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To the Eating Disorder That Couldn’t Beat Me

The following includes language that might be triggering if you have an eating disorder. Please know you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

I am thankful today I am able to tell people about your death rather than mine. I am glad I am here to tell people about the abusive relationship we had rather than my parents telling my friends and family the eating disorder won. Today, I will write your goodbye letter, not mine. I am still alive and fighting. I am stronger than you and I have won.

I regret I allowed you to control me for so long. I wasted three years of my life listening to your every command. I’m embarrassed I needed to have staff check my toilet before I flushed because I could not be trusted to go to the bathroom on my own. I’m ashamed I had to have interns, who are the same age as me, weigh me every day and sit with me while I struggled to eat half a cup of applesauce. I’m ashamed I had to listen to them tell me about their freshman year of college, while I spent my spring semester in and out of hospitals and treatment centers.

I don’t tell people I needed to have nurses watch me take my medications and check my mouth every night to make sure I wasn’t hiding pills. I am shameful about the fact that I had to spend a week sleeping in a room with only a mattress. With anything else, I might have hurt myself.

When I lost the five pounds I thought would make me happy, you told me to strive for 10. When I ran 10 miles, you told me to go to the two-hour Zumba class afterward. When I was eating barely anything and surviving off of diet pills and water, you told me it wasn’t good enough. When I looked in the mirror and was able to count every single rib, see my hipbones jut out and even tell myself this didn’t look normal, you convinced me I was obese.

No matter what I did, you were never happy. There was always room for improvement. You told me I needed to be perfect. It wasn’t until I starved myself nearly to death that I realized the only way I could be perfect is if I died.

I could say thank you for bringing me to the place I am today. I had to fight like hell. I had no option but to be strong, but I don’t think that was because of you. You didn’t help me through the endless flashbacks. You didn’t help me through the anxiety attacks over one extra crouton on my salad or the fact that someone might have put three tablespoons of peanut butter on my PB&J instead of two. So I thought I just shouldn’t eat it because it might be too many calories. I survived all these things without you.

You are the reason these situations were so difficult, but you are not the reason that I am stronger today because of them. That is because of me. I chose to not let my entire life be consumed by calculations of calories. I chose to eat the damn chicken even if it looked bigger than the piece a week ago. I keep choosing recovery every day, six times a day, without you.

None of this has been easy. Every time I pick up a fork and nourish my body, I am terrified. I have to fight back against the voices telling me rice is going to make me “fat.” I have to try my hardest to not listen to the voices that tell me I should go for a run in the middle of the night when nobody would notice.

Life in recovery is far from easy, but each day I know that I have more strength and more courage to loosen the ties I have with you. I have thrown out my scale and my diet pills. I am nourishing my body with foods that will allow me to think, grow and heal. I have attended family therapy sessions that were harder than I could have ever imagined. I have processed the trauma I went through and have come to learn it was not my fault I was raped because it is never the victim’s fault. I follow that rule along with everyone else. I made it to the other side of meals that made me want to die because death sounded a lot more appealing than eating a candy bar or a slice of pizza.

It wouldn’t be right to say I am fully recovered now, because this is something I will struggle with for the rest of my life. Full recovery seems so unrealistic, just like I have come to realize being “perfect” is unrealistic. You were never satisfied with me. I will always have some sort of struggle with food and exercise, but I am sure as hell determined to create a life that involves more than me being your puppet. I am saying goodbye to you because I have a life to life, a life that doesn’t include you.

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.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255