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How a Google Search and a 3-Minute Test Saved My Life

Growing up, and honestly still to this day, people would say, “You’re always so happy!” or “How are you always so energetic?” The truth is, I hated when people would say that. Underneath my cheery exterior was a deep dark self-hatred about my body and my personality. In my mind, I had no worth. These self-destructive thoughts began at age 13, which quickly developed into self-destructive habits, which then turned into anorexia and, after four months of starving myself, evolved into a decade of compulsive overexercise, binge eating disorder and zero self-esteem.

My disordered eating and thoughts went on for 11 years, until I was 24. To my family, friends and peers I was living my dream life in San Francisco and killin’ it. While this was true, I was simultaneously living a life of shame, obsession and depression. At 24, I hit rock bottom – bingeing to the point of nausea at every meal, avoiding social situations because of being ashamed of how I looked, allowing guys to take advantage of me because I had no self-respect, counting every calorie and every calorie burned, exercising to the point of exhaustion every day and throwing up at least once a week.

I don’t remember exactly what made me Google search “I think I have an eating disorder.” I would gander to say it was my healthy voice’s desperate attempt to release me from my debilitating obsession, depression and isolation. Whatever it was though, I’m so grateful I searched it because what I stumbled upon was the National Eating Disorder Association’s (NEDA) screening test.

I was surprised by the questions it asked. They had nothing to do with how I looked and were more to do with the thoughts in my head. But when I got to the end and it said “You are at risk for disordered eating,” that was the moment I was finally given the space, validation and courage to admit to myself I did have a problem. I didn’t want to live that way anymore, and I needed legitimate help to do so.

So why am I telling you this? Because even if you don’t think you have a full-blown eating disorder, you can take this three-minute NEDA screening test and help someone who does. We all have that voice at some point that says we’re not good enough. That shames us for eating too much or the wrong thing or not exercising enough or not working hard enough. If anything, take this three-minute screening test to educate yourself on the real red flags of an eating disorder — it’s not just about how a person looks. With this knowledge, you can show compassion to a friend, a family member, a co-worker, a fellow dancer or a stranger who may be silently struggling with this disease.

And if none of those are good enough reasons to take this screening test, then do it for me. This week is my birthday and marks one and a half years of being recovered. If you take this test to support NEDA’s life-saving campaign you would give me the greatest gift I could ask for. No one deserves to hate them self and to punish their body. Think about it…if one of my loved ones — my family, my teachers, my dance or swim coaches, my friends — had taken this test and been aware of the real red flags, I could have avoided a decade of suffering. My eating disorder story would have just been a paragraph in my life’s book, instead of a lengthy chapter.

Get screened now.

Recovery is possible. Early prevention is essential. Let’s do this!