By definition, an eating disorder is an illness related to food behaviour. This might be true, yet an eating disorder is much more than just food. I am a 25 year old female, and I can proudly say that I beat my eating disorder and I gained my voice back.
I had anorexia and bulimia, and my first symptoms were visible when I was just 10 years old. Growing up, I wanted to better myself. I wanted to fit in. It started off as a normal diet – I did not want an eating disorder. No one does. Yet, what I thought was a healthy way of losing a bit of weight, turned into an obsession. I heard voices telling me I did not deserve food, and that if I eat, I would be a failure. I felt trapped.
For a long time I thought I could recover on my own. I knew something was wrong but I thought I could control it. In the beginning my eating disorder gave me power. It was a way of gaining control when everything else in my life was a bit too messy. As time went by, however, it suffocated me. It made me believe I was not good enough. I forgot what hunger felt like, yet I could never sleep at night because all I could think about was food. I started lying to my family and friends to skip meals. I exercised aggressively and was scared of having an extra glass of water. I weighed myself more than 20 times a day. I started bruising easily and losing my hair. I started purging my food until blood would come out and I’d faint. I do not remember much, yet the little I remember is still very vivid.
It took me a long time to accept that I needed help. I hid it very well from everyone around me. The voice I befriended in the beginning took over my life. It soon become my worst enemy, but I could not get rid of it. I felt trapped and cried myself to sleep every single night. For a long time, it felt like there was no way out. By time I got too sick and I could not survive much longer if I did not start taking care of myself. This was a reality check. I was never trying to kill myself, not really, but I did not do much to save myself either. It felt like it was the end for me. I saw my parents cry because they thought they failed at parenthood, and this was heartbreaking. I did not mind hurting myself, I never did. Yet seeing them hurt was what made me realise I needed help.
At this point I vouched to myself that if somehow I would manage to recover and truly gain my life back, I wanted to be the voice for other people. I wanted others going through similar things to believe in themselves, in their strength and their potential. This is what I am doing right now. I want you to understand that you are not your eating disorder. You are much stronger, and even though it feels like there is no way out right now, there is. I am living proof. And in the meantime, it is ok not to be ok.
Recovery is not a straight line. At times I relapsed and that is ok. Three steps forward, one step backwards. I was still ahead. Recovery is not easy and it is a very long process, but it is very much possible.
I will forever be the person who went through an eating disorder, yet, I am so much more than that. An eating disorder is not an identity. You are not your mental illness. Though it was a struggle, now I am free. And if you or someone you know is going through something similar, please know that things will get better so soon.