A Safer Escape

By Kenzi RomeJune 11, 2015

How does a 14-year-old girl find her life consumed by anorexia and bulimia? I was a gymnast, well aware of eating disorders, but even I still can’t provide a satisfying answer. I vividly remember the night I made my decision. I was sitting in an airplane seat, and I remember the blackness outside the windows and the yellow glow of my personal light illuminating whatever I was reading. How or why I got the idea to start on this path eludes me now.

I realize now that my eating disorder developed, in a perverse way, as an attempt to save myself from spiraling out of control. I couldn’t stop the thoughts and urges to hurt myself, and that scared me. I didn’t want to hurt myself. I vividly remember thinking that if I could control something so fundamental to my existence as my appetite and eating, then maybe I could learn to control my impulses. At that time, all I knew was that I needed what seemed like a safer escape before things got even more dangerous.

Everything spiraled quickly. I wanted to stop, but I was too consumed with my obsession. I was so full of rage and self-hatred. I deserved this. To be punished. To be empty. If I had control over my weight then maybe I could morph into a better person, one who was worthy of love and praise. Rejection would be less painful if I had the body I needed. The pattern made me feel powerful. I could be better than those that hurt me because I had self-control. I thought I was achieving perfection.

Looking back I can see that I was desperate to be listened to, to be believed. The depression seemed lost in a recess of my mind, invisible to the outside world. Through my changing shape, I could signal to those around me that I truly needed help. Maybe someone would intervene.

Finally, my despair was visible. The whispers and concern only fueled my obsession. How dare they think they can help me now when I needed their help so long ago? Why is my pain finally good enough when I have an eating disorder? Why was it only a mockery when I self-injured? The anger flared. Ironically, the thing I thought would bring me control only served to spiral me further into chaos.

What is so often forgotten is that eating disorders are more a disease of the mind than the body. No matter how far I get from the throes of the disorder, the distorted thoughts don’t go away. Maybe I can learn to ignore them, to tuck them into a dark recess of my brain where I only occasionally have to acknowledge their presence, but this disease never disappears. It follows me everywhere I go; I just get to choose how much power to give it. I get to choose how much I want to fight back.

I didn’t want to die because of this disease. I wanted to live, and I wanted to live a life that wasn’t dominated by the eating disorder in my head. I desperately wanted to be healthy. I wanted to be able to tell my little girl that she is beautiful no matter what. I wanted her to know her worth isn’t going to be found in her size. I wanted her to know that she never needs to step on a scale for validation.

Over the years, I got help. There were many years of counseling. There were the outpatient treatments and body image workshops. Throughout it all, I had to learn impulse control and how to figure out the root of my anger and self-hatred. I had to find forgiveness for the ways I had hurt myself.

It has been 13 years since I sat on that plane, but hardly a moment goes by that I don’t have to fight with my mind. I have to let the thoughts just bounce back to the darkness from which they came. I have to reaffirm the things I know to be true. I am strong. I am powerful. I take care of my body. I nourish it to the best of my abilities.

My value is in who I am as a person. It has nothing to do with my size. My value is in my intellect, my work ethic, and my generosity. I will continue to fight this battle every day for the rest of my life. But every morning I will wake up and know that I am alive. I will know that I have persevered, that I have won. And I will never let my eating disorder take me down again.

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Comments (14)

  1. Eskymama

    “My value is in who I am as a person. It has nothing to do with my size.” … Yes. “My value is in my intellect, my work ethic, and my generosity.” … No, these attributes can be taken from by disease or circumstance. You deserve to be loved and valued because you exist. You are to be valued because in this vast expanse of dead universe … you are a spark of life on a teeming planet of life. You are rare in the cosmos.

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  2. Mary

    Thank you for sharing and reminding me the importance of loving myself. Some days are easier than others, but I know to take one day at a time. Struggling with depression is a battle, but at least I know I have the hope and ability to fight it. Thank you.

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  3. Hannah

    I love this! It makes me think of all they years I hurt myself in different ways and fought with my mind and depression. It makes me think of how much I’ve grown and overcome my past! Thank you for sharing!

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  4. Vitoria

    I’ve been where you have been. And now I’m standing dangerously in the edge of the cliff again…there’s so much pressure, everyone telling you that you need to have a perfect body… I don’t know.
    What I do know is that I’m glad to see you win your battle everyday. I hope I’m able to win mine too.

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  5. Kristin

    Thank you for sharing your words, Kenzi! Your bravery and self-awareness are inspiring. Sending lots of TWLOHA love your way.

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  6. Dr. Sharon Wooten

    may I suggest an author you may want to read. He passed away about two years ago. Brennan manning. You can find him on the web, books and books. I have had problems with fear, guilt and anxiety. I pray for you and hope you will find the real true peace that passes all understanding.

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    1. Kenzi

      Thank you. I will look up his works.

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  7. Paige

    I’ve read soooo many articles. But not one of them has ever been as spot on to my exact feelings as this one. Thank you.

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    1. Kenzi

      Paige- I tried so hard rewriting this piece wanting it to be able to accurately speak for all of us. And it means so much to me that you took the time to let me know I accomplished this. We can do it girl!

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  8. Morgan

    “Why is my pain finally good enough when I have an eating disorder?”… I have thought the exact same thing. I too remember the day I decided to purse all the eating disorder promised. I wanted my visible pain and disease to speak for me the hurt I was feeling because for so long no one would listen. This post hit home for me majorly because it was like I was reading my own thoughts. Thank you for posting. I pray you can find complete freedom from ED. I know God can heal… redeem… and remove this darkness from your life!

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  9. Kathleen

    Hello. I appreciate very much what you shared. I can relate a lot. I had a therapist tell me something that I heard for the first time, whether anyone else had said it to me, I don’t know. She said the reason I am special/valuable is because no one else sees/thinks/talks/laughs/is like me. That meant a lot to me. I’m special not because I do something well “enough” or well at all but because there is no other me and no one else can see/think/talk/laugh be like me as well as I can. I hope you find some peace and maybe even joy in that idea too. 🙂

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  10. Zoe

    Thank you so much for sharing this relates to me so much and I’ve shared this with my family and this means so much to me for sharing your story

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  11. Suz


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  12. Amelia

    This article is pretty spot-on with my experience, and so well describes how our eating disorders do often help us with something even scarier in the beginning. That part is really hard for me to describe or other people to understand!
    That voice did hide away in the shadows of my brain for many, many years, occasionally coming out to say “hi” and see if she might again be welcome. But that voice *can* finally go away completely if it’s told “no” for enough years!

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