Once Upon an Eating Disorder… a tale of tragedy to triumph
This month’s Recovery Rockstar story comes from Aurora, who reminds us that recovery is not a fairy tale, but with hard work and the help of treatment, a transformation can occur. Her story is a testament that anyone can slay their dragons, whether it is the Eating Disorder or something else in their lives.
Hard at times to believe myself, this is a real story. Not a fairytale. There are no princesses or princes, no castles or magical creatures. I suppose you could say there was a villain of some sorts, but we’ll get to that later. First let’s go back to the beginning of the story…
Though this is no fairytale, I did have a magical childhood. I had (and still have) an incredible family. My mom and dad were the most loving and supportive parents, and my little sister was my best friend. In addition to a happy family life, I loved school and had a great group of friends. My childhood was filled with fun and joy, from musical theater performances to Disneyland trips to roller-blading through the neighborhoodand everyday mini adventures. Food was fun too, especiallymy dad’s pancake Sundays. There was never a second thought when it came to what I ate. No guilt. No shame. Food was simply a tasty accessory to parties, holidays, trips and gatherings. There was nothing to fear.
My relationship with food was never an issue, and I never had a problem with my weight. If anything, I was always on the thinner side, likely those “skinny” genetics from Mom and Dad. However, I remember my seventh-and-eighth-grade self consistently asking my friends and family if I looked “fat.” Where did this come from? I have no idea. It wasn’t until my transition from the comfort of my public middle school to the uncomfortable newness of a private high school where my perception of self and body started to warp.
I’ve always been a perfectionist and people-pleaser. I didn’t want anyone knowing my inner struggles and distorted thoughts. One day my thoughts turned to action when I discovered the act of purging. That was the start of a dangerous cycle which reoccurred after almost every meal. One day at home, my little sister walked in on me and my whole world came caving in. My secret was exposed and there was no way to hide anymore. That’s when I concluded that if I couldn’t get rid of the food I consumed, then I wouldn’t consume food at all. Despite my parents’ best attempts, I had mastered the “art” of hiding food, throwing away packed lunches, and manipulating loved ones around me. By mid-sophomore year I had dropped so much weight that I was hospitalized – twice.
To be honest, the rest of high school was a blur. Most days were spent in the bathroom stalls or library during lunch to avoid being seen alone. Weight was not the only thing I lost – I lost friends, time with family, and opportunities to create happy memories. Despite my inner personal struggles, I persisted and graduated on time. After years of fighting with my disease, I wanted more for myself. Right before graduation, my physician referred me to eating disorder treatment.
Almost three months of that Summer were spent in residential treatment, where my life was literally changed for the better in more ways than one. I faced my food fears and along with my family learned essential tools that would help me continue recovery back in the real world. I embraced the changes in my body and started to truly love myself again. Walking out of treatment was like waking up from a bad dream. A fragile, wounded girl entered treatment, and out walkeda strong confident woman.
We have moved quite a few pages ahead at this point, and it’s been many years past those darker days dealing with ED. Since then, I have had the most amazing college experience, made life-long friendships, grew closer to my family than ever before, graduated with honors, built up a solid resume, and found myself in this place we call life.Recovering from an eating disorder (or any mental health disease for that matter) is not a simple process, and I will never say my journey has been perfect. I will say, however, I am recovered and healthy today. Food is no longer the enemy – food means strong muscles, thick hair, and glowing skin. My past is no longer a shameful secret, but a shared experience that continues bringing me closer to others. I hope this gives people a sense of hope that no matter what might be happening in one’s current chapter, it’s never too late to change one’s story – there is such thing as a happy ending.