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A few years ago, if you had asked me to list my weaknesses, I most likely would have responded with something along the lines of everything. I could not identify any of my positive strengths in a time when my goals centered around consuming fewer calories, consistently decreasing the size of my jeans, and improving my ability to run an obscene amount of mileage on little to no fuel.
I was first diagnosed with an eating disorder at the tender age of nine.
Though the term eating disorder was foreign to me, the concept was familiar. From a young age, I knew what it meant to have a thigh gap and the determination required to grow no bigger than the smallest size on the rack. What I didn’t know was how much my negative behaviors could ravage my body and my mind.
As a young girl, I dreamt of being a ballerina – always at dance class and practicing my pirouettes. I would strive to be the best in the class, a standard I observed to typically coincide with the skinniest person in class. Upon realizing this, my life quickly became a game of numbers and mirrors. I would manipulate each bite, step, leap and turn to ensure each calorie was eliminated.
Throughout high school and college, I experimented with different diets, eradicating food groups one after another. I began to see the negative impacts my behaviors had on my body, but couldn’t help succumbing to the disordered thoughts nonetheless. My original diagnosis of anorexia nervosa quickly evolved into the purging subtype, as I focused on forcing out the intrusive thoughts along with the food.
I did not measure the value of my days by the number of times I smiled, but instead by the amount of calories I could avoid eating.
I lost more than pounds, as my friends and my life drifted away, too.
I partially attribute the cause of my eating disorder to the emotional, physical and sexual abuse I suffered at the hands of a family member throughout my adolescence. It became impossible to separate truths from the lies I constantly replayed in my mind. As a result of the abuse and the eating disorder, I was diagnosed with co-occurring disorders around the age of seventeen.
I was immediately ashamed of these diagnoses, the labels which defined me as mentally ill.
I already felt like an outcast, and to me, the concept of being mentally ill only increased the distance between me and my peers. I had no one I could relate to, and no guidance as to discerning what was right, what was wrong, or what was real.
I spent countless weeks diligently working on improving my behaviors. I shared my story enough times to find an accepting community and was welcomed by their compassionate understanding. Through trial and error, I entered into recovery – a foreign place I never thought I would willingly approach.
Today, I choose not to focus on the labels, but instead on the strength I built within myself by overcoming those labels.
I seek comfort in the memories of battles I have fought, won, and overcome. I try my best to advocate for others still struggling with the sense of being labeled, a parallel to the sense of weakness I once felt. By aligning myself with organizations rallying for improved mental health support and by sharing my story, I have found relief from my own confrontations.
I no longer see myself as a person made weak, overwhelmed by her thoughts and entrapped by her behaviors.
I am a survivor, and I am strong.
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Did you know “Libero” means “Free”? Libero started with a story shared by our Founder Lauren Bersaglio back in 2010. We believe when we share our stories we can champion mental health, end stigma, and spread hope. We would love to have you share your story and celebrate freedom with the rest of the Libero community! Click here to learn more!
SITE DISCLAIMER: The opinions and information shared in this article or any other Content on our site may not represent that of Libero Network Society. We hold no liability for any harm that may incur from reading content on our site. Please always consult your own medical professionals before making any changes to your medication, activities, or recovery process. Libero does not provide emergency support. If you are in crisis, please call 1-800-784-2433 or another helpline or 911.