"When you’re really sick, you cling to your eating disorder like a lifeline, believing it’s the only thing that will provide you with some stability through all the chaos. . .
Do I struggle, slip-up, and backslide? Hell yes. Am I giving up? Hell. No."
I'm so happy to introduce our next blogger, my dearest darling Samantha. I love this girl. The first time I met her she was wearing a shirt that said, "Every Saint has a past, Every Sinner has a future." I thought to myself, "She looks like Molly Ringwald in Pretty in Pink and she's wearing an Oscar Wilde quote? This girl is SOOO COOL." We bonded over our mutual craziness, Star Trek, and a love of all things Thrift. After she discharged from CFC I got this picture in an e-mail:
Seriously, this girl knows how to make me smile.
Sam Bam, thank you for sharing a peice of you with me and the world. I'm so glad you're in my life.
Well, hi! I just want to say how honored and flattered I am that my main girl, Milla, asked me to share my story. I’ll warn you though; I’ve never done this before. Even though I’ve been working on my recovery for 1½ years now, this is the most public I’ve ever been with my experience. But I guess there’s a first time for everything. Ladies and gentleman…I, Samantha, have an eating disorder.
Whew. That was kind of a big deal for me. Having an eating disorder has long been a huge source of shame for me. I thought it made me bad, weak, broken, and defective. It was always a secret I had to hide. It was the worst part of me I never wanted anyone to know about. Luckily, this is changing for me. I’m learning that I’m not weak or broken. If anything, fighting an eating disorder makes me stronger. Wow, I never thought I would say that! I’m learning that having an eating disorder is not my fault. I’m realizing that I never chose to be sick; it’s an illness that happened to me. But I’m also learning that I DO have to choose recovery. It’s a constant battle and it’s one I’ve been fighting for a really long time.
A little background about me: I’m 26 years old, born and raised in Utah. I have two amazing parents, two wonderful brothers, two gorgeous sisters, and the most adorable puppy ever born. I’m the oldest sibling and I think I’ve had a pretty average life with a pretty typical childhood.
A little more about me: Growing up, I had a hard time making friends and struggled to fit in. I’ve always been very emotionally sensitive. I’m extremely self-critical and I’ve always had a hard time comparing myself to others. These are all things that I believe contributed to my eating disorder. I know there are some people that can point to an event in their life and say THAT’S when my eating disorder started. It’s not like that for me. My eating disorder developed over time when just the wrong mix of circumstances and experiences combined to make the perfect storm.
I was in sixth grade when the thought of being fat entered my consciousness. I can remember the exact moment it happened. I was watching a kickball game during recess. I was wearing shorts that day and I remember looking down and thinking, “My legs look fat.”
Up until that point, I had had a lot of negative thoughts about myself. I was weird. I was ugly. I was a loser. But fat? That was a new one. From that day forward, “being fat” was stuck in my brain. The thought grew stronger and stronger over the next several years, but it wasn’t until I was in high school that my eating disorder actually started. I was fifteen.
I had my own friends, but I would never be one of the “cool kids.” I never had a boyfriend and I never got asked on dates or to the school dances. I was active in a lot of things: volleyball, choir, newspaper, but I never felt like I fit in anywhere. I believed that “being fat” was a factor in all of my shortcomings. If I just had a better body, I’d be a better volleyball player. If I could be skinny, the boys would want to date me. If I weren’t so fat, people would like me better. Years of low self-esteem and pressure from society led me to believe that my body determined my worth.
For the past twelve years, I have struggled with that belief. My life has been a roller coaster of restricting, binging, purging, weight loss, weight gain, obsessing about food, exercise, depression, anxiety, and self-harm. I’ve swung wildly from one extreme to another, good days and bad days, being happy in my eating disorder and being utterly miserable. After years and years of ups and downs, I still have the same distorted thoughts and the same crappy body image.
Having an eating disorder gives you a sense of control in your otherwise out-of-control life. When you’re really sick, you cling to your eating disorder like a lifeline, believing it’s the only thing that will provide you with some stability through all the chaos. Eventually, the chaos catches up with you. At least, that’s what happened to me. A year and a half ago, I finally hit bottom. I threw my hands in the air and said I can’t do this anymore. I was losing my health, my relationships, and my sanity. I went to Center for Change and worked on slowly getting my life back.
I can sum up treatment in two words: damn hard! Okay, that doesn’t really sum it up, but going to treatment has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It has required more strength than I ever knew I could muster. I have shed more tears than I thought was possible. There were so many days I thought I would quit; so many times I thought I had nothing left to give. Facing your eating disorder makes you take a good long look at everything about yourself, good and bad. Facing your eating disorder makes you challenge all of your negative thoughts and beliefs. It shakes you to the core. It breaks you down and then builds you back up.
I wish I could say there was a magic pill that can cure an eating disorder, but it’s not that simple. I completed treatment, but am I recovered? Unfortunately, no.
Has going to treatment changed my life? Undoubtedly, yes!
I have learned so much about myself. I have met so many amazing people. (Miss Camilla is one of them!) I have found support and understanding. I no longer have to be ashamed of my struggles. Fighting an eating disorder is hard enough, but fighting shame along with it? That, my friends, is called a losing battle.
So, where am I now? Still fighting every day. Still working on my recovery. Still challenging my distorted thoughts. Still battling my body image.
Do I struggle, slip-up, and backslide? Hell yes. Am I giving up?
I’m not where I want to be, but I’m so much farther than I was. Can I learn to accept myself and my body? Can I have a happy life with healthy relationships? Can I be fully recovered? Can I have a life without an eating disorder? I think so.