1 in every 200 women struggle with anorexia. Anorexia isn’t a vain disease where you just want to be skinny, anorexia can be deadly. Like everything else associated with a mental illness, eating disorders have such a terrible stigma. People with eating disorders are told to “just eat more,” as if they enjoy the constant battle with food.
I think so often we feel that we are alone and no one understands our burdens. If you are struggling with an eating disorder I hope these words will be a reminder that you are not alone.
It all started in eighth grade. At the time, I was suffering from severe headaches—pain that lasted for months at a time. I visited several doctors and specialists all over the area, and no one had an answer for me. My parents were beginning to worry, and at one point a doctor feared I had a brain tumor. Finally, neurologists agreed this was simply a bad case of migraines, assuring me it’d be something I would “grow out of.” Migraines and diagnoses aside, the last neurologist I visited provided some hope. I remember that visit vividly, like it was yesterday. He told me there was a new drug on the market, and it would surely help with the pain. But, there was one side effect.
“Now, I do have to make you aware that this medicine causes weight loss. But… well, you could afford to lose a few pounds so I’m not too concerned about it.”
For the first time in my life, I questioned my appearance. For the first time in my life I second-guessed the number on the scale and the size of my jeans.
“Ok. I’ll lose some weight. I guess I need to.” I thought. From that day forward… it spiraled out of control. I was held prisoner by an eating disorder. Anorexia held the key.
Anorexia consumed my life—every single part of it. By the time I walked the halls of my high school the following year in ninth grade, I lost 30 pounds. A couple years later, I had dropped another 10.
I told no one. As I gazed into the mirror each day, I saw one thing: flaws. My skin was hanging off my bones, but I saw fat deposits. My ribcage prominently poked out, but I saw only 10 bones and not all 12.
“Just a few more pounds, then you will look better.”
“Did you see that girl? She’s so much prettier than you. If you lose more weight, then you can be pretty like her.”
“Look how huge your legs become when you sit. You ate too much today.”
The lies my mind convinced me of pushed me to unbelievable lengths. I hid my food in secret stashes all over the house, and declined all social gatherings to avoid food. Each day I forced myself to run 12 miles. I deprived myself of sleep until I completed 300 squats, 100 push-ups, and 500 sit-ups. Workouts grew longer and calorie intake kept decreasing in hopes that somehow, someway this would make me more beautiful.
My parents took me from doctor to doctor, desperate for an answer to my drastic weight loss—one that I would never admit. When my mom stepped out of the room for a moment during a visit with an endocrinologist, the doctor took my hand and very gently asked me, “Naomi… is there something you want to tell me? It’s ok. I can help you.”
He knew. He saw right through me.
I broke down in tears. It was as if the shackles fell off, and the prison doors opened. I felt free. No more secrets, no more lies.
This doctor referred me to a specialist, and with therapy and weekly check-ups, I started the uphill battle towards recovery. I’m alive today because of this man. No matter how many times I wanted to wring his neck or skip a session, he persisted. He fought for me when I wouldn’t fight for myself. When my heart almost stopped beating, the doctor said, “Nope. She’s not going anywhere.”
I hate this disease with every fiber of my being. Eating disorders do not simply “go away.” It’s not a simple case of strep throat that disappears when you finish your antibiotics. Trust me, I wish it were that easy.
Every single day I wake up and feel inadequate. Every morning, my mind tells me I’m not good enough. Not pretty enough. Not worthy of food. Hungry? Ignore it. Dizzy? That’s a good thing.
But every single day I choose to rise above it—to fight. I fight to love myself, and truly embrace who I am. I will not let anorexia dictate how to live my life, and I will not live in fear.
Because I am good enough.