You have heard me say these very words countless times — but thank you. Thank you for being the lifeline I didn’t know I needed, and for reminding me of my worth when I was certain I had nothing to show for it.
The day I sat across from you sharing my unfortunate news, I couldn’t help but think I was getting myself into something I shouldn’t. By this point, I only knew I had an eating disorder for about four days, and you were someone I knew was a strong adult figure I could confide in.
I wasn’t diagnosed, but I knew from one moment the week before I had been starving my body and mind for the last two and a half months. Stress, body image and friend problems — I told you they all landed me in this place. “So, what does this mean for you,” you asked me, and I knew right away the answer was anorexia.
Having daily conversations about my intake and my plans moving forward with you was all I thought I needed to get the job done. However, I learned during Thanksgiving break I couldn’t just make myself eat and be OK with it. It was the sickest cycle I had gotten into yet.
You gave me little choice but to let others know what was going on. I silently hated you for this from time to time, but as the months went on, I knew you only made me tell them to aid in my own recovery. I regretted opening up about my disorder at least once a week, hated myself more often than that and struggled to idealize recovery every single day.
Early on, you could see the fear in my eyes when I talked about my eating disorder. You told me it was OK to be scared, but to just keep breathing and somehow, we would deal with the aftermath. You promised me I was strong enough to recover, reminding me you loved me and needed me to get better. You told me you couldn’t go to my funeral if something happened to me as a result of my disorder, because you had been to too many funerals for kids. I didn’t want to be the thin girl in a coffin, but I wasn’t so sure I wanted recovery for most of the days that passed by.
One day in June you sat across from me, listening to me tell you I couldn’t believe in my own worth, and figured I would succumb to my anorexia eventually. I was convinced I couldn’t do it — couldn’t eat, couldn’t handle myself and couldn’t just recover. This is the day you reminded me of my worth.
I looked you in the eyes, listening to the words pour out telling me I was “pretty f**king amazing,” “pretty OK,” and “f**king phenomenal.” These were words I never associated with myself. I was so used to telling you how much I hated myself, reminding you I wasn’t worth your time and you could walk away at any time.
Like I said, I have thanked you a lot. You’ve been that lifeline, that person to call or text when things just weren’t right anymore. You’ve been the one to engrain in my mind I will not be alone, and the strength I have inside of me is enough to manage the pain. You’ve taught me important lessons, like taking one step (or bite) at a time, forgiving myself and keeping my chin as high as I could.
I used to ask so frequently why you would help me, but as time went on, I realized it wasn’t important. You wanted me to get better, most days more than I wanted it myself. I was often unsure if I truly wanted recovery, and if I did want it, how would I do it? You were the one who told me I needed to do it, whether I wanted it or not. And most recently, telling me to pretend recovery was a Nike commercial, to “just do it.”
I often wondered how to thank you in a way that was more than a simple “thank you” or “I love you” for the magnitude of love, care and help you provided me. You weren’t just a person who told me to “get better.” You weren’t just the one who watched from the sidelines, you stepped in immediately — telling me you would do anything you could to help me. You weren’t just the one who pushed me to get treatment, but the one who sat with me during visitor’s hours, listening to me cry about how hard it was to be an inpatient.
Out of everyone, you were the one who made me feel like I was worth more than my anorexia.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.