I fell into self-worth quicksand at a very young age. I’d cry in fitting rooms as a kindergartener, having noticed that I was chubbier. I had somewhere along the lines decided these two things, worth and weight, were aligned. I didn’t feel in control of my actions, so my only retreat was the control I thought I had with food.
My shyness kept me inside, nose buried in books. I had a constant headache, chest pains, and shortness of breath. This worsened and by 15 I began to accept that I needed help or else I wouldn’t survive. Nobody knew how bad it was because I had a lifetime of learning effective ways of hiding it; of continuing to blend in and creating a facade of perfectionism, which so many of us have a tendency to gravitate towards.
Telling my mom about my weight concerns was the first time I really honestly spoke about it. This was also the first time in my life I had ever asked for help. I was a straight A student, obsessive about doing everything above and beyond my abilities in every facet of my life. Asking for help wasn’t in my DNA. I had survived on my ability to take care of myself and figure it on my own.
My parents got me in an excellent outpatient program that I’d go to several times a week. I’d come in, they’d take me to the back, pat me down, weigh me and shuffle me into my therapist’s office where we’d discuss my 10 years of depression, anxiety, and different eating disorders. To be entirely honest, I wasn’t cooperative at this point in my recovery, so I found my therapy experience ineffective. Our discussions furthered my obsessions, though it was still an important step in hindsight.
I struggled heavily on and off through the next year. I got a job that required me to be very social and thus began my struggle to be the best at what I do, but also talk to people. I started to come out of my shell. Upon coming out of my shell, people responded. While I always had friends, I started to add even more meaningful relationships to my life. My attention was taken away from my body and outwardly towards the world around me more and more each day.
One day, when I was ready to accept it, it clicked that life didn’t have to be this way anymore. I didn’t have to hide away at the gym or in my room. There was no need to wish the days away or feel my body wither. I wasn’t happy and so I made changes. Through college, I continued to test the boundaries of my comfort zone by trying new things, gaining new experiences and enjoying the people around me. This isn’t to say I didn’t relapse or struggle. I absolutely did. A lot. BUT, I couldn’t look back because whatever struggle I was facing in that moment, nothing was worse than when I felt like I couldn’t take a breath.
To this day, I embrace the people who stood beside me without judgment and with a friendly, supportive nature. Three teachers at my high school believed in my abilities and responded to my growth. They were my rocks at school. My mom was my rock at home. Most of my friends didn’t know until later, but they didn’t let me slip away. I had an amazing mentor at work, who ended up teaching me more than anyone because I showed a genuine interest in trying new things and learning everything I could.
Long story short, what helped me? Opening my heart and mind to the world around me. Finding new interests, cultivating new relationships and recognizing how far I had come. Giving yourself credit for each step is so important and with this, I began to build my self-worth.
I have been struggling with my eating disorder since I was 5 years old.