When my eating disorder started and where I'm at today
In recognition of Eating Disorders Awareness Week, we’ll be running personal essays from our readers throughout the week about their real-life struggles of disordered eating.
No one tells you that after the first time you make yourself throw up – you’re not going to be able to stop. It’s not something I’m proud of. But it’s also not something I want to hide anymore. It’s a scar, an ugly one, one with consequences, but one I won’t continue to cover up.
It started right before sophomore year. It was my first summer living on my own, grocery shopping by myself, and, like any broke student, living off of cheap starches. I’ll never forget the way I felt when I saw the number on the scale at the end of summer. Immediately I started to worry about how my weight was fluctuating. I brought it up to my boyfriend at the time and he made a remark. He said he’d noticed, but that it happens to everyone, to not worry about it.
To me, it was like he just told me the world was ending.
I was determined to get thin, to be skinny, to not be this. I tried everything. Some pills here and there, exercising, skipping meals, but nothing helped. One night I gorged. I will never forget what I felt afterwards. Disgust. Hate for myself. For the food.
So I said just this once. Just one time. And I did it. I threw up. Instant relief. But it was just that one time. Right?
That started the worst year of my life. I had gotten myself down to a 1,200 calorie-a-day plan. I was stringent. My own army sergeant. I was sad. I was anxious. I was a shell. An unfed robot.
My roommates couldn’t stand me. I became a machine. I knew every calorie on every box and made every meal a chore, a math test. But I couldn’t help it. I was being eaten alive by my own addiction to becoming thin.
I thought I overheard snarky remarks about my wanting attention, and soon friends became enemies. My boyfriend had to watch every word he said. He hated who I became. I was a burden to be with. The careless fun girl he once knew, was gone.
My face was painted with dark under-eye circles, puffy cheeks, yellow teeth, but on the scale I finally saw a number that made me smile, so at the time, that was enough—until it wasn’t anymore. Then, I had to lose more. I always had to lose more.
I lost friends. I lost hope. I lost me.
Today I am slowly getting back to me. Although I still lose myself in numbers and have fits of worry, I can slowly talk myself out of them. I work at a news station and even appear on-air on weekends. Do I see imperfections on that screen? Of course. I don’t ever think it will totally go away. The monster can always find its way into your head. And that’s OK. All that matters is how you slay it.
Pizza, cookies, ice cream are no longer the villain. I am no longer the villain.
Eating disorders are not a choice. It is not a lifestyle anyone wants. The only way to truly fight the all-encompassing tyrant is to talk. Let’s not make those suffering feel like they have to keep quiet. Don’t be ashamed.
Know the signs and get those you love help. No one needs to feel alone in this. You are not alone in this.
If you or someone you love is fighting an eating disorder, visit nationaleatingdisorders.org for help.Ashley Hall is a Philadelphia-obsessed TV producer and self-proclaimed grilled cheese enthusiast. She’s also a mean two-stepper and indulges in guilty pleasures, included but not limited to, reality TV and multiple brunches in one week. (Image via)