The problem with anorexia is that it’s almost glamorized. It’s a gorgeous model skipping lunch, it’s a bombshell in a bikini eating a stick of celery. In reality, anorexia (and eating disorders in general) is hideous.
I’m guessing your first question is, How did this happen? Or perhaps, WHY did this happen?
Maybe you’re thinking to yourself, Doesn’t this only happen to people with really low self-esteem? Teenage girls with a history of abuse, daddy issues, depression? But it’s not that simple. I started out a normal girl who wanted to get in shape, and anorexia turned me into something I wasn’t. It made me that teenage girl with all the issues.
At first, cutting the calories felt really good. The weight, which I was convinced was “way too much,” shed very quickly and the compliments came flooding in. This encouraged me to keep going, not seeing how much I was restricting myself. I guess I figured, if I can look good on this amount of food, won’t I look even better with a little less? It seems simple enough to tell that version of Taylor: No, dumbass. Less food doesn’t make you feel better. It breaks down your muscle, results in hair and nail loss, puts your fertility rate in danger, lowers your blood pressure, and eventually messes up the chemicals in your brain, causing a body dysmorphia so crippling that even death sounds better than getting “fat.” But I didn’t know.
I kept going, and nothing was good enough. All of the aforementioned symptoms happened to me and more. My social life came to a screeching halt. I didn’t have the energy to go anywhere or do anything. Simple conversations exhausted me. Everything either made me angry or completely apathetic. I couldn’t even feel anymore. All I could think about was why I wasn’t losing weight fast enough, why my stomach wasn’t completely flat, why there was a layer of fat around my biceps.
Although I devoted all of my energy to my body, I never felt good enough. The goal was to be skinny, but that goal was NEVER fulfilled. I guess that’s what makes it an illness, right? Most of the time I felt huge. When I wasn’t feeling huge, it was because someone was telling me how horrifically skinny I looked and how I should get help. Then I felt even worse than huge: I felt unattractive. I felt unappealing, frail, and unwomanly. I felt like my body was offensive, so I covered it up with large clothing so I could keep starving in peace.
I mentioned before that my social life came to a screeching halt. When I say screeching, I mean screeching. People would ask me to go out, get dinner, have a drink, but the anxiety that came along with the thought of going out for a meal (I didn’t want people to see me eat) was enough to make my head spin. I spent most nights at home, so bloated and in so much pain from the torture I was putting myself through that I couldn’t even think about seeing anyone.
They say the people who develop anorexia develop it because they’re perfectionists. They need everything to be in order and in control, including their eating. I tell my stomach when it needs to be fed, not the other way around. Because of my perfectionism, my need to always be on top of things and to excel at everything I do, I never let anyone know I was struggling. I never even admitted it to myself. Instead, I became mean. I was very cold and distant from people who are dearest to me. I didn’t want to talk about my emotions because I didn’t have any. I couldn’t empathize anymore because I couldn’t remember what it was like to feel sadness, happiness, love. I didn’t even want anyone to touch me, let alone be part of my life.
I was cold all the time. I stopped wearing makeup, stopped caring about my outfits. Stopped going to parties, stopped laughing, rarely smiled.
I hope by now I’ve answered those initial questions that I basically forced you to ask. There are many reasons eating disorders can happen, and they’re developed in a twisted, cruel way unique to every victim. I’m not proud of what I did—the people I pushed away, the damage I did to my family, and the damage I did to myself. I didn’t allow me to love myself anymore, and that’s something I am determined to get back.
Almost two months ago I decided enough was enough. Or rather, it was decided for me. I began to notice trouble with my breathing but I ignored it, thinking it would go away. A few days went by and things only got worse. Eventually I was in the passenger seat of my friend’s car when I realized I couldn’t see straight. There was a strange, throbbing sensation throughout my body and it felt as though ice cold liquid was running through my veins. Later that night I noticed my heart rate was unusually slow. I looked it up—a side effect that can result from being severely underweight.
I went to urgent care that night. Thankfully, everything was fine. But it so fucking wasn’t. I realized that this, my life, my health, wasn’t something to play around with. Before things got fatal, I needed to stop.
The first thing I noticed when recovering was that I could see colors again. It sounds cheesy, and maybe it is, but I remember going to school one of the first days in my recovery and looking around in wonder. There were actual people around me, going to class and living their lives and eating enough calories to get through the day with a real smile. Reality wasn’t a dull blur anymore. I was no longer living in the fake world my eating disorder created for me—I was actually back on Earth.
When eating disorders develop, they’re not taken seriously. A man or woman decides to skip a meal here and there or reduce their calories a bit. Most of the time, it’s okay, but sometimes, it gets out of control. It keeps going and going until it’s consumed you, changed you, taken over your entire life. But this is a serious issue and I’m sharing my experience not because I WANT anyone to know, but because I want to be there for anyone else who might be struggling.
It’s not easy to talk about and it can feel impossible to overcome, but I understand that. I’m done hiding, and I’m here.