Growing up, I was never one to focus on my appearance, but things changed when people began to teach me that how I looked determined what I was worth. Being the perfectionist that I am, being made to believe that I wasn’t enough wasn’t something I was equipped to handle.
So I did what I was told would fix the problem: I lost the weight. But I didn’t know then that losing one pound would turn into losing forty and that every time I reached my self-proposed “ideal weight,” my head would scream, “Not enough!” I developed an eating disorder that presented itself as a solution. But losing weight was never the solution I needed, and as the scale dropped, so did my self-worth.
I was told that “pretty” was important, so that was what I tried to be. I starved. I made myself throw up. I lost sleep. I lost weight. But mostly, I lost myself.
There is nothing pretty about crying on the floor of a dressing room, unable to see yourself as you really are. There’s nothing to be proud of when you’ve lost the strength to walk to class without getting dizzy. Society commercialized the thing that was breaking me and convinced others that this sickness was beautiful, that this was all worth it to be called thin.
It was not worth it.
My eyes didn’t shine like they used to. I began to see my ribcage, but in exchange acquired a heart that struggled to beat. I lost the weight, but I also lost my joy, my energy, my strength, my hope, and my ability to do all of the things that I loved.
But I did it. I lost the weight.
Society, aren’t you proud of me?
Some people say that eating disorders aren’t real, that they are simply a diet gone wrong. They think the solution is as simple as, “Just eat.” People think we’re just doing it for attention, that we’re vain and selfish. But nobody dies from an eating disorder for attention. I did not destroy my life for the sake of being more desirable, for the sake of having more eyes on me.
Eating disorders are very real and very dangerous. They have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, but struggling with one doesn’t have to be a death sentence. There is hope in recovery, and there is help available.
My eating disorder took over my life, but it did not and will not succeed. My worth was never based on my weight; my worth was deemed the moment I came into existence. The truth is that losing weight never changed my view of myself; it just made me very sick. I couldn’t live life adequately when I didn’t have the energy to get up in the mornings, and I was never meant to live a life of survival—I am here to thrive. That is why I chose to recover. Because I am enough. Because I am loved. Because I want to thrive. Dealing with an eating disorder was not my choice, but recovery was.
And that’s why I’m writing this. Because recovery is not an easy choice to make. Because people who don’t struggle don’t always understand. Because darkness makes our struggles seem scarier, but bringing them into the light gives us power over them. I don’t want people struggling to be too afraid of judgment to speak up. Hope is very, very real, but getting help requires asking for it.
If you know someone who is struggling, please reach out to them. Let them know that they are loved and that you are by their side.
To those who are still struggling: You can make it out of this alive. Your worth has never been defined by your weight or how you look. Please reach out and ask for help. I know the idea of recovery is scary, but nothing is scarier than staying in this hell we’ve been allowing ourselves to live in. There is so much joy in living a life of freedom. I know because I found it.
I lost myself, but in recovery I’ve found hope.