woman writing in a notebook

Editorial note: The following post might be triggering for those who have a history of eating disorders. If you need help, please call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

May 24, 2016 (first week in the partial hospitalization program)

In a really perverse way, this place lends itself to a quirky, Wes Anderson-type film. Come to think of it, more like John Hughes, except in our “Breakfast Club,” everyone’s a basket case and no one wants breakfast.

May 31, 2016

“You’re so out of your depth that I wish you’d just drown.”

The roar of my stomach is deafening, so much so I can’t even hear what I’m saying to her. The words are cruel and they easily tumble out. When I feel this empty, I don’t understand the gravity of my insults, the harshness of my tone. I can’t imagine I could leave a bruise on anyone.

“You don’t know anything about me, about the eating disorder so don’t even… No, don’t touch me! I’m tired. I don’t want to talk to you, and I’m not eating this.”

I’m surprised she’s still down here when my healthy-self left long ago.

“I’m not eating this. I’m not eating this. I’m not eating this. I’m not eating this.”

I get into a rhythm, chanting over and over while scrolling Facebook on my computer. I’m the picture of detachment. Somewhere in me, something already starts feeling guilty.

“I’m so sick of apologizing when I calm down. I’m so done with this. I don’t care about anything.”

The guilt turns into anger, and the anger turns into resentment. The words came out with such force that I spit on the laptop screen. Mum says I should leave partial hospitalization and more time will do nothing if I continue with this attitude. She says I’m never in a mood to talk, and I won’t go back to college if I’m not healthy.

This weight is healthy. I’m not gaining anymore! I’m not eating that. I’m staying at this weight.”

I mean it. Every cell in my body shouts for emphasis. She whispers this isn’t a healthy weight and hearing that puts me at ease. Oh thank god, I think, I still look sick.


If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.

“If I eat this, then I’m just gonna throw it up anyway.”

I don’t even believe it, but I say it just to shock her. I’m thinking about Natalie earlier, saying her bikini bottoms are too big for her now and I’m tracing the fat I’ve gained on my thighs and my stomach. I’m thrashing around in my mind, trying to get away from the dieticians and meal plans. A small part of me is thinking back to last night, when the patients (my friends now) all gathered to watch a movie. My mom threatens to call one of those patients and I finally reach out to grab a piece of the English muffin. I hate myself. I hate my body.

June 6, 2016

Having an eating disorder is like driving a car at 100 miles per hour. You know the law. You know the danger to yourself and to others, but you also know the cold thrill as your foot pushes the gas pedal. You feel the car buckle underneath you as its speed catches up with your mind. Your hands white-knuckle the wheel, squeezing the point between control and unraveling. You put the window down, the air chokes you and your heart beats for the first time in forever.

Then, recovery pulls you out of the car. You still have the pounding need for destruction, the aching compulsion to push yourself to the edge. Yet, instead you’re forced to be still. You’re forced to sit with a raging discomfort and try to convince yourself blood belongs in your body and destruction is not salvation.

You feel empty. Life is dull when the world isn’t blurred around you. Building isn’t nearly as fun as breaking. You wish you had never gotten in the car. You wish you had never tasted the tanginess of acceleration. Because when it comes down to it, a world in black and white is nothing when you’ve experienced color. Someone should have told you that.

June 13, 2016

Spiders. The whispers of contact along my arms, my back, my legs. A faint brush against my skin, crawling ever downward. This is what it feels like to lose my hair. Strands fall out like a breadcrumb trail, caught by various body parts on the descent. Each tickle shoots straight to my stomach, where dread and unwanted food ferment.

The other day I was on a patio with friends, brushing off their stares and my stray hairs. All of a sudden, my hand caught a tangled mass of hair at the back of my head. I pulled ever so slightly and the whole thing came into my palm. I concealed a gasp as I discreetly directed the handful to the ground. It’s almost like I’m molting, shedding the old hair, so damaged and abused. This transition period (recovery) is the worst. There are bald spot with no new growth and not just on my head. I feel as if my entire being is pot-marked, waiting for something as yet undiscovered to fill me.

June 17, 2016

The thought of my sisters going through this stings every nerve ending. So to them I say: Girls, there’s this one quote I always read during therapeutic lunch/dinner. It goes, “You are enough. You are absolutely enough. It’s unbelievable how enough you are.” Those words seem empty to me, and probably to you, too. Because we’re at a crossroads now, where we’ve grown up on heroin chic and the Victoria’s Secret angels. Yet, we’ve also been exposed to enough self-love to have at least a little respect for our bodies.

Sometimes, that respect isn’t enough though. Sometimes it just provides an awareness that every moment you starve is harmful. I want to finally lend some weight to those words. You are enough. Madeline, your laugh is infectious and your freckles are like tiny stars. You are absolutely enough. Natalie, your eyes flicker with a gorgeous intensity and your hugs leave me breathless. It’s unbelievable how enough you are.

I never want you to stand in front of a mirror, weak from hunger and pinch the places you want to disappear. I never want you to fill your mind with the lowest calorie lunch, instead of thoughts about school, friends and your future. I never want you to have to tell mom about the disorder. I never want you to have to force food through tears, trying hard to recover but failing so completely. I never want you two to think you are anything less than enough. Because actually, you’re everything to me.

June 20, 2016

Let’s say, you have a broken leg. Doctors will order an X-ray to confirm the break, put a cast on the leg and maybe prescribe some pain meds or physical therapy. That’s all. A to B to C. With the proper care, the bone heals and you’re able to walk like before.

Now, let’s say you have a broken mind. There’s the familiar flurry of activity, as for a physical injury. Therapists throw the full gamut of treatment strategies, hoping one will stick. The difference is all the commotion masks a frightening truth, no one really knows how to fix it.

For anorexia, there are a number of societal, familial and individual factors that converge to produce the disorder. Nobody’s mental illness is exactly the same, but there is one thing we have in common — a limitless capacity to survive. The women around me show a blinding strength, marked by the knowledge that they alone are their torment and their salvation. This is our only advantage over a broken bone, the ability to play an active role in healing. We wake up every day and choose ourselves, our life. Some mornings these seem impossible, with a roaring resentment settling in our gut and a dull ache in our heads. Even then, we converge at program, ravaged and wounded but ready to begin again.

I’ve noticed the choice is getting easier. When I open my eyes, it’s no longer a battle, but rather a skirmish. I long for peace ahead, but what will it look like? A world without the disorder is harsher. I can no longer run into its arms as a shield from negative emotions. A world without the disorder means I transfer my sense of self from my body to my being. It seems like a small difference, but it means everything. A world without the disorder means I get myself back. I no longer have to share my mind with the anorexia.

So that’s it. This is the secret to recovery: You’ve always had the power to do it yourself. Therapists can’t fix it. They can only arm you with the weapons to do it on your own. The eating disorder weakens your defenses by weakening your body. Starvation is the key to subjugation. Yet, when you begin treatment and your mind slowly awakens from its stupor, your fight-or-flight instincts kick in.

At first, they’re misdirected. You may want to resist recovery and avoid the meal in front of you. Eventually, you’ll realize the source of your pain is not the food on your plate, but the voice telling you to avoid it. It’s taken six weeks of consistent re-feeding for this revelation to pull me above water. For some, it may come much later. When it does, I promise your head will break through the surface and you’ll breathe for the first time in forever.

Image via Thinkstock.

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. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.


Being married is hard work, I think anyone who is married knows that. Marriage is many things, but ultimately it is a relationship.

Anorexia and marriage don’t share very many similarities. I am grateful for that. But I have come to find they do share a few.

Healing from an eating disorder is hard work. It is a day-by-day, minute-by-minute choice that must be made. I’ve found letting one thing go, say a snack or an unhealthy thought, can lead to detrimental scenarios. I could be fine one minute, and the next I could be struggling to drown out my ED — or “Ed” — thoughts.

And that isn’t even the half of it, but I’ll leave you with that example. Living with an active eating disorder is hard work, too. I don’t want to dwell on this aspect, because it’s dark and ugly, but it’s the truth.

When I began down this road, which I hope will ultimately end in recovery, I was essentially in a relationship with “Ed.” I followed “him” wherever he chose to go. I worshiped his opinion. I was willing to go to the ends of the earth for Ed.

Do you see a connection here? Just a little?

I wanted to write a little bit about marriage and my husband, because they have both played roles in my recovery process. Then I realized the connections and how, in some ways, I am giving up Ed for my marriage.

I thought marriage would fix me. I really did, even though I acted like I knew it wouldn’t.

And for a while I stayed at a stable weight, but I was still really uncomfortable around food. I thought maybe a new environment would help, and it did a little bit. But I knew I couldn’t keep it up forever.

I blamed marriage for making me feel unsafe. I blamed the house. The weather. My husband.

I didn’t blame Ed though.

Guess what happened when I finally got Ed behind bars for once…

I began to feel a little safer. I started reaching out to my husband instead of the eating disorder.


If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.

Ed always knew what would make me feel better. He always knew just what I needed, without me even having to tell him. We seemed strong together.

My husband is a gentle human. Whereas Ed doesn’t mind seeing me struggle, my husband hates it. Of course, he wouldn’t intrude on my relationship with Ed, because he knew how much it would hurt me.

It took a long time for me to listen to my husband instead of Ed. In fact, I still struggle with it. I know my husband’s love runs so much deeper than Ed’s. I know Ed only loves me for what I give him.

Ed’s whispers of a cure to all my pain are malicious, yet addictive. He knows how difficult it is for me to feel it all. He knows without fuel, I shut down and only talk to him.

Being married has given me so much more than Ed ever could. In fact, in many ways I believe marriage saved me. Marriage and the relationship it holds. The love that isn’t in the terms and conditions. The support and care.

Ed never cared about what happened to me. I’ve found someone who does, and even on my not-so-good days, that is enough.

Image via Thinkstock.

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.

Follow this journey on Papercuts and Skinned Kness.

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My anorexia has been front in center in my life for as long as I can remember… until now.

Recently multiple people have told me I need to “own my recovery.” I have been stable for months, I am not currently in therapy, have been officially discharged from meeting with my dietician, and have never been more stable. Things have been stressful and difficult, but relying on my anorexia has not been the fall back.

Recovery is one of those things that is so individualized to each and every person. It is something I never thought would get any better than following a meal plan, maintaining my weight, and showing up to appointments. But there is so much more to live after an eating disorder, and that is what I have discovered in the last few months.

I can eat Twizzlers for breakfast and not feel guilty about it.

I can eat pizza for three meals in a row and not consider it to be odd.

I can have a tough or busy day and still decide to eat the food.

I can see my weight fluctuate and be OK with it.

I can lose a bit of weight for no solidified reason and know what I need to do to get it back up, and do it.

I can be accountable to myself and my own progress versus doing it for someone else.

I can ask for help when I’m struggling, to prevent things from going downhill, instead of relapsing.

I can choose to eat because it’s what my body needs to function.

I can feel hungry and eat because that’s normal, and stop when I’m full.

I can drink endless milkshakes because it’s hot out and they taste good, and I can enjoy each and every single one of them.

I can eat a salad because I want one, not because it’s lower in calories.

I can go out with friends and have fun, not obsess over the food and whether or not to eat.

I can exercise because the weather is nice and I want to.

I can choose not to exercise because I’m tired or sick, and that’s OK.


If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.

I can lay in bed all day and be lazy because I feel like it. I don’t have to be going nonstop.

All of these things may seem like minor feats in the grand scheme of the world, but to me, these are things I never believed would happen. I have been through hell and back over the years, countless hospitalizations, gallons of Ensure, tube feeds, medical complications, come close to losing my life more than once, the list goes on and on but I am no longer there.

While I still may not believe in recovered, I am truly starting to believe in and “own” my recovery. There is always room for continued growth, but for once in my life, I feel like I am well on my way.

Image via Thinkstock.

I could say it all started with an email from my mother letting me know my appointment time for my admission to treatment on a cold December morning. Yet in truth, it wasn’t as free-flowing as an email through cyberspace. The beginning of my treatment was preceded by hours of fighting, crying and screaming. It started the day I was terrified to sit in front of one of my teachers and tell him, yes, I, his AP biology student, was struggling with an eating disorder. Everything began with the admission that I had an eating disorder.

When I was a junior in high school, I found myself in the middle of an intense battle with anorexia nervosa. I slowly reduced my intake, increased my stress level and tried to level out the pain I was dealing with on a daily basis. After explaining to my parents what was going on, seemingly countless times, I couldn’t make them understand. To me, the description felt so natural. Anorexia was living through me every day; I felt as though I knew my disorder better than I knew myself. I breathed, I slept, I lived anorexia. I “became” my disorder.

Fast-forward a year or so, and I was sitting in my last class of the day when an email trickled in. It was a message from my mom, telling me I would be admitted to a unit for an eating disorder the following morning. I think it was around this time when reality set in for me. I couldn’t comprehend what was happening, but I knew the battle I was enduring finally reached its climax. Eating very little each day and feeling dizzy each and every time I stood up, I thought I was ready for the next leg of my journey.

“Be at peace, daughter. You will go through this and come out on the other side healthy and happy.” These are the words my dad sent to me, trying to remind me of what was on the other side of treatment. These are words that, to this day, I hold onto, with the hope that one day I won’t be in the midst of such a struggle.

The next morning, I woke up with a conflicted mind and little knowledge of what was going to happen that day. I got dressed in something that seemed appropriate; slippers, sweatpants, a sweater and a Sam Hunt T-shirt to hide my pale skin and protruding bones from all angles. I traveled to the hospital where I would have my intake appointment, consisting of meeting with nurses and a psychiatrist, followed by the absurd amount of paperwork associated with an admission. I remembered writing down the names of those closest to me, permitting them to visit me during the 6:30 to 8:30 visiting hours on the unit.


If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.

When the paperwork was concluded and my insurance company had approved my admission, my mother drove me over to the hospital where I would spend 17 days inpatient and almost two months in a partial hospital program. These are two statistics I had no way of knowing at the time, and if you asked me then if I would make it, I would most sincerely have told you, “I’m not sure.”

The first night in a new place is often the hardest. I met some of the other patients, one of whom I’d met a week prior at a neighborhood card store, who wrapped a gift for my mom. When they say it’s a small world, they aren’t kidding. I ate the dinner that was set in front of me, followed by a long night of being extremely cold and being awoken around 4 a.m. so the nurse could get a reading of my blood sugar. I was woken up a little after 5:30 a.m. after barely sleeping through the night to have my vitals taken, followed by changing into a paper gown so the nurse could obtain my weight before I took a shower, totaling less than the permitted eight minutes.

I wish I could say treatment and recovery fit the picture-perfect façade that is often portrayed online. Treatment was waking up every day and writing in my journal that I wanted to leave the unit. It was exiting the sleeping quarters, not to return until 10 p.m. or so at night, when the mental energy being spent left me exhausted at 2 p.m. Treatment was the pain of reality setting in when the tears rolled down my cheeks as I explained I wasn’t happy at a higher weight, nor was I happy at a lower weight, and the problem may not really be my weight. Yet, treatment was not all pain.

Entering treatment for my eating disorder showed something about me: It showed I was strong enough, and brave enough, and willing enough to create a change in my life for the better. Entering treatment meant I would meet a wonderful group of girls, all of whom are some of my closest friends, who I can call or text anytime I need to talk, because we’ve all walked the same road. Entering treatment resulted in weight gain, yet I gained so much more; I gained happiness, health and a sense of freedom from the cage my eating disorder locked me behind. Entering treatment was one of the best decisions of my life.

Walking through the double doors, I never expected to become the person I am today. The days I spent behind the walls of Unit B-1 trying to heal via nourishment and hours of therapy seemed somehow worth the pain it took to get there. The hours of begging for help, followed by uncomfortable days and long, cold nights, eventually brought light to my battle — and recovery.

Image via Thinkstock.

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.

My eating disorder was a dark and severely self-destructive journey — one that I am, even now, uncomfortable sharing about in detail. It’s hard to find the words, to be eloquent enough to do it justice. But it is a story worth telling, as are all battles against mental illness. They help spread the awareness our world is in desperate need of. And so I will continue searching for the words to tell my story. But for now, I will just tell you what I am comfortable discussing, and that is my recovery.

Of course, it did not happen overnight. Recovery took years and years; it was a slow process — one full of pain, anger, and the burning desire to understand why I felt this way in the first place. I started with some of the usual courses of treatment: antidepressants and therapy. But they didn’t help much. I still longed for answers.

What I did know was if I was going to live, I wanted to be happy and enjoy my life, not be miserable and struggle, which can be common with eating disorders. I believed I couldn’t be anorexic and live a happy life. I felt I had to choose. Life or death? Happiness or misery? I had chosen life, but happiness?

Finding happiness meant I needed to find my self-worth and learn to love myself. But how? I hated everything about me. How could I learn to love myself? I had to make another choice. The choice to try, as impossible as it seemed. And so began the biggest challenge of my life.

So how did I start? By looking for reasons to exist and be happy. First, I had family who loved me and needed me to recover. Second, I already had this amazing man in my life who loves me to this day. He sees something worthy in me. I love and respect him, so I knew he couldn’t be all wrong. I had to try and see what he saw. Then there was school, where I was an excellent student. And then my career, in which I have been successful. All these things gave me some feelings of worth, some reasons to be proud of myself.

Next and best of all came our babies, these beautiful little human beings who I love so fiercely. And they came from me! I was able to help create such amazing little people. Motherhood has never been easy for me, but regardless, I enjoy it and am good at providing for them.


If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.

Over the years, I kept finding these little things in life I was good at, even if I had a hard time admitting them to myself at first. I knew being good at things was not a requirement of loving myself, but it was somewhere to start. I also learned I didn’t have to be the best at something to be good at it or to find joy in doing it. I definitely wasn’t good at loving myself at first. But all I had to do was keep trying. And in time, persistence paid off.

Life, as it often does, has thrown many more stressful situations my way over the years. I have continued to look for different and healthy coping mechanisms. I have tried many things, and some have made a real difference. Like surrounding myself with positive people, and eating and exercising in a healthy way. And even though it has been the challenge of a lifetime for me, I have not relapsed back to anorexia for more than 10 years.

Through more therapy, meditation and lots of soul-search, I’ve finally found the answers to “why.” These answers have helped the most — and through them, the realization that I did not do this to myself. My eating disorder was not intentional. It was not my fault. It was how my young mind coped with the difficulties of life. But I had the power to change it.

This journey has taught me I am not only in control of my actions, but my thoughts as well. It wasn’t (and still isn’t) easy, but I can retrain my thoughts to be positive instead of negative. In so doing, I learned to change how I feel about myself. I learned to turn my weaknesses into strengths. I now use that perfectionism towards useful and constructive things instead of destructive ones. I’m finding all the things I’m passionate about in life and channeling that energy into them. I am learning to love myself and be happy simply by trying and not giving up.

And I will continue to succeed because I refuse to fail.

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.

A version of this post originally appeared on Mel’s Empty Journal.


I’m writing this to be real with you — with me.

I sat with my counselor as we planned my next session for nine weeks out. Nine weeks. We joked about me doing the “best” out of all her clients. It seems I’ve almost completely beaten you, which seemed impossible only months ago. You don’t control me anymore. I rarely feel the anxiety and depression you used to radiate through my being. I’m allowed to look at the number on the scale when my dietitian weighs me, and I can shrug it off. I now have an internal shredder that destroys each and every note you pass my way, no matter how strong.

It’s not always easy, though. I win every battle with you these days, yes, but some are devastatingly exhausting. I’m fighting my own body to “lose weight,” all while not letting it trigger a relapse. You tell me I’m not losing fast enough — that I’m not eating the perfect foods to reach my goal when and how I should. I shred those lies to pieces, but sometimes that shredder gets jammed. Too many notes passed and I start to break. You take my truths and twist them: “When you’re at your body’s ideal weight, you’ll finally be able to relapse and get that ‘anorexic’ look before people — or your body — can stop you.” You tell me my patience with weight loss will pay off when I can watch the weight drop between sessions, gaining enough to fool my team, then losing it all again. You try to give me “hope” for a future with you, as if we’re simply taking a little break for right now.

This letter is to tell you that this is not a break. We’re done. I may get stuck at times, but I’ll unclog my shredder to demolish every last note you send my way. I am in control of my mind, not you. I don’t need you to survive, but you need me for your survival. I’m glad to watch you wither away. I’m finally happy, finally free. You will never take that from me again.

Goodbye forever,


Image via Thinkstock.

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.

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