For the past five years, I have dealt with an eating disorder, otherwise known as Anorexia Nervosa (Ana for short). Ana has consumed my mind, invaded my thoughts, and has harmed my body for far too long.
Ana believes that she embodies the power to tell me what I can or cannot eat. She tells me that if I decided to eat, I can only eat vegetables because they are low in fat. I would rather consume carbohydrates because they fuel my body and satisfy my hunger. However, what Ana tells me to consume overpowers what I wish to eat. She has the upper hand.
When I look into the mirror every morning, I see a girl who is a healthy weight for her height and age. Ana, however, has convinced me that substantial amounts of fat are hanging from my body. Because of her, it is engraved into my mind that the number on the scale should be low enough for me to be considered underweight. Ana believes that I am overweight and worthless if I do not reach this unrealistic standard that she has set for me.
During my freshman year of high school, I noticed myself comparing the shape of my body to upperclassman girls. This is where my Ana began to develop a mind of its own. I was required to take a health course that year which touched on the topic of eating disorders. I learned about the different types of eating disorders such as Bulimia and Anorexia Nervosa, and that they typically develop during puberty. It was also brought to my attention that people who suffer from Anorexia Nervosa tend to constantly weigh themselves, restrict a number of calories that they consume, and view themselves as overweight when they are underweight. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that I possessed the textbook tendencies of those who suffer from Anorexia Nervosa.
Because of what I have experienced with Ana, I believe that this disease begins to consume an individual beginning with obsession. This obsession could be to lose a few pounds, following trendy diets, or wishing to look a certain way. I became obsessed with the calorie content in food, fixated on exercising, and would go to extreme measures to make sure I lost weight. I would limit my fat intake to one gram a day (if that) and dehydrate myself because of the fear of water weight. Some nights, I would sleep with layers of sweats on in hope of losing an extra pound overnight. I recall having to sit in the shower because I did not have enough energy to stand. I grew distant from lifelong friends and became too self-conscious to even consider talking to boys. High school should be full of fun school events, laughter, and enjoying life while it was easy. When I think of high school, I think of events I missed, sleepless nights due to an empty stomach, and wishing I was dead.
During this time, I did not know what I was doing to my body and mind. The only thing I would think about was losing weight. I could not stop.
Once one becomes obsessed, the disease becomes more difficult to cure. Anorexia Nervosa is known for having the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. When seeking treatment for this type of illness, there are three main options; inpatient, outpatient, and self-recovery. Inpatient treatment can last anywhere from one to three months. This type of treatment consists of having various meetings with doctors and counselors, eating from a meal plan, and being watched at all times. Outpatient treatment is where one is given a meal plan to follow at home and has to check in at a medical facility weekly to make sure they are on track for recovery. Self-recovery is the path that I pursued.
When one does not seek professional help and recovers, it is typically referred to as self-recovery. This process can be described as frustrating, emotional, and stressful. After battling for five years through the darkest time of my eating disorder, I decided to turn my life around. I became too weak to get out of bed and nearly fainted multiple times. I constructed a meal plan for myself after researching for hours online and made internet friends who were also on the road to recovery.
During the beginning of my recovery journey, I broke down when food was presented in front of me. All I could think of the calorie content and how much weight I was going to gain. This went on for a year. Eventually, I gained weight and was able to start exercising again (only an hour each day). However, this was only possible because I wanted to recover.
One cannot force someone with this illness to recover if they do not want it for themselves. I am not fully recovered, I have mental battles every single day. Although, I am weight restored thanks to the support from my family and the hope that I held onto throughout the recovery process.
Hope is what keeps us going. Hope is what drives us to do incredible things. Empowered by hope, I am able to see that there is more to me than my eating disorder."