Hannah Grice

@hannah-grice | contributor
they call her a sunflower, for she stands tall to always find the sunlight
Hannah Grice

Letter to My Friend Who I Lost to an Eating Disorder

Hi Nicole, it’s me. It’s the girl who first saw you in a group during treatment and took note of how gorgeous you were. I was jealous when I first saw you, as I compared every ounce of myself to you. I remember your pearl earrings, your turquoise Pandora ring, flannel and white Vans, which I soon took note of as your trademark outfit. I remember how you stayed quiet, while the other patients shared how they felt about whatever the group topic was. I remember your sense of peace. I wasn’t in treatment for long before you transitioned into my program. After your first day in the partial-hospital, I was certain you weren’t coming back. I listened to the other girls talk to you, and I listened as you said how much you hated it here. That is something all of us girls and guys bonded over in treatment, our resentment of the place that was supposed to be saving us from our eating disorders. I learned later on that not everyone can be saved. I remember telling you I would eat the pudding you hated so much with you so you didn’t have to do it alone. I remember going to the Pandora store, getting the My Princess ring we talked about and showing you how pretty it was after I got it. I remember you looking through my altered book, telling me how you liked my art. I remember playing Bananagrams, and you asking us how to spell words you were unsure of. I remember Occupational Therapy group, where you tried time and time again to make a bracelet with the tiny beads, getting fed up with how small they were, then laughing together after they all fell off the string. I remember the day you wore a dress because your doctor “made you,” and telling you how cute you looked, even though you hated it as it showed your body. I remember the little things, which now, seem to be so important. Nicole, I wish I had been able to be there for you. I wish I could’ve told you that you had the world in front of you, and in recovery, we both could’ve taken it by storm. Both coming from Catholic high schools, we shared a small bond that no one else on the unit did, but I wish I could’ve told you I understood you so much more. I wish I could’ve told you how beautiful you were and how you lit up the room when you smiled. I wish I could’ve helped you more and been there for you during the times when your eating disorder put you at your lowest. I wish I could’ve been the friend you needed, to encourage you, to talk to you and to listen to the struggles you had but that we also shared. I wish I would’ve given you the hug you needed. I wish I could’ve helped you pick up the pieces and grasp just how enough you were. I wish we had more time. To the girl who got tired in the fight against her eating disorder, I hope you can look down and see how loved you were, how strong you were and how beautiful you were. I hope in Heaven there aren’t eating disorders, depression or self-harm. I hope by the loss of your life, you have saved someone else. I hope you saw the fundraiser I put together for you, allowing me to send almost $800.00 to the National Eating Disorders Association in your memory. I hope you know on the days when I struggle to hold my own recovery together, I think of you and vow to myself that I will do this for you. I hope, that one day, I will see you again. 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 struggle with self-harm and you need support right now, call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741 . For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here . We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here. Image via Thinkstock.

Hannah Grice

A Letter to the Girl With in Eating Disorder Treatment This Christmas

To the girl spending her holidays in the hospital: It’s me, the girl who was in your position this time last year. Instead of decorating the tree with my family, I was decorating my arms with scars. Instead of eating Christmas cookies with my cousins, I wasn’t eating at all. Instead of spending the holidays at home, I was confined to the four walls of a hospital where I was being treated for my eating disorder. Growing up, I took for granted waking up in my own house on Christmas morning, wearing new pajamas with a sense of excitement for what would be under my tree. In the hospital, there aren’t Christmas trees because they think you’ll take the ornaments off and try to hurt yourself. There isn’t family, aside from the 6:30 to 8:30 visiting hours. There isn’t happiness. There aren’t presents under the tree. There are only four walls, blankets that aren’t warm enough and breakfast that comes to the dining room in a cart. The only sound of Christmas is from the radio, and the only sight are the crafts you make in your art therapy group. To the girl spending her holidays in the hospital, I will be honest with you, it won’t be fun. It will be hard, very hard. The work you’re doing on and for yourself will be difficult, but I promise it will be worth it. It may be the hardest thing you ever do, but it will also be the most important. You will make meaningful bonds with the other patients, who will become your family Christmas morning, and who you’ll sing carols with over meals. The life you will gain outside of your eating disorder will be better than any wrapped box or present in a bag. When I found out I would spend Christmas confined in a hospital, my heart sank a little. I didn’t have “Christmas cheer.” I had an eating disorder. I wasn’t singing, “Here comes Santa Claus.” I was singing “99 bottles of Ensure on the wall.” I was afraid, thin and broken. I was empty, physically and metaphorically. I was dying. To the girl who is in the place I was last year, I believe in you. I never thought I would be able to handle the treatment process, especially after not sleeping the first night, then being woken up by a nurse at 4:00 a.m. for a finger stick. For the girl who is crying, as her mother tells her she will finally enter treatment, I know your tears all too well. My tears, a sign of fear and relief, came in waterfalls, came in rivers. I know it is not easy. I make no promises that it will be. I promise it will be worth it, and you’ll start living again soon. For the girl who is spending her holidays in the hospital, you are strong. I have no doubt you will enter treatment and return to your life healthier and hopefully happier. Healthy comes before happy in most cases, and for me, I’m still working on happy every day. I’ve been admitted to the same hospital twice, and I am still working on myself each and every day. For you, and for me, it is a process. To the girl who is spending her holidays in the hospital, please don’t give up. I want you to know that you can do this, even when it feels like you can’t. I want you to eat your food and to learn to enjoy it again. I want you to hold onto hope and to stay brave. I know where you’ve been. I’ve been where you’ve been. To the girl spending her holidays in the hospital, go kick ass in there. 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. 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. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Image via Thinkstock.

Hannah Grice

Admitting You Have an Eating Disorder

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. 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.

Hannah Grice

When Loneliness Increases Depressive Episodes

I’m sitting at my computer in the dark listening to the sound of my keys as I type away. I try to focus on the little things when I am getting stuck in an episode of depression, but my mind races until it burns out. I’ve heard episodic depression described in different ways, but for me, I think of myself as a one-legged duck. Once my episode starts, I am just swimming around in a circle until the water changes around me. An episode of depression can start slow, and then ramp up like a hamster running on a wheel. That’s what I’ve learned to call my obsessive and intrusive thoughts — hamsters on a wheel. For a short time, I can experience blissful happiness, but it is always fleeting. There isn’t always a trigger for a depressive episode, but when there is, the feelings seem to be that much stronger. When I’m around people, specifically people I love, my hamsters seem to sleep the day or night away. But the moment I get in my car to leave, my reality comes back full force. As an introvert, I crave alone time. But as an introvert with a depressive disorder, I have a love-hate relationship with being alone, as it often results in extreme loneliness. Scrolling through Pinterest, I can find photos with quotations overlaid that describe my inner dialogue during a depressive episode: “I just have this happy personality and a sad soul in one body. It feels weird sometimes.” “Please tell me I’m not as forgettable as your silence is making me feel.” “And then I think maybe I was designed to be alone.” The idea of loneliness, although very abstract, feels very tangible in my everyday life. When I use the phrase “I am lonely,” I use it to describe both my inner and outer lives. Inside is easy – I isolate myself from others mentally to keep myself safe. I am terrified of giving too much of myself to someone who may not truly have my best interest at heart, which overflows into how my outside life functions. At the very end of high school, after my first stint of treatment for anorexia nervosa, my best friend stopped talking to me. I didn’t understand why, but I knew I was lonely, and confused about what I had done to make her treat me that way. I found out she was talking about me to my peers, and eventually left me behind as she couldn’t handle my disease’s place in my life anymore. I remember this as a huge impact on my loneliness, and it still rushes through my mind on the hamster wheel to this day. The loneliness has made me afraid of love and care. I am more likely to isolate myself, triggering my own depressive episodes. I am terrified of having people leave if I give too much of myself, and the possibility of being a burden to anyone else scares me into silence. I have too much alone time, too much time to ponder my thoughts that should be as fleeting as my happiness has been lately. My depressive episodes flourish on alone time. I rarely experience them in the presence of others, and when I do, they come in via the thunderstorm approach – dark and quiet, then pouring. I become withdrawn, fixate my focus on one area, and become still. It isn’t until I’m face down, covering my recovery sponsor’s shirt in makeup that I realize I don’t really know what’s going on with me, and curse the medicine the doctors say will slow me down and “normalize” how I feel. There’s nothing about episodes of depression that I can’t beat, but I would be doing an injustice to myself and anyone else who has to walk this path if I said it was easy. My loneliness, whether a cause or result of my depression, is valid, and I am learning that in order to diminish the number of depressive episodes that come my way, I need to be open and honest with the people in my life. I need to let people help me, and hold me when I cry. I need to accept that the past is the past, and not everyone who sets foot in my life will leave the same way others have. I need to break down my own walls, because the walls we build to keep others out are the same walls we use to isolate ourselves.

Hannah Grice

When I Discharged From My Eating Disorder Unit

I woke up this morning knowing the fate awaiting me, the highly coveted discharge send off, paperwork and surveys. I have been through this process once before, as it was six months ago since I last discharged from the same program at the same hospital. I must say, leaving a place is always bittersweet, but this time, it was more sweet than bitter. I remember the last time I discharged, part of me was sad to leave the staff, the new illicit friendships I made with the other patients and the excitement over decent therapeutic lunches and winning at Bananagrams. At the time, I was still teetering back and forth between fully embracing recovery and holding onto just enough of my disease to validate to myself I had a problem. In six months time, I found myself back at the starting point of recovery after losing all of the weight I previously gained in treatment and taking too much of my pain out on myself. I woke up absolutely exhausted this morning. There is still speculation as to whether or not it was a function of nerves, the impact of the refeeding process on my body or the medication that still isn’t high enough to slow my head down. I got out of bed, changed into a T-shirt dress, white vans and a pair of socks that read, “You’re beautiful. Don’t change,” as a small piece of motivation to get through my final day on the unit. I arrived at the hospital, grabbed my purse from the passenger seat and walked up to the door for the last time. I think somewhere in my head I was trying to remind myself this really was the last time and coming back was not an option to be entertained. The nursing staff always tell us, “If you need to come back, then it’s OK.” This time, it wouldn’t be OK. From what I’ve noticed, frequent flyers of the unit tend to get comfortable, whether that be comfortable with a break from their “real world,” more comfortable with acting on symptoms or as my charge nurse said this morning, “Some people just like us too much.” I refuse, from this moment on, to settle for comfortable when it comes to my eating disorder. I changed into my paper-napkin gown, carried my clothes to the treatment room and answered the same questions I get asked every day during processing. No suicidal thoughts? No self-harm ? No acting on your eating disorder? For someone who struggles with her confidence, I confidently could answer I didn’t have any issues and was feeling good and ready to discharge. The nurse told me she was looking forward to seeing my doctor’s order for discharge in the computer. Breakfast came and went, as did supplement and water break.The mental health worker knows my supplement flavor of choice. We were able to share a laugh when she spilled a cup of water, not only all over the floor, but all over her scrub pants. It wasn’t after long that I met with my doctor, someone who had both frustrated me immensely on occasion, but gave me more time off the unit than I ever imagined having in such a short stint of treatment. She told me I didn’t make weight this morning, leaving me horrified for her next statement. Yet, she still went with the original plan of discharging me. She ran through my diagnosis list, one that sometimes feels as though it’s a mile long, without an end in sight. We discussed my follow-up care plans and ended as she did every meeting, “Thank you very much.” I jumped for joy in my Occupational Therapy Task group, which over time became known to me as the group where I just make bracelets, but my favorite group nonetheless. I constructed three bracelets, but the most meaningful bearing the word, “Be.” After my last discharge and falling into the depths of anorexia again, one of my support figures looked at me and said, “You can’t be the woman you’re going to be if you’re still trying to hold onto the girl you used to be.” This idea stuck with me so much so I used it as my senior quote, forever a reminder of the battle I endured and of the recovery I hoped to maintain. Groups finished for the day right before lunch, a meal I jokingly referred to as my “last supper.” When the meal came to a close, I signed my discharge paperwork after reading through the diagnoses and medications that the doctor previously discussed with me. Signing the paper this time felt just as good as it did last time. My doctor put in an order for me to be dismissed from the program at 3:00 p.m., a time I couldn’t wait to lay my eyes on. When the time came, reality did too, as I realized what discharging truly means. Discharging means freedom, freedom from the confinement of the unit, the rules and the sometimes less than sub-par meals. Discharging means flushing my own toilet (as weird as it sounds, it is something I can truly appreciate after being hospitalized), walking around in socks without grips on the bottom and being able to have laces in my shoes. Discharging means leaving, leaving the place that helped to get me healthy but also leaving the disorder that destroyed me from the inside-out at the hospital. Discharging means the physical contact of a hug, the sweet scent of sunflowers and being able to just, be. 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.

Hannah Grice

Eating Disorder Recovery: Robert Fulghum and the Kindergarten Lesson

I can recall the days I walked to kindergarten with my father, arriving to school early as “the early bird always catches the worm.” I wore my oversized polo shirt, white tennis shoes which would soon turn gray with wear, and navy shorts bearing the name of the school I was attending. The alphabet lessons, simple addition, and minimal strings of foreign language were my classroom lessons, yet, I fondly recollect the more important and seemingly more abstract ideas I carry with me to date. Robert Fulghum discusses the prospect of true life lessons, including how to live, what to do, and how to be, as lessons with a root in kindergarten. Thirteen years later, at 18 years old, I can honestly say I agree with Fulghum. A lesson I find myself consistently returning to from my childhood is the overall idea of appearance being the least important aspect of what truly makes a person. In some senses, yes, appearance is important, however, my mind wanders to the more abstract and mature idea of our bodies being beautiful when they house a beautiful soul. Personally, my childhood lesson of focusing less on appearance and more on what each and every one of us have inside, is one that shapes how I live, what I do, and how I want to and choose to be. Growing up, change is truly inevitable, and when society changes or life throws a curve ball, the way we live may face unexpected alterations. From a young age, I have had a skewed view of who I am, in terms of body image and being able to genuinely like who I am. This view of myself, constructed from as young as kindergarten age, resulted in a battle with an eating disorder beginning intensely my junior year of high school. As someone who wasn’t necessarily content with my body, I still chose to nourish it, never entertaining the idea of starving myself and denying myself the right to eat. However, when life became unbearable with school, family, and friends, I turned to anorexia, which ultimately changed the way I was living. I lost the core of my childhood lesson, living in a disorder that leftme focused on my weight and appearance 99.9 percent of the time. After struggling with anorexia nervosa for two years, I was finally able to admit myself to treatment to battle my internal and intrusive thoughts that left me struggling on a daily basis. As I became healthier, my childhood lesson began to shine through cracks. I was becoming happier, as my mood was stimulated by the nutrition and medicinal assistance I was providing myself. Gaining weight was not easy, yet, I began to feel at home in my body again, trying to accept it for whatever size it would be at my goal weight. Simultaneously, I was completing treatment each day and working in my campaign to create awareness of eating disorders and the impact of negative body image on society as a whole. This is how my childhood lesson had an impact on the things I do. For the last four years, I have been a co-presider of a campaign that has reached thousands of individuals, consisting of those who are and are not affected by eatingdisorders. My involvement in the campaign has allowed me to be an advocate forthe men and women who are in my old shoes, without an advocate or anyone tospeak up for the help they need. My recovery is shaping each and every day and giving me the opportunity to share my more-than-appearance based childhood lesson. Fulghum addresses the idea of “how to be,” and I find this to be a difficult one to speak on. Societally, we are seemingly always told to be and act a certain way. This isthe very conception that helped fuel my eating disorder, leaving me with the impression that I had to be thin to be beautiful. However, returning to my lesson from kindergarten, there is no wrong way to look or to have a body. Logically this is a concept I know very well, yet, in the mind of an eating disorder, my body is wrong unless I am a skeleton dying in a hospital bed. In my recovery, I am not only relearning how to eat, but also relearning how to accept myself upon more than my outward appearance. Through the lesson from my childhood, I am able to recall that I should live according to what my body needs, rather than giving into the standards of society. I am remembering that for me to help other people, I need to be the best me I can, which means maintaining my recovery, speaking the truth, and creating the peaceful acceptance of my body originally learned in my kindergarten past. Image via Thinkstock.

Hannah Grice

Meeting My Goal Weight in Eating Disorder Recovery

Yesterday, I woke up and put on jeans that finally fit me. Yesterday, I ate breakfast and splurged on a coffee because I was so content with the way my clothes were fitting me. Yesterday, my doctor looked at me with a smile on her face. Yesterday, she told me she was impressed with my progress. Yesterday, I looked back at her and jokingly remarked that she was about ready to throw my ass back into the inpatient program about a month ago. Yesterday, I weighed in at my goal weight. No, it is not the unrealistic number I calculated perfectly to keep me at the body mass index that would validate to me and everyone else that I have an eating disorder. No, it is not something I plastered in the bio section of a “recovery” Instagram account. No, it is not unhealthy for my height. My goal weight, defined by my treatment team, is the minimum weight considered to be safe for my height. Anything below my minimum safe weight is considered to be underweight, and thus, in my mind, still qualifies me as sick. It’s a paradoxical phenomenon to be in the brain of someone with an eating disorder. Allow me to paint a picture of words for you: As someone with an eating disorder, I have attempted to disconnect myself from my body. At the same time, my body is my mode of communication for how I am feeling – when I am happy, I am goofy and smile a lot; however, when I am stressed, I am eating less, looking more glum, and genuinely struggling with minimal life tasks. In the height of my eating disorder, it was evident I was sick in some way, shape or form. That lower weight solidified my feelings; it validated I was indeed “sick enough” to have anorexia-nervosa. Where the paradox comes in is here: as an advocate for those affected by eating disorders, I like to make it very known that there is no look, shape, or size to an eating disorder. There is no defining mark of being “sick enough,” and in fact, many who experience eating disorders never reach the point of being “underweight for their height.” Now that I have reached my goal weight, I must say, it is a bit off-putting. It’s almost as if I worked so hard at losing the weight just to gain it all and back and be miserable… but I’m not miserable. Someone asked me how I felt about weighing in xxx pounds – I’m not sad about reaching my goal weight. I am the complete opposite. I am thrilled about reaching a goal that seemed almost impossible a month ago. I am proud of myself for agreeing to renter treatment even though I had to make several sacrifices. I am content with having made weight in treatment and continuing to be successful at a means of saving my own life. Meeting my goal weight doesn’t mean xxx pounds. It doesn’t make me a failure, which for someone with an eating disorder, is a valid and real feeling after weight gain. It doesn’t always feel good, but when change is inevitable and recovery is worth it, we have to be willing to be uncomfortable. It doesn’t mean I no longer have an eating disorder. It just means that I am beating it. Image via Thinkstock.

Hannah Grice

What Having Anorexia the First Week of College Is Like

For my family and friends on Facebook, it comes as no surprise when I tell them I started college this week. They’ve liked and commented on my photos, wishing me well and sending good vibes. But for my new college peers, they may be surprised to find out I have an eating disorder. I chose my college for the way I felt when I stepped onto campus. The cliché that we always hear from student recruiters is my truth. I feel at home there. Not to mention my scholarship package made it an offer I couldn’t turn down, and I was on my way to committing myself to the university before someone had a chance to ask me if I was sure about my decision. I didn’t have to question whether or not I chose the right university, and I still don’t. As a freshman, I found myself pondering the typical dilemmas of a college student. What if I gain the “freshman 15”? How am I going to keep all of my classes straight? Can I have a social life and an extra-curricular filled schedule all while maintaining my GPA? But, I also found myself pondering the typical dilemmas of an individual with anorexia. What if I relapse again? How am I going to keep myself ‘sane’? Can I maintain recovery? These are the “intrusive thoughts” they talked about in treatment. My university put together a four day program known as “Orientation Adventures,” something I have found to be a huge blessing in terms of starting college. It has allowed me to begin on the first day already having a sweet group of friends. I realized on the first day at the ballpark how much of college is focused on eating as a social event, mac n’ cheese cups because that’s all we can afford and Walter’s cookies from the Marketplace, which are just too hard to say no to. As someone in recovery, I found myself excited for a future of eating intuitively, but wondering, with just a small ounce of fear, how I would ever get there. Having an eating disorder during the first week of college isn’t a glamorized story told online about a beautiful girl who got so stressed with her workload, peer expectations and college life that she starves herself to feel something. Having an eating disorder during the first week of college is comparing myself to every girl I saw each day. It’s the sick jealousy of wanting to change the body that people keep trying to convince me is beautiful. Having an eating disorder during the first week of college is eating significantly more than I am used to. All the while, I am trying to brush it off as “eating like a football player” or “loving these cookies so much I can’t stop,” but really I am just trying to keep my cool through each and every meal with peers. Having an eating disorder during the first week of college is wearing a bathing suit at the amusement park and jumping around in the wave pool with my friends. Yet, I am feeling as if I have to keep myself covered and contained as I have such awful thoughts about my body. Having an eating disorder during the first week of college is not all bad, but don’t get the idea that having an eating disorder during college is any kind of good. Let me explain. Having an eating disorder during the first week of college is being willing to explain why I’m eating so much, as my weight rehabilitation plan requires a higher intake. Having an eating disorder during the first week of college is being honest about my struggle and telling stories of the stipulations and restraints I was up against during my hospitalizations. Having an eating disorder during the first week of college is asking how I can bring my eating disorder awareness campaign to campus to teach both guys and girls about the severity of these disorders and how negative body image can impact each and every one of us. I have an eating disorder, and I just completed my first week of college orientation. I have an eating disorder, and I am growing. I am healing. I am pushing forward. Image via Thinkstock. If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorder Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

Hannah Grice

Anorexia Recovery: When an Eating Disorder Feels Like a Fire

Editor’s note: This piece contains descriptions of disordered eating that might be triggering for some. 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. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had issues with my body image and the overall picture of myself in my mind. As young as 8 years old, I was referred to as “the ugly kid” and “the anorexic girl” – when we were all too young to really understand what anorexia really was. Being naturally tall and thin placed me as an ideal candidate for the judgmental comments and stares as others always wondered if I did truly did starve myself to be a model or accepted by the peers who never seemed to be interested in legitimate friendships. Fast forward 10 years later, and I am struggling to recover from my eating disorder for the second time. The disorder I was accused of having as a child entered my life full-fledged two years ago and hasn’t given me a chance to breathe since. Imagine setting up a fire pit. You start with the burning site, your body. Over the years, you are collecting sticks and firewood – each piece coming from your stressors, judgments, unmet expectations, mistakes, and core beliefs. After a period of time, you strike a match and light the fire. But it’s not enough. With anorexia, it is never enough. The fire starts to dwindle, and one day you find yourself in the grips of the disease – which leads you to the gasoline. You pour the gasoline on the fire, and it goes up in flames – burning, messy flames. That is what it is like to start the fire of anorexia. Once your fire is left burning for a time, you can feel yourself getting cold, so you move closer. You move closer, and closer, and closer, until you feel the heat too closely and burn yourself. You jump away in pain and angst, but your coolness remains, and you return to the heat of the flames. This is what it feels like to look in the mirror or step on the scale time after time after time. You throw yourself into the fire even though you know how badly it hurts and burns your body. Being self-conscious of my recovering body feels like it should be normal, but I have tried to disconnect myself from my body so I do not have these feelings. Most days, I am content with making weight and feeling healthier and happier, but nights like tonight I struggle to see through to the positives. It isn’t until I see people in the place I used to be, physically and mentally, that I long for the days I was deep in the fire with a sick sense of jealousy. I find myself looking around my unit at the hell other women and men have wreaked upon their bodies. I long for the thin, for the depressed, for the scars that line the arms of the other patients. I ask myself, “Why do you want that?” and the only response seems to come back is that there is something about my disease that makes me special, or unique, or that there is a strength associated with the discipline of the behaviors. This is where my cognitive distortions find their burning ground. The other night, I looked in the mirror and traced the shape of my body with my index finger. The curves of a woman were there, the hips that will help me to carry a child in the future are there. The curves of my legs, indicative of the strength that exists within them to help me move and navigate the world on a daily basis, are there. My two-minute experience with the mirror was gratifying, yet scary, because I didn’t know it was possible to see my reflection and not hate what I was looking at. I am struggling to accept with a sense of peace my body in the beginning stages of a second shot at recovery. I have not stepped back into the fire by any means, and it is my goal to refrain from returning to the intimacy of the flames. However, some days I find myself comparing my body to others’ bodies, both those with and without an eating disorder. I guess what I am trying to say is if this is where you are, I feel your pain, too. I feel the chill of the disorder, and the heat of the flames begging me to return so I can have the body my disordered thoughts believe I should have. Even though I am feeling the temptation of the flames, I have felt the warmth of the sun on the other side of this battle, and would rather walk by the sun than the fire any day.

Hannah Grice

My Apology Letter to My Body: Where Our Healing Can Begin

In a group centered around body image, the therapist leading the group talked about treating our bodies the way we would treat a friend. I, feeling extremely disconnected from my own body, to the point that it doesn’t feel as though it is my own, stopped to question why I was so cruel to my body. I have spent so much time wreaking havoc on it, that it didn’t occur to me how grateful I should be to have a body that can do so much for me. To the body I am trying to accept and is more than deserving of an apology, this letter is for you. I am sure you remember well the age I would shut down when I got upset, refusing to eat or talk to anyone. I’m sorry I deprived you of food and nutrients because I was upset with an outside party, or more recently, with myself. The age that came before the sporadic bouts of restricting intake, I can clearly remember sitting on my bedroom floor, hittingand punching you to manage my anger. Body, I am sorry I hit you so viciously. About four years ago was the first time I self-harmed. The next four years after that would be filled with scratching. Cutting. Ripping your skin. I never meant to hurt you; I wanted to release the pain that was inside of me. Every last stressor left a scar. Art not good enough? Digging. Fighting with parents? Cutting. Breaking down in the midst of a horrible misunderstanding with my friends? Slice. I wanted to hurt others around me, but that meant hurting you. Body, I am sorry I covered you in scars. I am even more sorry I have left them so visible for both of us to see. Sophomore year was the year I ate lunch with the girls on diets. Watching them use their apps to track what they ate disgusted me, but I seemed more disgusted with the food I gave you. I sporadically had days where eating wasn’t an option. On the days it was an overwhelming choice, we went to the bathroom to try and get rid of it. Walk through the saloon doors, into the stall. Turn around, lock the door. Listen. When the coast was clear, we would use our fingers not for counting, but for craving “the look” the girls at the lunch table talked about. Try once — not this time. Try again, nothing. Once I heard the doors open again, I would flush the toilet like I hadn’t just tried to hurt you, wash my hands and leave. Junior year was when we became “successful” — the absolute sickest meaning of successful I have ever heard. Body, I am sorry I listened to the other girls and wanted to change you. I shouldn’t have tried to hurt you that way, but I tried, and I did hurt you that way. Body, you let me do so much. You let me walk through sunflower fields by giving me strong legs to carry me. You let me pet dogs using my sense of touch. You let me laugh by giving me a voice. You let me see beautiful sunsets by giving me eyes with practically perfect vision. Body, you are constantly trying to keep me alive. You use your platelets to clot my blood when I intentionally or clumsily hurt myself. You break down my food, store my energy, and release waste to maintain an “all-systems-go” status. You utilize my circadian rhythms to regulate my day to day life. Body, we are one. We are the combination of a shell and a soul flowing together the way a bay meets an ocean, to create a beautiful wave that will eventually crash upon the shore, then recede back into the body of water. We are the single seed that grows into a vibrant tree in the middle of the summer, creating leaves and a home to life. We are the culmination of an experience. Body, this is my apology to you. This is for the times I took out my pain on you, starving you and cutting you and throwing you against a wall. This is for the times I cursed you, for the times I hated you. This is for the times I refused to look at you, calling you “fat” in my dresses and “too sickly” in my uniform. This is for the times I didn’t care for you, for the times I didn’t listen to your needs. Body, I am sorry. You were not wrong — there is no wrong way to have you. I am apologizing. This is where our healing can begin. Image via Thinkstock Images 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.