For as long as I can remember I have struggled with anxiety. As a child I constantly had stomachaches and complained that there was a lump sitting in the back of my throat. I think that this was partially due to the tense family situation I was living in.
I experienced verbal and emotional abuse from a family member for years and, at eight years old, suffered a traumatic experience outside of the home.
I am unsure exactly when the eating disorder/OCD thoughts began, but at a fairly young age I associated changing my body with establishing a sense of control amidst the internal and external chaos…
For example, at five years old, I have memories of refusing to wear shorts and hating my ballet leotard because it showed my thighs. This body awareness stemmed largely from the obsession that the main female figures in my life (who I love dearly and know never intended harm) had with their own appearances. I perceived my mom as incredibly disciplined when she was dieting; weight loss seemed like the natural way for me to gain control.
Anorexia officially entered my life at 14, but wasn’t full-blown until 15. For about a year I yo-yo dieted and dabbled in over-exercise, but it wasn’t until the summer between sophomore and junior year of high school that I decided enough was enough.
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I was fed up with living inside a shell that I loathed so much.
I would wake up early in the morning and exercise before my mom left the house and then continue to exercise throughout the day while she was away. I also began restricting my food.
I dropped weight quickly and, when I returned to school for junior year, received an overwhelming amount of compliments from friends on my weight loss. I became terrified of the humiliation I’d feel if I were to regain weight.
Weight gain became synonymous with failure.
Throughout junior year, my exercise and restriction continued to escalate. I also became very perfectionistic around grades and enrolled in the International Baccalaureate Program.
My life was a repetitive pattern of waking up, exercising, going to school, isolating in the library through lunch, exercising when I got home, doing hours of homework per night, and eventually going to bed. I was addicted to laxatives. Life felt miserable.
I was trapped, but terrified of asking for help.
Towards the end of the year my mom told me that she was concerned and that I had to gain weight. I consented to eating what she suggested because I didn’t want to upset her. I did gain weight, but my body and life in general quickly felt intolerable again. Over the summer between junior and senior year, old behaviors came back with vengeance and I lost the weight again.
Despite being very ill, I entered college in September 2009. I naively thought college would provide me with a fresh start, but anorexia and perfectionism followed me. My behaviors escalated (I started self-harming) and panic attacks were beginning to interfere with concentration in class.
Finally, I asked my mom for help.
I told her I wanted to see a nutritionist and asked her to come to the first session with me. I was brutally honest with my dietician about my food behaviors and my mom was shocked. Since this session in August 2009, I have been receiving treatment.
Treatment has taken many forms for me. I struggled through outpatient for over a year, tried inpatient but left against advice, enrolled in an IOP program, stepped up to PHP, down to IOP, and back to PHP in June 2012.
This most recent time in PHP is when I grew the most. I worked on eating behaviors but also relationships, family dynamics, trauma, OCD behaviors, and self-harm urges and gained insight on the origin of my feelings, my view of the world, and why my disorders developed. On Jan 1, 2013 I graduated from the center’s IOP program and am now in OP treatment again.
These days my eating disorder, self-harm, and OCD behaviors remain struggles, but I am finding strength in practicing opposite action.
On a given day I may feel undeserving of nourishment, compelled to punish myself by harming, or anxious at the thought of challenging an OCD behavior, but I know that engaging in urges only provides temporary relief and leads me down a path to misery.
Recovery will lead me to freedom, so I must make choices that are in line with recovery.
Over the past month I have been doing just that and I feel myself growing stronger.
While I can’t say I am free of my disorders, I can say that I am free of hopelessness. My future is filled with hope for growth, relief, contentment, and health.
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Originally published January 17, 2013 on our old Tumblr blog.
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