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How My Eating Disorder Became an Alarm System

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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.

I was 11 when I was first taken to see somebody about my fears. “My fears,” my parents called them. In fact, they were almost paralyzing thoughts that I couldn’t stop thinking about all the horrors of the world. They had been there for as long as I could remember. I don’t know where they came from. Maybe it was my grandmother’s Holocaust stories, maybe it was growing up in a country that was in a constant state of war, or maybe it was just those fairytales we all tell kids; about witches who try to eat innocent children or poison innocent women. I was terrified of the world.

I was always told I was too sensitive. I cared about everything, empathized with everyone. “Life was too hard,” they all said. If I were to survive and, more importantly, succeed in this world, I needed to toughen up…for my own good. Well, if this “life” business is so scary and painful, why should I want to have anything to do with it?

Life didn’t come easily or naturally to me. I looked around and I saw people going to work, making friends…eating. They seemed to be good at this “life” thing. They didn’t seem to feel like I did; that they were walking through every day wearing cement boots. I felt like an alien. I was merely visiting earth; I wasn’t truly from here. The ways of the world felt foreign to me.

When I developed anorexia at 13, it was to me the opposite of a suicide attempt. My anorexia was the only way my subconscious could devise to make it possible for me to stay alive. Not fully committing to life, but not dying, either.

Anorexia allowed me to remove myself from the world, while staying in it; to dull the pain of my soul by inflicting pain on my body; to make me believe there could be a place for me, by taking up less and less physical space.

Anorexia distracted me from my fears just enough to live another day.

With time I learned to think of my eating disorder as an alarm bell, a way my particular psyche has found to signal to me that I am feeling distress, anxiety, pain.

Now, when I look in the mirror and feel uncomfortable, or when I suddenly become preoccupied with what I eat, instead of falling down that rabbit hole again, I ask myself what really bothers me, what truly scares me, and how I can be my own ally who will get me through it.


A version of this story originally appeared

Photo credit: KatarzynaBialasiewicz/Getty Images

Originally published: June 28, 2019
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