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In elementary, I was the textbook OCD child. I was the child that had panic attacks when my clothes weren’t put on in the right order, or I was wearing the wrong outfit on the wrong day or the week. I was the child that washed her hands seven or eight times every time I went to the bathroom. My parents were relatively unconcerned and said I would grow out of and they were right; for the most part, they ceased by the time I entered high school.
When I was thirteen I decided I needed to adjust my diet a bit. I started by limiting my fat and sugar intake. Limiting my diet quickly turned into intensive restricting and it spiraled out of control.
I found myself obsessing over calories and calculating how to cut out as many as possible. I would volunteer to clean the whole house to distract myself from eating and to burn calories. I memorized menus for fast food chains and brands such as McDonald’s, Chick-Fil-A, and Lean Cuisine so that if I ever had to eat at one of these chains, I knew what the lowest calorie options were.
I was only 13.
My coach told me I could no longer come to practice because I had lost too much weight. It didn’t really sink in; I figured that this would simply pass and I’d find myself working out with the team again in another month or so.
If only it actually worked that way.
Even after a brief hospitalization for moderate-severe Bradycardia (heart rate disorder) and severe dehydration I still didn’t realize I was killing myself.
Despite seeing a psychologist, my weight continued to drop and my “cheery” mood began to dissipate. I began getting chest pains at night and experienced insomnia. I felt terrible, both physically and mentally. I lost almost all my friends and began to wish that I would slip away in my sleep to escape my nightmare of a life. (Note, I was and am not suicidal. Never did I consider taking my own life). I just wanted to escape the pain.
I was dying.
I found myself with a BMI below emaciation and was threatened with IP. At this point, I decided I wanted to recover. I didn’t want to be tube fed and I figured since I got myself into this mess I could get myself out.
Initial recovery was tough – I had damaged my GI and experienced digestive issues that I still have to work with today, five years later. I refused to continue seeing my psychologist, and quit seeing my nutritionist after our initial visit. I figured that the psychologist didn’t stop me from almost dying, so she would be no use in helping me recover. I figured I already knew everything my nutritionist told me and didn’t see the point in continuing her visits. In retrospect, I really wish I had seen another psychologist and/or nutritionist and hadn’t tried to recover on my own. That may have helped expedite my recovery, which I dragged out for four years.
I was able to raise my weight but was still clinically underweight. I stayed at that BMI for three years. Then, in 2010 I began to really recover. I was involved in sports again and had just switched teams. Something with this new team caused a click in my behavior. I realized I didn’t want to live with OCD anymore. I began to let go of the compulsions that ruled me for so long and finally got to a healthy BMI.
This year, January 2011, I took the brave step of telling a very small handful of (current) friends about what I’d gone through. Their initial responses were actually entertaining… ranging from “WTF??!?!? You did WHAT?!?” to “OMG!! I’m so sorry! I never knew!! I can’t believe I never realized it!” to “It’s not your fault”. All of them were extremely supportive. Not one person turned their back on me.
My favourite initial response was “It’s not your fault”. This was the first time I had heard anyone say this to me in this context. And I admit it was probably the most beautiful phrase I’ve ever heard. I drove home that evening with tears running down my face because I was so touched with those words. They’re so true- none of this is our fault.
For me, learning to accept that I am not a monster, selfish, or greedy for being anorexic was one of the hardest concepts of recovery. Those four words, “It’s not your fault”, helped me understand that I’m not a demon for having a psychological disorder.
It is important I remember that I have the power to control whether I give in or not to the disorder, and I do. I still fight compulsions and the anorexic mindset every day. Every meal I’m tempted to throw something away or make my serving a bit smaller than I should. But I resist. While it might have been inevitable that I or anyone else developed anorexia, it is completely in our power to fight it, and I am certain if we try hard enough, we will persevere and overcome the disorder.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in May 2011. The writer requested to remain anonymous. Though we no longer accept anonymous submissions, we did at the time this article was submitted.
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!
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