“Dear Anorexia”

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Anonymous, Guest Writer

You started out as just “something I could control” in my life, a manifestation of anxiety – or maybe I was simply seeking attention or influenced by the magazines in the grocery store checkout line with the headlines, “Lose 10 lbs in only one week!” But then, you spiraled so fast out of control I could not stop you from engraving your rules in my brain. You made me pass up my favorite foods, run extra laps on the track, and hide in my room doing jumping jacks.
I was only ten years old and you already consumed me whole. While others ate an oreo without a care in the world, I was tracking every morsel that went into my body. You made me lie to my parents and decline sleepover invites to avoid eating pizza. I was a slave to you. I used to be a happy-go-lucky kid, but then I was hiding food under my sleeves, pouring the smoothies my mom made me down the drain and throwing sandwiches in the garbage. I cried myself to sleep, my stomach grumbling almost as loud as your words. You made me feel guilty for using toothpaste or licking an envelope, causing me to worry over how many calories it had.
When my parents finally noticed you, I felt relieved, like I had finally been “sick enough,” “skinny enough” to be noticed. Like the loving and caring parents they are, they took me to the doctor. I assumed I was going to a normal checkup, but little did I know, they were sending my to an eating disorder inpatient clinic. You took me away from my parents who I missed so so much. You made me yell at them, “I hate you! You are making me fat!” I hope they know that I am truly sorry for all the pain I caused them. My first night the nurse had to run an EKG to make sure my heart was still working properly. I still remember how the nurse’s cold hands seemed to sting my chest of pure skin and bones.
The scary thing is that you made me proud of my protruding ribs – like it illustrated my unbreakable willpower to avoid food. My heart rate was so slow it was hard to find a pulse. Every breath became tasking. You made me feel so guilty for every minuscule bite of food I consumed in that hospital cafeteria. The only reason I swallowed was that the nurse threatened to insert a feeding tube. Every pound I gained made me feel like a failure.
Fast forward three weeks to my release. I had finally reached the doctor’s goal weight for me. We are on the way home at a rest stop. I go to the bathroom just to cry alone. I am no longer “sick enough” on the outside, but on the inside, I feel even worse. I feel fat and worthless. I eat only at my parent’s commands. It feels like a punishment. I ask God, why me? Why are You doing this? What is Your reason?
I still have days where I feel the urge to track my food in myfitnesspal after someone in the cafeteria jokes, “Are you going to eat all that?” Little do they know, they make me throw out my lunch and cry on the way home from school. Every subtle reference to eating disorders and anorexia feels like a pierce to my heart as people laugh off the life-threatening illnesses they have no awareness of.
I still am overly self-conscious wearing a bikini and getting weighed at the doctor. I must remind myself of who I am – more than my physical appearance. But for someone with eating disorder tendencies, this is way easier said than done. Every 62 minutes at least one person dies as a direct result of an eating disorder. It is three in the morning as I write this after reading through my fifth-grade diary. My throat lumps. I can’t swallow.
I could write pages and pages filled with every frightening way my eating disorder has twisted my thoughts beyond rationality, but I must end here. I wish I could forget the horrors of my past, but hopefully sharing part of my story will help one person who may be going through what I (and millions of Americans) are constantly going through.
To that one person: You are not alone. I understand everything you are feeling. Do not listen to the voices. They are deceiving you. You are more than a number on a scale. You are not a failure when you seek help; you are a warrior for saving yourself.