A big thank you to Samantha for sharing her Real Story with us today. We don’t talk about anorexia a whole lot on HealthyGirl.org, but for many disordered eaters, starving and bingeing are really just two sides of the same coin. And many of them do both. I’m sure all of you will find something to relate to in Samantha’s story. xo…Sunny
My name is Samantha and I am a (slowly but surely) recovering anorexic food addict. Sound funny? Yeah, to me too.
It was around the 6th grade when I suddenly put down all sweets and “bad” food and decided to be a “healthy” eater. I would only eat foods that I deemed healthy, passing on the bags of chips and delicious treats that my girlfriends were lunching on. Initially my new behavior drew remarkable praise. “Wow!” they all said. “What willpower!” I loved the positive attention and while I grew smaller in size, inside I felt big and strong for being able to say no. By the time the positive attention faded and the vicious taunts were being thrown, the fear of “fat” and addiction to my behaviors had already set in—there was no turning back.
It wasn’t until years later, suffering through bouts of under eating, over exercising, and the abuse of any pill under the sun that promised me thinness, that I started to see signs of compulsive eating. I look back now on my attitude toward food in high school and college and can recognize how unhealthy my eating behavior was. While at the time I thought I was just hungry, I was in fact stuffing myself.
A little over a year ago I found myself engaging in a vicious cycle of over exercising and under eating all week followed by “free days” on the weekends where I would binge on my favorite foods. My weekend revolved around trips to my favorite takeout spots to pick up my food and get my feast organized—party for one. I would socialize with friends only in minimal amounts, knowing that my binge was awaiting me at home. If I didn’t get enough food the first time, I would call and order more or take another trip to the store. I ate more calories within those two days than I took in all week. I would eat until my belly ached. And then I would eat some more.
I have done shameful, unforgivable things with food. I have thrown out more loafs of bread than I can count; I have wasted countless tubs of all kinds of spreads. I have doused desserts in detergent only to, minutes later, try to eat around the edges. I have felt so ashamed. I don’t want to be ashamed anymore. I don’t have to be, and you don’t either.
I had worn the anorexia like a badge of honor. Shameful that our society praises and promotes stick thin figures and denying oneself the pleasure of food is often looked upon as “self-control” rather than what it is: restriction and starvation. But the compulsive eating? It was my dirty little secret. And I kept it quite well. I have often felt like I was leading a double life, anorexia on the surface and food addict (not too) deep inside. A brief excerpt of a journal entry I wrote during this painful time:
“All I can think about is canceling any plans I may have this week, crawling back into my world, the only place I feel super comfortable. Feeling myself entails starving, exercising, and truly doing very little. It’s sad that I get excited about going back to my world. It’s easier there, I’m comfortable. I have less anxiety. Right now I am struggling with anxiety, commitments that I may have that I can’t keep won’t keep. I need to shut everyone and everything out. I can’t do much. I don’t want to leave me alone.
I just want to be happy. Genuine happiness.
The force of the beast inside of me is far stronger than I am. It’s the scariest oddest most inhuman thing that one can imagine. And I fucking hate it. And yet I love it more than anything else.”
Sound familiar? We don’t have to live this way.
This is an insidious disease. But it’s a battle that can be won—and a fight you don’t have to fight alone. I am in therapy, see a nutritionist, attend Overeaters Anonymous meetings, and last year, after much contemplation, I decided it was time to try an inpatient program. It was one of the scariest decisions I have ever made. But I know I have so much more to give in this lifetime, to the world—and to myself. And I just needed a little extra help to get to where I need to be—and I still do. I have come so far, but every day I fight this disease. It will get easier, but it’s still a battle. But one that I now know I can and will win. I encourage anyone considering this option to give yourself this gift. If you feel your life is unmanageable, hand over the reigns. Let someone help you. It may not be easy, but it’s worth it—and so are you.
You don’t have the time to hear every detail, every trial and tribulation, every moment this disease has stolen from my life—and not by want or will—we don’t have a choice, something painfully and commonly misunderstood. The most important thing for me to convey by sharing my story is that there is nothing to be ashamed of and that there is hope. You can get help—and you are not alone.
Thanks again to Samantha for sharing her story. There’s one more thing I’ve got to say before I turn it over to you guys: Samantha mentions in her post that she did some “unforgivable” things with food. No, she didn’t! There is nothing to be forgiven! We didn’t ask for these issues to be a part of our life, but they are. And as long as we have the courage to be honest, and to take steps to grow and heal, there is nothing to regret. Now, did reading Samantha’s story bring anything up for you? xo…Sunny