When I Realized 'Anorexia' Wasn't a Dirty Word
“Anorexia” is a word I used to shy away from. It sounded so harsh and shameful coming or of my mouth. I though it was this label that would degrade my worth, but through years of battling it and years in recovery, I have come to a place where I realize anorexia is not a dirty word. I am not defined by my anorexia and it doesn’t make me any less of a person. In fact, I believe it has made me a better person.
My unhealthy relationship with food and my body began when I was 11 and developed into anorexia nervosa when I was 14. I tried to hate my body into becoming something I would love. I measured my worth in numbers: my weight, how many calories I ate or burned, hours spent exercising, the size of my clothes — and I never measured up. I had impossible standards for myself which led to so much hatred and insecurity. My mind became consumed by thoughts of food and weight loss, I was controlled by my need to be perfect. Even as the number on the scale got smaller and smaller, I couldn’t see myself as anything but a failure.
I shut out the people who loved me in order to protect the very thing that was slowly killing me. I thought my eating disorder gave me control and a sense of purpose and identity. I didn’t see the deadly consequences, or I guess I chose to ignore them. I convinced myself the pain, the hair loss, the lack of energy, the depression, the fear, the dizziness, the emptiness — was worth it. It felt like giving up my life was worth it. Thankfully I have a family who saw through my deception and my lies that I was “fine” and just trying to be “healthy.” My incredible parents made the very difficult decision to send me to inpatient treatment in Arizona during my freshman year of college — and it saved my life. I started to learn how to eat again. I learned recovery was possible. I learned tools and steps to face and overcome my biggest fear in order to get my life back.
If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.
Anorexia isn’t something I chose, but recovery is something I have to choose every single moment of every single day. I thank God everyday that He never gave up on me and that He gave me a family and friends who never will either. I could not have begun recovery alone. I had to learn how to ask for support and then let those people help me.
I am a Christian and I have anorexia, but the two are not mutually exclusive. I believe God has led me through this terrifying path so I can help other people.