I did not choose Anorexia.
At 12 years old, it crept into my life and rapidly consumed me. I was very sick and I am grateful that my young heart did not give up on me. With the support of my family, I got better, for a little while. Anorexia faded, but never left. It was lurking in the darkness, waiting…
“You are nothing without me. You will need me again.”
I have always struggled with insecurity. I felt very lost, until I went college. I went to art school and for the first time in my life I felt like I belonged. I discovered things I was passionate for and I found people that I truly bonded with. Photography and poetry were ways I could express myself and connect with the world. I was finally feeling free.
During that time, I became a vegetarian, and gradually eliminated more and more foods. Before I knew it, Anorexia was back in all its ugly glory. This is when I lost my period. I was cold all the time. My body was slowly shutting down. This progressed for years. I never felt hungry. My body became accustomed to starvation. My mind was consumed. I was in denial.
When people would comment on my body with concern, I would dismiss it. I am fine! I am healthy! I can run on empty! The twisted highs would be drowned out by the crushing lows. The deep loneliness, the depression, the pain of your loved ones, the opportunities you have missed, the future you are destroying. It is a disorder that creates and thrives in isolation. I was ashamed of my behaviors. I was terrified to let anyone in.
“They don’t understand. I am all you have now.”
While I was suffering, I knew I was engaging in destructive behaviors, but I could not stop. I was aware that I was hurting myself and my loved ones, but Anorexia had a power over me I cannot explain. The restriction, the exercise compulsions, the obsessive thoughts of calories, miles, pounds…it was all that mattered.
If anything disrupted my routine, panic would ensue. I felt disassociated from my body, floating through the days, barely surviving. I hated my disorder, but I also loved it. I wanted to get well, but I did not want to let it go. I longed for a better life, but I was incapable of change. This internal battle was relentless, there were times I wanted to give in.
Deep down, I knew not having a period for years was not healthy. It was a clear sign from my body that I was unwell. Anorexia convinced me it did not matter. Anorexia convinced me gaining weight would make me a failure. Anorexia convinced me I did not want children. But every time I saw a little baby I felt a deep ache in my soul.
I did not choose Anorexia, but I did choose recovery.
I acknowledged my sickness and the fact that if I did not change, it would ultimately kill me. I could not bear to cause my family any more pain. I wanted a brighter future and I wanted to value my health over my disorder. I knew it was now or never. So, I harnessed all my determination and put my whole heart into recovery.
This journey has been so mentally and physically challenging. Going all in for me meant no more restriction and no more intense exercise. It was time to eat and rest, -which for me was terrifying. Although not everyone with Hypothalamic Amenorrhea has an eating disorder, most women do have an unhealthy relationship with food and/or exercise.
To recover we must dramatically change our lifestyles and our ways of thinking and that is scary. Our fears and our triumphs are valid. Truly surrendering to the process and going all in takes bravery. Bravery that is deep within. Bravery that you have had all along.
I broke the rules Anorexia set for me.
I let the anxiety build and build and eventually pass.
Anorexia screamed commands, but I did not obey.
Anorexia berated me, but I did not give up.
“You are lazy! You are a failure! No one will love you.”
It took everything I had to keep going and drown out Anorexia’s mean, selfish manipulative voice. The uncomfortable physical aspects of recovery seemed cruel at first. Putting in the hard work to get better resulted in feeling so much worse. When I was restricting and over exercising I felt full of energy. Now I understand this is because my body was in a constant state of stress.
When I finally stopped, it was as if all the years of destruction hit me at once with full force. The deep, deep exhaustion left me bedridden some days. My body swelled and ached everywhere. My belly distended and none of my clothes fit. The extreme discomfort was very triggering but I stayed strong. My family was always there with unconditional love, but most days I wanted to be alone while my physical and emotional state transformed.
I listened to my body and gave it the rest and nourishment it so desperately needed. I found incredible support on online HA communities and found solace in other women’s journeys. The pain, the swelling, the weight gain, the extreme hunger, and the exhaustion were all signs of healing and there is great power in positive thinking. Each ache and each pound was an accomplishment, a true testament of courage. I was reclaiming my body, my mind and my life.
Two months later, I got my period!
My first period in over 7 years. I cried in relief because I feared I was too far gone. There is still a lot of healing to be done, but this is proof of the resilience and wisdom of the body. I am grateful mine is beginning to trust me again. I promise to cherish that.
Now, I am discovering who I am beyond my eating disorder. I am a daughter. I am a sister. I am a friend. I am a poet. I am a fighter. If I am lucky, someday I will be a wife and a mother. And finally, I am realizing I am loved. I am worthy. I am enough. And dear one, so are you.