A Letter to Myself When I Was Diagnosed With Anorexia
I know you’re only 14 and you haven’t had it easy in life thus far. I’m sorry to tell you things will get much worse before they get better, but have hope. What feels like it will crush you will actually pass. The darkness will lift, and when it comes again, you will be prepared and know how to handle it. You will have to fight hard, harder than you might be able to imagine right now, but you will break through the depression, the feelings of hopelessness and the self-hate, and will eventually discover all the suffering you experience won’t be in vain.
When the therapist tells you that you have anorexia, you won’t be familiar with the term. Many years after you hear the term for the first time, the word “anorexia” will become established and well-known, but don’t be scared of a diagnosis that isn’t common right now. The obsessions and compulsive behaviors you experience and engage in are part of your eating disorder. You may not realize it now and might feel stubborn and indestructible and even angry at the thought of changing, but those very behaviors could kill you. In fact, you will come very close to death before things turn around.
When you become an outstanding runner in high school and feel like the anorexia is helping you run faster, know that it’s really not. You have talent and you work hard; that’s why you run well. Don’t listen to your coach when he talks about your weight. You will not run more slowly after gaining one pound. That is ridiculous, and you should know your health is more important than trying to please others. Mostly, when you have to back off running, have hope that you will still be OK. It may feel like your dreams were shattered when your running career came to an early end due to injuries and complications related to anorexia, but you can form new dreams. Keep dreaming, because there are many avenues you haven’t yet explored.
No matter what struggles you go through, know that you are not alone. You have friends and family members who will not give up on you. You will make them proud when, against all odds, you go from having seizures and being told you won’t make it to flourishing. It won’t happen overnight. Your journey back to health will take years, but you won’t regret taking that first leap of faith into the unknown territory of recovery.
Keep in mind, people who don’t understand your illness will say hurtful and unkind things. Most of the time, they don’t mean it. They just don’t know what can be triggering to someone struggling with anorexia. When your neighbor keeps saying you “look healthy,” don’t take it as something bad. Try to see that he means well and that it’s a sign that you are succeeding. You are fighting your inner demons that he doesn’t realize seem real to you. That negative self-talk in your head will lessen in time as you continue to heal.
As you get older, more and more people will have suggestions on how to overcome eating disorders. Know that everyone who struggles is unique and has his or her own path to travel. There is no secret formula or pill that will cure an eating disorder, but there are key factors to address in recovery. You don’t have to alter who you are in order to recover; you just have to rediscover who that person is, and you will find her, Lize. I promise you will.
Listen to your mom. She is wise, and she loves you.
Though it seems impossible, you will become a mentor to people struggling one day. Make sure you are in a place where you can give back before you do, because recovery takes a lot of energy and effort. You have to be strong and know how to create healthy boundaries when you help others, but giving back is essential and will make you feel better. You don’t have to be cured or 100 percent to start giving back, but make sure you keep taking care of yourself when you do.
One day, you will teach others the following:
The issues you have around food are a red flag that something else is going on in your life. learn to identify real emotions. “I feel fat” sometimes means there’s something else to address that’s unrelated to food and body image.
You are not your eating disorder.
Trying to control your food is a way to cope with uncomfortable or unidentified feelings. You can’t control what happens around you, so it’s tempting to try to control what you do or do not eat.
Your identity is not based on what you do or how thin you are.
Be kind to yourself.
It takes work to reach self-acceptance and self-love when you are recovering from an eating disorder.
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