Coming To Terms With My Eating Disorder

  If I close my eyes and allow my memory to drift, I can remember the first time it happened. Winter was creeping through the New York City air, and choosing to hang out indoors with some girlfriends felt like the right idea. After a few hours of mindless chatter and snacking, I felt my stomach growl as I reached for another bag of potato chips. Suddenly, I felt shame and disappointment wash over me. How could I eat so much, and so carelessly, I thought. My mind began to race with all the things I ate earlier that day, from the toast at breakfast to the pizza at lunch and down to the chips and candy I had just eaten. I remembered the weight of every bite. So, I quietly excused myself and went to the bathroom. I purged for the first time that night. Thinking back to that day, I wish I had known that I would lose more than just food.

My first experience with bulimia happened when I was 17, but the problems leading up to this condition began much earlier. During my preteen and teen years, I struggled with self-esteem. I often avoided mirrors because I feared they would show how hideous I felt I was. The hardest part was that I felt as if no one could truly understand how I felt. I struggled within myself to push these feelings to the side and focus on other things like school and my friends because anything would be better than dealing with my issues.

Everyday I put a smile on my face and convinced myself that maybe if I could just pretend to be happy, I could actually feel happy. And I would be the happiest girl in the world if I could just keep my weight down. Eventually, purging became a regular part of my life.

Over time, my voice became raspy, my nails turned brittle and my weight dropped significantly. I wasn’t just losing my meals, I was also losing my life to this illness. Slowly, my mental health started to wither away with my physical health. Bulimia was winning. I felt it during my frequent trips to the bathroom. I felt it when my sore throat wouldn’t go away. I especially felt it when I tried to act as if everything was okay. Ultimately, my breakthrough came one evening when I spewed blood for the first time. Seeing my life slipping away from me like that had a visceral effect on me, leaving me to feel awakened, but also very desperate to change. At that moment, I knew that I had two choices: I could meet my end down this path or I could take my life back.

I am writing this today because I chose the latter, and to let anyone going through this experience know that it really can get better. Coming to terms with my eating disorder has been one of the most difficult periods in my life, and I don’t regret any aspect of this crazy yet eye-opening journey. Choosing to acknowledge bulimia and seeking therapy have been the most courageous and empowering decisions I have ever made. I am learning that my happiness and self-worth are not solely determined by my body. My body does not define my worth as a human, nor should anyone ever feel pressured to meet any definition of beauty or worth.

My battle with bulimia lasted for nearly six years. For quite some time I viewed my eating disorder as a shameful setback, but I have learned that there is nothing to be ashamed of when dealing with mental health. I would not be the strong, confident woman I am today if I had not experienced this challenge. In the journey to self-love, every day may not be easy, but there is beauty in every step of the process. I hope that every person going through this process finds his or her unique beauty.

Mental HealthMelissa J