When people ask me what it was like to grow up with an eating disorder, it’s hard to explain because that is all I’ve known. Since the age of eight I have been aware of, and sensitive to, body image and beauty. During my young life, I was overly aware of the space my body took up. I remember looking down in the shower when I was a kid with a normal round kid-body, and not being able to see my feet over my protruding belly--and that began the hard times. I didn’t talk about it a lot at first, I just felt self-conscious but by middle school I was bouncing from one fad diet to the next. It all started with the South Beach Diet which made me focus on calories and “bad foods,” while I tried to control what I thought my body should look like, and achieve this unattainable goal.
Freshman year of high school was a very lonely time for me, with hours spent on Tumblr, social media was constantly feeding my eating disordered brain more and more negative images and perceptions that proved I was never going to be enough, even if I died trying. Just about every woman has felt, at one time or another in her life, like she was not enough, or that her body was not how it “should” look. This was a very consuming and sad thing for me. Fast forward to the spring of sophomore year of high school, when I really took a turn for the worst and ended up in an adolescent psychiatric ward. My parents decided that the best option for me was to spend time living at an inpatient house for girls with eating disorders. The Center for Discovery, in Menlo Park, was where I spent the next 80 days. When I was there I hated it and I begged to come home each day my parents came to see me, but now, looking back at my time spent at CFD, I see how this experience changed me and truly helped me become who I am today. I have an innate determination which, coupled with my tendency to be straight forward and open, allowed me to re-enter school as the Junior class president with new strength. I was straight forward about my experience, and always have been, which I hope has been a help to others who have suffered from similar challenges. I also hope my openness has helped those who don’t have these challenges to open their minds to the struggles of others.
Now, I’m a senior in college, set to graduate in the Spring from UCSB(!) and, yes, there are still times that it’s hard and my eating disordered thoughts and tendencies will creep back into my mind but not like they did when I was younger. I can compartmentalize my eating disorder now and know that my body is wonderful. I know that experiences with our bodies are about progress, patience, health, and staying committed to balance. Getting physically fit and working out is now the healthy way I can control my body. It’s not an easy road to recovery but it is possible for anyone who is willing to work hard and believe it’s possible.