You know, I was never great in high school. I mean, to be fair, I wasn’t a bad student by any means. I did a lot of stuff, made a lot of friends, volunteered, got decent grades, got into a four-year university, and did what I needed to do. But what I was really good at, what I was meant to do, was to control. The thing that I was the best at controlling was what food I put into my body and how much of it I chose to consume and when.
I know this sounds twisted, right? Here I am writing a blog post for a mental health organization, speaking out about my struggle with an eating disorder, and I am starting t it off with how good I was at it. But here’s the thing, when I felt like my life was spiraling, my relationships were crumbling, and my world was about to change in a significant way, I had the urge to cling to what I knew. And what I knew how to do, more than anything else, was how to hate myself. So, I started to think about what would happen if I acted on this hate—maybe I could accomplish some amazing goals for myself? Maybe I could make others like me more? Maybe I would like myself more? As a person who loves a plan, I started by doing what I always did: I made a plan.
I was in my final semester of high school, and the last really important thing I needed to do was to pass the AP Economics exam and so I began spending my days at my local Starbucks, and I mean days. I was on a first-name basis with most of the baristas there and I adored them (especially when they would give me my coffee for free). There were very few days out of the week that I wasn’t at Starbucks, spending at least six hours there taking practice exams hoping I could somehow figure out how supply and demand worked before exam day came. Really though, what I loved the most about spending my days at Starbucks, was that no one was around to tell me when or what I should eat. My local Starbucks became a very dangerous place for me to be, but it was my eating disorder’s favorite place in the world.
Exam day came, and by some miracle, I passed my economics exam and earned myself three whole college credits—I am not sure that it was worth it.
About six months later, I had begun my freshman year at the previously mentioned university, and what do you know, I am still spending a ridiculous amount of time at Starbucks. What I refused to believe at the time, and that I know all too well now, is that I was about a hundred feet deep into an eating disorder that was destroying my existence. The funny thing about this, maybe I shouldn’t say funny, is that I knew something was wrong. But the voice telling me that I needed help was much softer than my eating disorder telling me how proud it was of me—someone was proud of me.
People started asking questions as my body had changed a lot. I was thin and I was thrilled about it. How could anything possibly be wrong when I was thin? That goal I mentioned earlier, the one about how I would like myself more, didn’t go exactly how I had planned. Because I still hated myself, and it was much worse now, and I wasn’t just thin—I was physically sick.
Although I was actively seeing a therapist, I was avoidant about anything having to do with my body or food. Those torturous thoughts were for me only. Instead, I spent sessions rambling on about how stressed I was with school, how busy I was, and how terrible things were with my ex-partner. Any thoughts of food and my body stayed with me, until one day I just couldn’t do it anymore.
The day I decided I wanted to get better and was going to open up to my therapist, I slept through my alarm. I arrived at the session looking like a car wreck in human form, pleading for help. I was inconsolable. I wasn’t immediately better following my confession. I wasn’t. It took years to get where I am right now. But every day leading to this point, I have been grateful that I showed up to therapy that day—even if it was only for 20 minutes.
Those were 20 very important minutes, and here’s why:
As a current MSW (Master of Social Work) student, we talk a lot about the strengths-based practice. We find the strengths in people and communities even when it doesn’t seem like there could possibly be any. I am here to tell you, that day in therapy, the one where I looked like a total mess and was at my lowest of lows, that was one of my strongest days. I am proud that I showed up.
Because recovery starts with vulnerability. It starts with honesty. It starts with showing up.
You are more than a number on a scale or a measuring tape. You are human. Messy and whole, capable of so many good things, regardless of your body’s shape. We encourage you to use TWLOHA’s FIND HELP Tool to locate professional help and to read more stories like this one here. If you reside outside of the US, please browse our growing International Resources database. You can also text TWLOHA to 741741 to be connected for free, 24/7 to a trained Crisis Text Line counselor. If it’s encouragement or a listening ear that you need, email our team at [email protected].