This is an extremely personal post- which I suppose many of mine are, but the things most people consider personal (my families story) have been all over the news/news papers, been written about in a book- they are things that I don't consider that personal... this topic however, this is something I've barely spoken about to even some of my closest friends. My eating disorder. Even coming out and saying that sentence is incredibly hard, I have heard other people say it, I've heard doctors say it... but I have barely heard myself use that word to explain my issue. I can pin point when it started, I can understand why it spiraled, but I still cant grasp the fact that it was something I had faced, and still continue to deal with on a daily basis. Let me go back. My first semester at Auburn, Ashley had just been told she needed a redo double lung transplant... At this time, I was of course upset, but I had come to believe that things would work out... things like that always seemed to have a way of working out in our family. Despite Ashley's condition, I was having the time of my life during my first semester at Auburn. I did not have a meal plan, and therefore my meals were normal, but less often then the ten meals a day I had while attending Suffolk... that's when I noticed the weight loss. I didn't mind it at all, and that's all it took for the control to be switched from my hands into the hands of the disorder. I went back home for the benefit thrown for Ashley in February, that is when the comments were pouring in "wow, you look GREAT!" "You have lost some weight, huh?" "you look beautiful!"... because sadly in today's society, weight loss and beauty go hand in hand. I smiled at these comments- feeling like I was on top of the world. I went back to Auburn after the benefit, and those comments resonated with me. My eating disorder began manifesting itself... the calorie counting and restrictive eating started right away. If I looked that good having lost 10 pounds, imagine what another 10 would do... and from the outside looking in, because I wasn't completely gaunt, this weight loss seemed innocent. After all, I was doing what everyone and their mothers was doing- just trying to lose 'some' weight. Hell, look at the magazines- apparently if you aren't trying to lose weight, and you actually love yourself, you are doing something wrong. After awhile, the weight loss hit a plateu. Ashley's condition worsened, and instead of allowing my brain to accept that, I instead searched for alternative ways to drop more weight. That is when the purging began. I never binge ate, I just purged anything I swallowed. It is incredibly hard for me to type these words, I can't believe I had gotten so low that it got to this point. I would eat a salad for dinner, and without question would lock myself in the bathroom for twenty minutes to get up as much of it as I could. I was disgusted with myself. But my wishes came true, and the weight fell off. That Summer Ashley passed away. I was strong in the sense that I didn't allow my emotions to get the better of me (I didn't lock myself away from the world... I didn't curl up in a ball crying until days end), but that was mainly due to the fact that I focused every ounce of energy on loosing weight. I refused to eat meals, if I did, I would end up purging whatever it is I ate. It consumed me, it was a monster that concealed itself as a friend that was only there to better me. Something that was making me 'beautiful,' keeping me 'motivated'... and allowing me to not think about Ashley's death (which is why I believed it was something so positive). It was my one true confidant at the time. I didn't realize how warped I was. I didn't realize I was gambling with the devil. The comments about my weight had quickly transitioned from... "beautiful" to... "wow, are you okay?" but between Ashley's death and Lindsey needing a kidney- people avoided taking it as something serious. Another issue added to the list of things going wrong in my family, God forbid. So I kept falling down the rabbit hole. The heart palpitations, the hair loss, being exhausted but unable to fall asleep, the list of things was endless. I fainted more times than I can count. And soon enough it was time to head back to Auburn. By this time, Ashley was dead, Lindsey was desperate for a new kidney, and my relationship with my boyfriend had ended badly- so I was going back to Auburn alone, well, alone with my eating disorder. As much as I told myself things needed to change, my ED was stronger, louder, more daunting. Without anyone around in Auburn- things continued. This time at Auburn had more time to focus on the weight loss (I wasn't with my boyfriend, or in and out of the hospital with Lindsey, I no longer was surrounded by family and friends), and this made my eating disorder ecstatic, it was time for it to thrive. I methodically planned out EVERY.SINGLE. THING. I. PUT. INTO. MY. MOUTH. anything that went against that plan, it was in the toilet. No matter how much I threw up, I still felt like there was food in my stomach and it made me cry for hours. How could I have failed so much? I decided to join a gym, with all my new found free time it seemed like the only thing that made sense. I would go in at 8pm (hoping to avoid a cluster of people) and stay until until 3am. I had to burn at least 1000 calories before exiting that place in order to appease ED. I remember walking in one night and the trainer stopped me, he said "why are you even here?" Of course, without realizing he was trying to help... I got defensive, spitting out "well I am here the same reason everyone else is..." rolling my eyes and walking past him, straight towards the thing that was killing me, the treadmill. Fuck him, I thought. And things just got worse. I ended up fainting at the gym, I was brought to the hospital, where the doctors made me aware of how damaging I was being towards my body...yet still I refused help. It took me awhile to realize that this was killing me, that this thing I thought I had CONTROL of, truly had me as its own puppet. It took me a long, long while to understand that this was a destructive path, that there was way more to life than the food I ate, or being the skinniest person around. And the mere thought that "I wasn't skinny enough to get help" is proof enough that I needed help. I am sure there were better 'anorexics' than me, but then again, I am sure they are the ones that are dead, because that is the reality of the this disorder... it kills. I knew if I wanted to give a kidney to my sister, I had to attempt to beat this disease- so I tried, I did everything I could to fight the screams in my head that told me I was worthless with every morsel of food I put into my mouth. I can tell you that today I am no where near completely healed, nor do I think I will even be completely removed from my eating disorder. I can however say, that with the support of the ones I love, things have gotten much better and I was able to donate my own kidney to my sister in January 2014. I healed my body enough to the point where my levels got back to where they should for someone of my age and height. Eating disorders have a terrible stigma, people are embarrassed by them so therefore avoid talking about them- but I am here to fight that. It is a mental illness... and it should be treated as one. This isn't something someone is able to control, quite the contrary, it rips every ounce of control away from you. An eating disorder has nothing to do with attention, glamor or boredom. This disease has been the most painful, debilitating thing I have ever... and I mean EVER dealt with in my entire life. I wouldn't wish it upon my worst enemy. It is like fighting with yourself about breathing, something vital for survival. Hating yourself for doing something NECESSARY to continue living. This isn't about beauty, your rib cage, face in the toilet, thinning hair and gaunt face, what about that says beauty? Unable to sit down in a chair long enough because your tail bone aches of pain. Loosing friendships and relationships because NOTHING else matters other than loosing weight. Going out to eat? Ha, try sitting and crying for hours on end about how this one meal is going to 'ruin' all of your hard work, and understanding full well that eating that one meal is going to cause a complete storm in your mind. Making up insane rules like eating only at certain times, and eating outside of those designated times will cause complete destruction of your mind. So please, please understand, this isn't something someone does for attention. This isn't a choice. NO ONE would choose this. It absolutely pains me when people doubt it as a mental illness. I was strong enough to fight it, and still do everyday, but some people need extra help. Never cast judgement. The reason I decided to make this post today was due to the slew of images I just went through on my photobooth. I use to 'body check' everyday when I was in the pit of my eating disorder. This process is me taking pictures, at different angles, to make sure that I was still 'thin' or that my bones were still protruding. Its sick. But I remember looking back at these photos when I first took them, and thinking 'I still have such a long time to go before being 'skinny enough.' And that right there, that is the trick of an eating disorder... it will never BE enough. As I looked through those pictures today, I was in awe- my illness screamed at me through the computer, and looking at them, the feelings rushing through my body were so much different than that of a year ago. I am proud I can now look at those as sickly... and I am proud to say I deleted them. I struggle everyday, but I have refused to allow myself to sink, and that is an accomplishment to me. I hope some people reading this can learn from my story, or if you are facing something similar, I hope this gives you hope that things can get better. Warning, the below pictures (from the depths of my disorder) may be GRAPHIC, but they are intended to show the real, and gruesome truth about this disorder it is not pretty:
And here are pictures of me fighting... and more importantly, living.