully counting calories than I had before. Not only did the amount of food I was allowed shrink, but the variety diminished as well. I exclusively ran on the treadmill as my form of exercise. I would set a calorie goal for each time I got on. This always ended up in me pushing myself much further than my body wanted me to. At the end of each run I would continue well past my goal. Every single second, every calorie mattered. This all did the trick when it came to my weight. I was now slightly under what my previous low was post-surgery. I felt good, but not great. Every single time I looked in the mirror I saw fat. I body checked often and cried as I saw my body expand throughout the day. I felt the fat growing on me every single bite of food. My body was shrinking but the body dysmorphia was not.

My parents now knew something was going on. When I was at home, they watched a little more closely. This contributed to me restricting more at school, but that was also driven by a new ED-fueled fear. I no longer was able to eat where anyone, namely strangers, was watching me. I had lunch some days in a little cyber cafe on campus. There were a total of five seats, all facing a window, that I had to sit in if I was going to eat anything. Even then, fear paralyzed me. I was bringing a very small amount of food anyways, but I usually only consumed about half of what I packed for myself. 

I was falling into anorexia. My daily routine was becoming more disordered. I would skip breakfast, eat maybe half of my lunch (usually only fruit and veggies), take a few extra laps when I had time in college, eat a decent yet impossibly large dinner, and then work it off on the treadmill. It was all paying off. I lost almost enough weight to put me “below normal.” I was ecstatic. Meals became a battle in which the ever diminishing healthy part of me lost. My clothes no longer fit as well. People were complimenting me again. I felt on top of the world. The restriction and exercise became my new highs. I weighed myself at least ten times a day, and let the change determine how much I could eat or had to work off. I would see my size drop in the mirror after exercise and then gain and grow flabbier for each bite of food I consumed. All I could hear all day long was the ED voice. Concentrating on anything else, even my beloved schoolwork, was impossible.

After the first of the year my current therapist (seen for depression, anxiety, and self-harm) recommended I switch to someone specialized in eating disorders. In a sick way I was satisfied with that, but also very much in denial. My parents knew for sure that this was a problem and they supported the move. My new therapist helped to an extent I suppose, but not enough to keep me from falling deeper down the dark pit that is an eating disorder.

I honestly don’t know how I survived the last trimester of senior year. My cognitive ability was almost nonexistent, so the fact that I still graduated with a gold cord astonishes me. I exercised every single day. My runs became longer and more intense. I had my “little black book” where I would record every single calorie consumed and burned off. I won’t go into specifics of how I managed it but the nets ranged from negative to in the hundreds. I lost more weight, enough that my dress for graduation was already baggy on me even though I had just bought it. I still looked in the mirror and saw fat everywhere. There were days I would cry over an apple. I was miserable but the euphoria of restriction and compulsive exercise coupled with an overpowering ED voice shielded me from realizing it.

The eating disorder consumed me entirely. I was past the point of only wanting to lose a portion of the weight gained post-surgery. I wanted it all gone, and fast. My goal now became the admittingly unhealthy weight I was before I had the correction done. I ignored the fact that I was now an adult, not a 14 year old, and believed I would be more than fine. Once I had the number set in my head nothing would stop me. That summer was rough. My parents desperately tried anything they could to get me to eat. It became a constant power struggle, me against them. I found new ways to restrict and exercise without their knowledge. I would do anything, even hiding food in my napkin, pockets, or bra. I stayed at the table longer than anyone else, picking at my food and then tossing the rest. Even when my mom and dad caught on, I had no shame or remorse. They began to have me eat out at mainly fast food restaurants quite often, which only made me exercise and restrict more after and increased the thoughts. All the while, I continued to hate myself more. Nothing made me look in the mirror and actually like what I was seeing. The only time I could actually appreciate my body at all is after a long run or period of restriction. The physical effects of my illness seemed to grow each day. My hair was coming out in chunks. I injured myself all the time. I was cold in the middle of summer. My face grew gaunt and I looked dead. I was always dizzy and passed out frequently. My already frequent bruising was now much worse. I was weaker and more fatigued than I ever had been. My fingernails were now always purple due to decreased circulation.

In the end of June I went for 5 days to Disneyworld for HOSA nationals. I restricted more during this time than ever before since my mom and dad were no longer watching. Walking the park also burned a very large amount of calories without me ever having to step on the treadmill. I knew I must have freaked out the other girls and my teacher but I didn’t care. I have little memory of the trip because I was very malnourished. Competing in my events was so hard that I could barely manage. I stepped off the plane even closer to my end goal. A week later I had my wisdom teeth taken out. The ED snatched this opportunity up. I was in plenty of pain for around a week which meant no exercise. I more than compensated by using the pain to refuse nearly all food. This went on for two weeks as I milked the whole “my mouth hurts” excuse. I had hit my lowest weight and was mentally in a very dark place. I couldn’t have gotten out of it on my own if I wanted to.¬† I distinctly remember my mom coming into the bathroom and crying over how much my hips stuck out. Soon after she called Forest View.

I spent the last month of summer where everyone dreams of being, in partial hospitalization at a mental hospital. I was there 8:30-3:30 five days a week. My first day I was forced to say it out loud. I was in such denial. I couldn’t be sick. I certainly wasn’t sick enough to be there. I said it though, through tears, “I struggle with anorexia.” I was so stuck in my ways. I refused to finish any meals my first two weeks. I didn’t even touch any¬†ensures when they “offered” me one after every refusal. I would come home each day, not follow my meal plan and exercise to make up for the “insane” amount of calories I was forced to consume. I lied to get away with the running, telling my parents that it was okay and my doctor approved. I cried every single day. I didn’t take treatment seriously until the second week. The doctor told me flat out that if I were inpatient I would have a feeding tube. I had lost weight, which really excited me at first. He then gave me a few days to turn this around or I would be forced inpatient. That scared me because it could also lead to him saying I couldn’t go to college that fall. After that meeting I started to really try. I actually did get plenty out of the ED groups and met some very sweet women there. I felt like I was a part of something and that I wasn’t alone in my struggles. I slowly accepted my diagnosis and the necessity of recovery. I left PHP the week before classes began and I truly felt I had it all taken care of. I had a reason to continue recovery (school) and a new therapist. Plus, my parents would be on me, so how could it be that bad?

Those first few months were pretty decent. I still attempted to follow my meal plan. I wasn’t exercising nearly as much. I loved my new therapist and felt like I was really getting work done there. More importantly, I became a youth leader which gave me a valid reason to recover. Thinking about the girls helped me push through some tough spots. Despite all that pushed me towards recovery, I began to slip at the end of the fall semester. I was over-stressed and felt out of control. This time I really had to hide my restriction and exercise, since my parents were still so worried about me. I eventually was “strongly persuaded” to start eating again if I wanted to go to youth camp in January. I had a short-term reason to recover and I did my best to go for it once again. This lead to refeeding symptoms that I had to deal with completely on my own. I went to camp and shortly after began to grow more into my sickness.¬†

I could be a youth leader without recovery. I could do school without recovery. Why did I need to recover? Granted, neither of those things I could give my all in or do well, but in my mind this made sense. So I just continued to pretend I was in recovery when I needed to be and act out on the disorder the rest of the time. I struggled in silence. My parents knew absolutely nothing because I was a pro at hiding it. I told only a few friends and my therapist the truth. By the beginning of summer I was basically at the point of needing treatment again, which I refused. We had NTS camp in June and I was not missing it for anything. The determination to go gave me enough motivation to do slightly better. I skated by and entered camp a complete mess. Looking back, I most definitely shouldn’t have gone. I couldn’t even take care of myself that week, let alone be there for five girls. It was another amazing time lost to my eating disorder. I have nothing but regret now. My girls deserved better and I should have been in treatment.

The one good thing that came out of NTS was motivation to recover (again). I was on a spiritual high and I felt I could totally do it. I was right for maybe a week. I worked ~30 hours or more per week as a housekeeper which was wonderful for my eating disorder. Not only was I burning calories all the time, it also meant many meals and snacks away from my parents’ watchful eyes. I barely ate a thing during all of those long shifts. It ended up really hurting my work performance. The front desk would ask me to do something and five minutes later I would completely forget what it was. I even had a hard time remembering the sequence to cleaning bathrooms even though I had known it for months. I was also exhausted, weak, and passed out multiple times, mainly when cleaning the showers there. As the summer ended, my therapist pleaded with me to go back into treatment. I refused and refused but by the second half of August I agreed, surprising my parents more than anything. They were ultimately very supportive after the initial shock. I was so tired of everything. I didn’t have enough energy to refuse it. I wanted to be able to go to Calvin in a few weeks. I had to go or I truly felt I would die, so off to Forest View I went. Oddly enough, my reason to pursue recovery was also a huge cause of me getting so stressed and deep into the ED again in the first place.

The week inpatient was a complete joke and bandaid. I ate 100% of all meals and snacks simply out of fear that I would be tubed or forced to quit college. It wasn’t easy, given how much I was restricting prior, but I managed. I even convinced myself that this would be different. I was going away to college and that was such a huge thing that I couldn’t blow it with this stupid eating disorder stuff. So, once again, school became the sole motivation for recovery.

I had about four days at home before moving into the dorms. I spent them soaking up quality family time. That didn’t give me too much time to worry. I was so sure I would have this under control. The excitement of college well overpowered any uncertainties. I somewhat got used to practicing my meal plan on the outside, packed up, and left for school.

New home, new dining halls, new therapist, new dietitian, new people, new classes. All of the newness distracted me for a while. I followed my meal plan for the most part that first week or two. I had a dietitian and therapy appointment weekly. I felt really on top of everything. I even told a few people at school so that I could have some support and accountability.

Everything caught up with me really quickly. I honestly wasn’t prepared for college. I was in no way solid enough in my recovery to handle the stressors, so I just didn’t. Being thrust into a new world with constant comments from others on weight, size, diets, and calories was a harsh new reaity. I once again found myself cutting out foods. This time around it began with severely limiting my variety. I literally had the same exactly lunch every day for the entirety of my first semester. My dinner would consist of a small portion of chicken, veggies, and fruit. I skipped out on snacks. Yoga became a part of my daily routine, but I would only allow myself to do weight-loss videos. I used a calorie counting app to help me stick to limits I set. My parents were worried about me constantly, but it was so easy to hide how I was really doing. I only saw them on weekends, so I would simply allow myself just enough food for them not to freak out then go back to restriction. By the end of September I was well on my way back to where I had been a month before.

The very last weekend in September, just a few hours into dorm retreat, I ran collided with a guy during capture the flag and broke my nose, suffered a concussion, and fractured my orbital socket. I ended up needing surgery and missed 3.5 weeks of school. During this time I was home, which I guess was good for my recovery since I was forced to eat and keep from exercising. I was suffering so much mentally though, and I knew that the second I got the chance to I would go straight back to the ED. The amount of stress I was under trying to make my work up was unreal. Instead of fueling my body, I continued to starve and abuse it. I couldn’t deal with my size compared to everyone else on campus or what I used to be. I gave up counting calories and just resorting to eating almost exclusively fruit, vegetables, and chicken. I was still doing the weight loss yoga. My grades slipped lower than I’d ever experienced in my entire academic career.

By November I had lost a significant amount of weight, worrying my dietitian and therapist. ED thoughts were stronger than ever before. I was sicker than I ever was previously, yet I was within the healthy BMI range. Because of this I was in complete denial and refused to let up on my goal of shedding pounds to reach my goal weight once again. At our appointment the first week of November, my therapist told me I had to go get a medical check-up and bloodwork or she would start the process of forcing me to leave school. Panic set in instantly and I headed to health services. My labs and everything were generally okay, much to my surprise. Even so, this was a wakeup call and moment of clarity. I saw a 0% chance that I could do this on my own. The healthy part of me knew I needed treatment. I wasn’t going to make it through the semester without being forced into treatment, so why not go in voluntary instead? I was also terrified that if I didn’t get help now I could end up dying from this disease. That weekend I went home and told my parents everything. I blindsided them and I truly felt bad for that, unlike all the other times I numbed the guilt out. At the same time I was so confused and worried myself that all I wanted was comfort and support. We made a pretty solid decision that Sunday for me to take a medical leave. Deciding to enter treatment and lost school was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done. At that point I had no solid plans, a quickly shrinking amount of time to have in treatment, and I hadn’t even told my friends, treatment team, or school.¬†

I cried so much during my appointment with my therapist the next day. I skipped all of my classes since I really couldn’t deal with any of it and I would be leaving soon anyways. She kept repeating how proud of me to make this decision for my health. I made an appointment with student services the next day and a follow up with her the day after that. The reality of it all shocked me. I gained courage that day to tell a few people close to me what was about to happen. They were supportive but also really sad. My meeting¬†with student services was sobering. I was again praised for making the best decision for me, signed a few papers, was given a move out date, and sent out with a “good luck” and information for when I got back. My RD and I had a short talk later that day and I found out everything I needed to do in regards to moving out of the dorms. My parents decided the next day would be it, only 9 days after I was warned about the possibility of forced leave. I met with my therapist that morning and cried more than I ever have in session. Her pride in me helped so much, even as we both struggled through tears. I gave her a hug and went on my way into the unknown. Soon after, we packed up every possession in my room, said goodbye to my friends, and began the trip home.

I bawled the entire ride home and for the whole rest of the day. I also was attempting to research as many treatment centers as possible. I really preferred a smaller center, although at that point I was desperate enough to go almost anywhere. I had no luck for two days. Every place was full, had too long of a wait time, or didn’t accept my insurance. On Friday I had all but given up and decided to try one of the places my therapist gave me the name of, Center for Discovery. I sent an email about it and got a phone call within an hour. The intake woman calmed most of my fears by telling me I could come within a week. It was finally real. The program was exactly what I had hoped for, small (only two other girls were there at the time with a max of 6 residential and 2 PHP), in a home environment, individualized, with some freedoms as you moved up levels, and the added bonus of being in the warm SoCal sun. The hugest blessing came when I found out that 1. my insurance would cover 100% and 2. CFD was going to pay for my very expensive, last minute plane ticket. I was filled with anxiety but also peace. I was finally going to get real help. I had a solid chance of recovering for real. After years in sickness and finally realizing how miserable it was, I cried for joy over this opportunity. I flew out on November 19th, two days after my 20th birthday and not even a week after my first contact with CFD.

I knew from the beginning that going to residential was going to change me, but I don’t think I ever anticipated or imagined the amount of progress I actually made. Its actually very hard to be too concise about everything I learned in treatment. I made a promise to myself that I was going to avoid all¬†supplementation and unfinished meals. I didn’t want it to be like Forest View. I needed it to not be. I was challenged more in my time there than ever. It certainly isn’t easy challenging behaviors and thought patterns you’ve had for so many years. The first week broke me in many ways. I wasn’t moved up a treatment or exercise level and I was extremely defeated. How could I have made so much progress (n my mind) yet stay stagnant according to my treatment team? I fell into a depression and lost much faith in myself. I wondered if I could really do this and whether my hard work even meant anything. Not being able to go on the outing that weekend on one of the girls last days was one of the worst moments the entire time I was at CFD. By the next week, however, my attitude changed. I realized that I couldn’t rely on others to determine whether I was successful or not. I was the one who needed to recognize my own progress, so I did. I began a list of things I accomplished each week that I still do today. Its been very healing for me. I put every ounce of myself into recovery. I not only completed assignments and goals set by the treatment team, but went above and beyond enough to receive the nickname of Challenge Queen. I wore it with pride. Each day in treatment brought new successes, although not without hard times and setbacks. I was fine with the imperfection for the first time in my life. I cannot ever be expected to perfectly recovery. It just isn’t possible. As the weeks went on I led many groups, went on outings and passes, supported and helped the other girls, took walks in the mornings to see Napoleon the majestic cat, challenged myself with food, worked on my autobiography and timeline, learned and practiced coping skills, practiced yoga in a healthy way, decided to stay an extra week to best benefit my recovery, and much more. Explaining all I learned from CFD without writing an entire novel is hard. Easily the most important realization from residential is that I want recovery for¬†me. I am not working at this for outside motivation. I finally believe that I deserve it wholeheartedly and I am doing the best I can to stick to that each and every day. After hardest and most rewarding 5.5 weeks of my life, I headed home.

I can’t sit here and talk about how amazing things have been since coming home without acknowledging the struggles. There have been many setbacks, hard days, return of strong ED thoughts, some lying, plenty of body checking (if only the real world had little¬†mirror access like at CFD!), terrible body image, meals and snacks where I barely followed my meal plan enough. Being at school where I was so sick before is especially hard. At the same time, these two months have been better than I could ever imagine. I am so thankful for recovery. I am becoming myself again and I love discovering who she is without being so consumed by darkness. This is the healthiest relationship I’ve ever had with myself. I am learning to love my imperfections. The joy I feel now cannot begin to compare to the false euphoria and trickery of the ED.¬†

The hardship having an eating disorder is something that I, at one point, found very hard to deal with. My cognitive function has not improved even with refeeding. I’ve lost many relationships and hurt the ones that survived through it all. I spent years of my life not living at all. I broke my parents’ and friends’ hearts over and over. Nearly three years of schooling were almost ruined. My faith in God suffered and I am only beginning to repair it. My body has lasting scars, not only in the form of stretch marks. Vacations, camp, Disneyworld, college, and every day consumed by the ED. My depression and anxiety, body image, self-hatred, and hopelessness grew exponentially. Even with the extent of the damage anorexia has had on my life, I am actually thankful for it in a way. I’ve learned more about myself and become more resilient. I have met amazing people and formed great friendships along the way. My new passion of mental health and eating disorder awareness never would have come if I wasn’t ever sick. I’ve grown stronger. I no longer ask “why me” and instead accept that this all has happened for a reason.¬†

I’ve discovered, over time and especially during wall work at residential, what things led up to my eating disorder. There are many specific events but I really feel that a few negative core beliefs were the biggest factor. What I came up with is that I’ve always felt inadequate and unworthy, even back to some of my earliest memories. It really makes sense that someone believing those things so strongly would turn to an eating disorder for comfort. It gave me a purpose to live and one way I could be proud of myself. Knowing this now is helping me fight back and know what situations and emotions will trigger me the most. I am also trying to use affirmations and faith in God to pull me through dark times since it fights against those negative beliefs.

I am not going to be Emily the anorexic who dies from her disorder. I won’t define myself as anorexic at all. I am so much more than my eating disorder! My story is not over yet and this will one day not be the defining part of it, just a chapter. Its been a big part of my life but I have faith that won’t be the case forever. I will continually put in the hard work for recovery and treat myself with compassion and kindness. Recovery isn’t the easy choice by any mean, but it is absolutely the best one.

I’m not the “me” that I started with

My friends say my eyes are brighter

I’m not the “me” that I started with

I’m freer, and I’m wiser, and I’m stronger

We are crushed and created

We are melted and made

We are broken and built up, in the very same way

What I thought I could handle

What I thought I could take

What I thought would destroy me leaves me stronger in its wake

Crushed and Created – Caitlyn Smith

NEDAW16 – Day 4: To those silently struggling

Today I want to talk specifically to those who are silently struggling. First off, I want you to know that my heart breaks for you. It is so incredibly painful to have an eating disorder and doing it alone makes everything so much harder. I’ve met so many people who have spent years or even a decade or more without a single person knowing their pain.

You are not alone.¬†There are 30 million of us just in the US and millions more worldwide. We are all in this battle together! The eating disorder will isolate you and make you feel like you’re the only one in the world who is like you. It will attempt to convince you that no one will understand. It is a liar. There are so many support groups, blogs, and online communities where you can find others¬†going through very similar circumstances. MentorConnect¬†here¬†is an amazing site that connects you to mentors who can help you on your recovery journey. A list of support groups all around the country and world through the NEDA website is found¬†here. I am completely open to anyone contacting me through here as well.

Reaching out is the best thing you can possibly do for yourself.¬†Silence can be deadly when it comes to eating disorders. At best, it isolates you and reinforces the aloneness feelings. There are infinite ways to reach out. Telling a trusted friend, parent, or other person close to you is great for physical support, which, in my opinion, is one of the most helpful forms. Support groups are a place to talk with others going through the same things and help each other along the way. I highly recommend professional help of some kind, most importantly a dietitian and therapist. NEDA has a list of treatment providers of all kinds¬†here. Another place to find therapists is on Psychology Today’s site¬†here. If neither of those have a therapist or center near you, calling a counseling center and asking for someone who is familiar with EDs. Whichever route you go, I know it can be scary. The truth is, however, once you overcome the fear you’ll find how beyond worth it reaching out will be.

Recovery is both possible and worth it.¬†Being trapped in an eating disorder, you may feel broken, hopeless, and destined to be like this forever. This is so untrue. Each day you live in an eating disorder is one where everything you are and all aspects of your life are being consumed in darkness. Eating disorders are absolute hell. Recovery can be as well, but its the kind of hell that will not kill you like an eating disorder will. I have gained more than weight since beginning my recovery journey. I’ve discovered parts of myself I haven’t seen in years, rebuilt relationships, discovered freedom, experienced more joy than I ever thought possible, gained confidence, have begun healing my body, cared about myself¬†more, and lived. I haven’t avoided really shitty days, lots of tears, and numerous relapses, but I still continue to get back up and choose recovery all over again. As a wonderful girl years into her journey told me recently, you can always go back to your disorder. You know exactly how to get there again, so why not try giving it up?

I will end this with one of my favorite songs that encompasses the kind of support and love I want to extend to each of you. Stay strong and give yourself a chance ‚̧

A few more resources you can explore: