Sunday, March 1, 2015

In Honor of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week

As many people don't know, the past week was National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. In fact, I didn't know until the fact popped up in my Facebook newsfeed. Now that I do know, however, I want to help spread the awareness by sharing an Expressive story. It's pretty long. It's not super fun. But, it's my experience. So, here goes:

Okay, imagine this - 
Let's say, here's my normal form: 

Well, for the longest time, I wanted to look like this: 

That's right. I had an eating disorder. I mean, I still have Anorexia Nervosa. It's not something of which you can ever truly rid yourself once it's in your system. But, I'm in recovery, and doing really well. 
Getting to this point, of course, wasn't easy. How did it start? Good question. One of my earliest memories of disordered thinking is from second grade. 
Every student in my class had their weight taken. And, once off the scale, my peers ran around sharing their poundage. 

While the Kitty would have been totally unconcerned, I didn't want to tell anyone. My weight was higher than that of one of my friends and I felt shame. At 7 years old, I was ashamed of my weight. That's pretty messed up, and it didn't end there. 
I'd never liked how I looked. From elementary school through high school, I was bookish and awkward. I didn't wear makeup. I never felt particularly pretty. What I failed to notice was that I was awesome, social, charismatic, and gorgeous. However, at a certain point, all I managed to be was unhappy about my appearance. 

As work piled up and college applications, rejection letters, AP classes, and an intense extracurricular activity schedule consumed my life, I became more and more unhappy. As many do, I turned my unhappiness on myself. I started exercising. Watching what I ate. I did it all under the guise of being fit and healthy, but my real goal was to get skinny

Looking back, I realize how very silly the words 'skinny' and 'fat' are. Their significance lies in the perspective of the thinker, and therefore they have no set significance. Currently, I'm fit. I'm healthy. I'm working on getting healthier. But I'm not skinny. I feel I was 'skinny' when I was first admitted to a hospital as severely underweight. To me, 'skinny' is bad

When I went away for college, everything spiraled. I was depressed. Clinically depressed. And the only thing that motivated me to get out of bed in the morning was the gym. I had to go so I wouldn't gain weight, a prospect that terrified me more than death. So, I stopped eating. I pushed myself insanely hard in school. I went to the gym for over 2 hours a day, everyday. I cried. A lot. But I tried to convince myself that I was fine. 
But, then, my hair started falling out. My chest pains got worse. My fingernails became brittle. Fine hair started sprouting on my body, to keep me warm. My body was deteriorating; it was shutting down all unnecessary functions, to keep me alive. 

I wasn't scared, though. I was depressed. I was dull. I was dying, and I couldn't feel. 

My first admittance to the hospital happened the week before Halloween. I wasn't even 3 months into my college career. I thought that was the worst of it. 

Okay, let's stop here and take a breath. 

Scary stuff, right? People who meet me now would never know unless told. And, I won't lie, some people I have told have used it against me. Others haven't listened. Others have treated me differently. I've been judged and stigmatized and, funny thing, I used to care

I didn't tell many people about this part of my life for a long time. I didn't want it to affect how I was treated. I wanted to separate myself from my experience. Then it occurred to me - I shouldn't care. I'm not ashamed of having had Anorexia. I'm not ashamed I'm in recovery, and on depression medication. These things are part of how I am who I am today. And, if anything, my experiences prove my strength. 
Needless to say, going away for school didn't last long. After my first hospital visit, I rediscovered chocolate. I binged on it for an entire semester. I ate almost nothing else. Then I relapsed that summer and lost all of the sugar weight I'd put on. I returned to school and wasn't healthy, but I wasn't in a danger zone for a while. Then Christmas break happened and, when I went into Spring semester, I gave up. I relapsed again. I left five weeks into the second semester of my sophomore year. And, once home, I relapsed again. 

It was bad. It was so bad, as always, and the depression and cutting did not help. I was struggling for a long time against demons I didn't quite understand, and I know I'm not the only one. 

And then, something amazing happened - my recovery began. 

I spent the summer after I left school working as a cook on Pier 25. I was seeing a therapist and a nutritionist, and eventually also a psychologist, but not much was changing. And then there was a day. A random day, like any other. I was sitting in front of a fan near the grill. The heat was sweltering and the day was slow, and I was scribbling random thoughts in one of my several freewrite notebooks. I took a deep breath and opened to a new page. Stared down at it with my pen poised at the top line...

And something clicked

For some reason, at that moment, my frustration with what I was doing to myself boiled over. It was a stunted feeling, of course, considering everything I felt was muted by depression. However, realizations about my life flew through my head one after the other. I wasn't living. I was alive. I was surviving. But my energy levels were always low. I always thought about food. I was constantly unsatisfied, with myself and everything around me. And I'd been that way since I'd started restricting. I had a vague memory of a happy, bright, hyper girl bouncing around with story ideas zooming through her head and a laugh loud enough to fill a building. 

I hadn't seen that girl for a long time and, at that moment, sitting in the heat and grease on Pier 25, it struck me how much I missed her. 

So, I started a list. It was a list of things I'd be able to eat if I recovered. It included items as simple as pasta. It included things I'd been craving. The list grew throughout the day, and during the night. And that short, complex moment was the catalyst for me allowing myself quality of life. 

After that, I pushed myself to eat more and exercise less. I made the decision to go on medication, despite the stigma that surrounds being on any medication. 

Of course, getting to a healthy weight and maintaining it was still a process. It's difficult even now, almost 3 years after I started truly recovering, to keep myself in a healthy mindset surrounding food and exercise. But I'm working on it, and I will continue to work on it so I can keep myself. Maintain my happiness. My goofy, happy, hyper self returned in force, and I'm determined to hold onto it more tightly than ever before. 

So, that's me. That's my experience. I'm currently working on eating substantial meals and snacks on a regular, set schedule, and cutting down my intense exercise regimen, which is a decision that happened when I chose a workout over a Super Bowl party, and realized I need to give myself leeway to be social. To have fun. Because, what is life without fun? 

Starting a business, writing books, baking everything, teaching kids - all these things take energy. Energy that I wouldn't have if I didn't eat enough, which I remind myself constantly. 

But, putting all of my aspirations aside, I've come to the conclusion that I deserve to be healthy. I am a good enough human being, a creative and smart and wonderful enough human being, to eat the foods I want, to allow myself relaxation time, and to focus on health and fitness instead of a meaningless 'skinny' ideal. I am, finally, enough for myself. And being enough for myself has changed my life. 

And, that's why a part of what my business is built upon is self love. I promote it so much because I have experienced one of the many terrible things that can happen when it is absent. So, call me fickle, 

but I do truly, strongly believe that YOU, reader, are wonderful. You are talented. You are smart. You deserve to be loved unconditionally by the one person that can always make you happy - yourself. Be adventurous. Love your passions. Love your body. Love your mind. Love your quirks. Love your entire personality. Be yourself. And always always, always, wake up in the morning, look over in the mirror and say: 
You wonderful, incredible person, you! 


  1. Cute illustrations! Your story sounds a lot like mine (except my ED looks more like BN/BED). I'm happy you are doing better now. Onward and upward!

    1. Thank you so much! I hope you are also doing well. Love yourself always, gorgeous!

  2. Thank you for sharing your eating disorder story. I know that it is a very personal story and not always easy to share publicly. I hope you are still doing well with your recovery and being the healthiest you that you can be. Loving you and who you are is so important and I’m glad you’ve found that love!