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What Saved Me From the Shame of My Eating Disorder

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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 741741.

Shame is suffocating.

I wanted to take off the bread like I wanted to rip the layers of my skin and ask my bones to carry the burden. I was desperate to reach the ultimate emptiness and rid myself of the pain. I grew the anger beneath my fragility by refusing nourishment.

30 days in a treatment center to uncover years of hiding. Searching for every reason to leave, signing a 72 but erasing the ink. Staying taught me how to breathe, even when I wanted to give up on my lungs. My mother called the facility on the first day to make sure they watched her suicidal daughter; I told her they were always watching.

I played the game: eat the meal, dismiss the unforgivable pain, move up into the next dining hall and get out. 30 days later, on discharge day, I lost when I thought I had finally won. I agreed to enter outpatient treatment the next day with the full intent of never showing up. I was lying to myself out of the desperation to be done. Done being told what to do, done talking about food, done talking about myself. The plastic trays lay heavy and the weight drowned my consciousness; the longing for emptiness never disappeared. I was let off the chain, but I no longer had the energy to run.

I wanted to prove I was ready to leave, but I did not know how to prove something I did not believe. Treatment was not a cure. The complexities of anorexia were so innate that I could not separate the disorder from myself. I hated the process because of the fears it forced me to confront, the anger I had pushed away for so long. I was disregarding negative emotions and shaming my ability to feel, a gift I labeled as a curse. Avoiding emotion with my use of restriction and control kept me from myself. I was told, “the purpose is not to feel better, but to get better at feeling.” Vulnerability saved me.

The day of my admittance, I vowed to get better for my parents when my father’s tears fell on my raw shoulder. I am unable to fully explain those 30 days — they were my own. Finding the internal motivation to heal was what began my recovery. I encountered intelligent and genuinely beautiful human beings with such significant empathy. I am not sure there is an adequate way to truly recognize the individuals who keep your heart beating until you learn to do so yourself. So I will fight to bring my shame into the light and advocate for others as a thank you — it does not have to be suffocating.

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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Getty image via Victor_Tongdee

Originally published: January 6, 2018
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