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Eating Disorders Can Start at Any Age. Mine Started at 5.

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Editor’s note: If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741-741.

Eating disorders don’t alway develop in the teenage years.

My eating disorder started at age 5. I remember only having diet cokes and salad. I hated my body, I told myself. The thoughts only grew from there — and the eating disorder made me believe lies.

When I was around 8 years old, my mom would send me to the bus stop with a pop tart. I wouldn’t eat the crust, so I threw it in people’s yards — and or threw most of it in people’s yards  — or in my bag. I remember the first time I purged. I remember in third grade trading or giving away my food, not all the time, but I would go through episodes.

Then the school store. My parents always sent me to school with lunch money, but it was the perfect amount for stretchy erasers and more. I didn’t have lunch money and I didn’t eat my lunch. I’m guessing someone told my counselor in aftercare because he came over at lunch time and asked me to eat. I told him I wasn’t hungry and he ordered me something, but I don’t remember if I ate it or not. My friends in class told me they were going to tell on me.

My teacher, who was also my brother’s teacher before, told me, “I know your parents send you with lunch or money, if you don’t eat I am going to call your mom.” I guess I started eating after that. I hated my body.

Then summer of 10th grade, I started not eating to be thin. My best friends ate lunch with me. I started using diet pills and self-harm. I told them I eat at home. The eating disorder is sneaky and makes you tell lies. My parents did not know until later when my mom put an article on my bed about Mary-Kate Olsen coming out and getting treatment. But that was it.

Yes, they knew something was up, but they didn’t know what. I was always in my room. I was the kind of child/teen who didn’t ask my parents for anything. I stayed out of their way. My teacher from ninth grade and 11th grade asked me if I was OK and I’m like ya. She kept checking on me. I was knew she cared. I knew it was out of hand when my grades plummeted, and a friend from elementary saw me and hugged me and told me she was worried about me.

When I was 23, I told my parents I was going into treatment in three days. With each treatment center I learned a little, but I always relapsed. Last year I went into another treatment center and they helped me beat my eating disorder and I was finally happy. I did their partial hospitalization program. Living in a house and making meals and going food shopping was hard and terrifying, but it helped me so much. I haven’t fully relapsed in a year. Yes, I have had some slips, but I pick myself up and I reach out. This year there’s been struggles, but I haven’t relapsed. There is hope. I have known people who’ve had eating disorders in their 60s. I knew one girl who started hiding food when she was 4.

Eating disorders can show up at any age. Please get help — you are not an exception.

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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Thinkstock photo via SinanAyhan

Originally published: April 8, 2017
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