Today, we’re going to talk about something a little different. Kate recently asked me if I might be willing to answer some questions she has received on her blog Baby Steps My Dear. I agreed somewhat hesitantly as I was unsure as to how I could help. I have empathy for a lot of scenarios, both mental and physical, but I wasn’t entirely certain what she might forward to me.
Fortunately, or unfortunately (I haven’t decided yet), she sent me three questions I actually once struggled with. From my freshman to my senior year of high school, I struggled with an eating disorder. What started out as a brief period of anorexia morphed into a long battle with bulimia. This is only something I discussed with my doctor once I was beginning to move away from it. I know a few friends were aware of the situation, but again it wasn’t something I was necessarily open about. I had watched my sister abuse laxatives for years. I had witnessed the constant up and down both in her mind and in her weight. She never felt comfortable in her own skin and it did take serious tole on her as well as our parents.
I kept my mouth shut about it for a long time. Fortunately, my senior year, I became comfortable with my body. I found a balance with food and exercise and stopped defining myself by the number on the scale. My sister helped a lot as she had found her balance as well – she’s now a BeachBody coach and participates in figure competitions. We both were fortunate enough to become strong at the end of the tunnel. By the time I got to college, I had completely forgotten what it was to fear food. That is not to say that I don’t still have insecurities. Some days, I look in the mirror and I am tempted to hate myself again. When that happens, I remind myself that love is far more healing than hate, and that if I really want to be healthy, I need to treat my body gently and with respect.
It’s been some time since I struggled with an eating disorder, but I will do my very best to answer your questions.
- Eating disorders are addictions and mental illnesses like unto any other. They touch every aspect of your life from relationships to sleep. When you are struggling with these disorders on your own, they quickly become overwhelming. They may feel like they are pulling you under. It may feel as if no one understands you. To justify it, you may turn to social media which idolizes “Ana” and her “benefits.” Let me just say that “Ana” is the biggest B-word around. Whether you are dealing with anorexia or another form of eating disorder, let me just be blunt in saying that it is going to do nothing but ruin your life if you allow it to progress. You don’t have to shout from the rooftops that you’re struggling, but you do need to ask for help. Talk to someone – verbalize your insecurities. Let them be real so that they’re not just the whispers in your head. Confront them. Once you have identified the real enemy, kill it with kindness. Learn to love yourself – learn to let others love you. If you need professional help, seek it out. Don’t allow your demons to destroy your beautiful body. Do you have any idea how lucky you are to be alive? Embrace the fortune in just waking up today. Be gentle with yourself.
2) “How do I stop throwing up?”
- That simple question broke my heart. Sweetheart, whomever you are, the only person who can save you from this is yourself. You can turn to others for support, but you have to dig deep and find the strength in yourself to stop. I remember what it was like after dinner to excuse myself to the bathroom. I remember how it felt to kneel on the cold tile, force a finger or a toothbrush down my throat, and just wretch until it hurt. I remember laying my head on the cool porcelain and being filled with both relief and sadness. You say to yourself, “It’s better than not eating at all, right?” Wrong. You are causing extreme harm to your body. It has the potential to destroy your esophagus, your bones, your teeth, your heart, and your fertility. So, if that is not enough to scare you into not throwing up, let me say this. You are beautiful. You are stronger than this. Whenever you feel that impulse to binge and then purge, I want you to take a moment to consider the body which you inhabit. Consider the miracle that is the heart beating in your chest and the breath in your lungs. Don’t damage that gift. Your life is a miracle. So, when you feel that urge, find a distraction. Call someone, read something, do everything in your power to stay off your knees. You can do this.
3) “I can’t look at food the same anymore and I just wanna be normal. Help.”
- You want to be normal. Darling, what is normal? You look at the people around you and believe that they are not fighting their own battles. You see perfection in their smiles and the shapes of their bodies. You see thin waistlines, reciprocated love, and easy laughter. It’s all a lie, my dear. Your peers are not perfect. They cry, they feel alone, they look in the mirror and struggle to love themselves as well. So, now that we’ve established that normal doesn’t exist, let’s talk about the food part. I don’t know what your perception of food is, whether you are repulsed by it or drawn to it, but I do know that this is a fight both mentally and physically exhausting. You see how others carry on casually, eating meals, snacking, etc. and wonder why you just can’t seem to do the same. I will tell you again that this is a mental illness and that it may require outside help. Are you scared to ask for it? I understand if you are – if you fear being perceived as sick or crazy. This is where I need you to really dig deep into your personal strength. I need you to try as hard as you possibly can to love yourself. You need to save yourself and that means sharing your battle with others. There is empathy in this world for you. Stop being afraid and embrace the chance you have to heal.
It will take time – all of this is a time consuming process. However, I know from both experiencing and witnessing this that it can be beat. You can find your balance. You can learn to love yourself. You can be strong. Please, stop telling yourself that you can’t because you can. There is nothing holding you back now except yourself. So, will you do it? Will you be brave? Will you face yourself in the mirror and finally take a stand? It’s up to you now. If you need to talk, email me or Kate. We are here to listen.
You are beautiful. You may not see it now, but you will. I promise.