I’ve always been a bubbly person. I’m loud and talkative, and I have a huge laugh that fills any room. I’ve never loved my laugh, but I also do not care because I know it’s a part of me. And I like being me. When I was around ten, I used to brag that I had never gone a day without smiling. When I was ten, I never knew you could smile and not mean it.
In high school, I really started to dislike myself. I was depressed and insecure, and I eventually developed anorexia at the beginning of sophomore year. Along with the weight, I lost everything that I was. I never laughed the same loud laugh, I only could force out a fake one. My eyes never lit up when anyone talked to me because, honestly, I didn’t even notice they were there. I was too busy thinking about food or exercise. People noticed and then they left. I lost all the people I once made so happy. Now, all I was capable of was existing, and no one wants to be around a ghost of a person. I was a totally different person.
I walked through the hallways with a blank stare and my head down. No one noticed me like they used to. Before, guys would pass me and stare; but now no one even knew I was there…except once in the cafeteria. At the time I was working with a therapist who told me I had to eat more at lunch. I ditched the bowl of dry lettuce that I would normally eat and started making myself a sandwich. I had worked up the courage to get two slices of bread and a few pieces of turkey. The hardest part for me back then was the cheese. I walked over to the shredded cheese and started to grab some with the tongs. I felt eyes on me and my brain started to tell me, “you’re getting judged for eating too much. You’re fat”. So I picked up one shred of cheese and I just put the tongs back. I couldn’t do it. A boy, who was a senior at the time, looked at me and joked, “WOW! that’s a lot of cheese!” I was shaking but I forced out a laugh and walked away as fast as I could. I tried to find a place to sit even though I never felt like anyone made room for me at their table anymore. I got up to fill my water bottle and I passed the table where the senior -who made fun of me in the lunch line- was sitting. I heard his voice again, “and then she literally took ONE shred of cheese. LIKE WHAT THE F***!” Everyone at the table laughed. And then they noticed me.
I’ll never forget that. Yes, of course it was a pathetic thing to do looking from the outside, but that’s because people on the outside don’t understand what an eating disorder does to your head. I could never hang out with my friends because I was too scared to be around food. The times I did make myself go, I was never really there. My body was there, but I never fully participated in the conversation or even really heard what anyone was saying. I just stared at my food and panicked. After a while, they stopped inviting me. I had become introverted, quiet and alone.
Soon after this, I really started accepting help. I did not want to be the girl who was isolated at school anymore. I did not want to miss out on memories and life anymore. But I had a long ways to go until I was back to myself again. The first and hardest step was to realize that I needed to let go. I needed to let go of my eating disorder and do things I was so terrified of. I needed to eat the cheese because then I would show my eating disorder that it couldn’t control me. But what people don’t see is how hard it is to make yourself eat the cheese. That sentence is so silly to me now, but it was so real then; and I’m sure many of you can relate in your own way. If I did something my eating disorder did not want me to do, then I would lose control and just go crazy. Or so I thought. But I ate the cheese and nothing really happened; I just became a tiny bit more free.
Eventually, my eating habits really improved and I ate every food or meal that my eating disorder told me not to. I could go out to eat with friends and I had gained some weight back. But I still was not me. I still felt absorbed by guilt when I ate. I still worried about getting enough exercise. Happiness just was not a priority to me then, not like it had always been before. When you go so long without truly being happy, you forget how special it is.
Over time I just let go more and more, and I started to choose to be happy. I learned I was the only person who could make myself free, and I just had to do it. I stopped associating my size with how much I loved myself or how important I was. I started being able to make memories again. I gave up the control I felt with my eating disorder. I reconnected with old friends and showed them I had my real laugh back. I stopped thinking I will love my body when…, and started just loving my body now for whatever it looks like in the moment. I learned no size or amount of control would ever feel better than “never going a day without smiling”.
My eating disorder literally turned me into a different person. Luckily, I will never be that person again. I have fought so hard to win back who I am and never ever be who my eating disorder made me. The photo above was a few days ago. It is one of my favorite photos because it was one of the happiest moments of my life. I met a girl named Sam through my health and wellness instagram a long time ago and this was the first time we met in person. I was nothing but me, the me I am meant to be,the me I lost for a while. We did Soul Cycle and ate at an incredible cafe, and we laughed and talked for hours and it was utterly magical. I smiled the whole time I was with her, and I will never stop smiling from the memories we created. I have chosen happiness over my eating disorder, and I will forget what it was like to smile and not mean it.