I still remember my first heartbreak like it was yesterday. I was 16 and the overwhelming pain made my teenage heart want to tear itself apart in order to numb the unbearable pain. It was as if someone removed my heart from it’s place and tore it like an old cloth until there was nothing left, only to mop the floor with it. I had been played by a young man whom at the peak of his hormones, could not understand what It felt like to be used. Unlike Rory Gilmore, I did not have the high self-esteem one should have at this fragile age to understand that I deserved much better. I wasn’t the one getting the good guys to love me just to end up leaving them them because they were ‘’too nice’’. Instead, I was attracted to the bad boys, the ones who could talk the talk but not walk the walk. For Freud’s sake, I can also tell you that my early childhood was characterized by a slight obsession of barbie and some kind of fear of growing up. I guess that my early puberty did not help with the transition.
Now take all these elements, mix them together, let them sit for a while and what do you get? Today, I would’ve liked it to be a cake but unfortunately, the result was more like the opposite of a cake. The series of unfortunate events resulted in an eating disorder. To most people, anorexia is an illness that comes with personality disorders and never completely heals. In my case, I lived it more like a depression because I was lucky enough to fully recover and did not suffer long term repercussions – well, I hope so.
I don’t remember clearly every detail of this dark journey. Sometimes, the brain needs to intentionally forget painful memories in order to make room for brighter ones. Although, I do remember how I felt and all the struggles I went through. It was a constant battle between me, myself and I. I starved myself to lose weight, even though I was far from overweight. The thing is that not eating was just the manifestation of other underlying issues. It’s just like responding to an allergy by having your tongue swell up taking your entire breath away. Your body is actually expressing on the outside things that are happening inside. I guess I was trying to take control of the tornado that was ravaging me inside, to express things I wasn’t able to demonstrate otherwise.
In another way, It felt as if I was punishing myself. It would hurt but it felt good at the same time. I LOVED feeling empty and light. Slightly masochistic right? Thought so too. I had lost around 22 lbs in less than 4 months. As if the shedded pounds weren’t enough, I had also lost a LOT of hair. It was actually scary the amount of hair I saw falling while taking my shower. My skin got very dry and eventually, I stopped getting my period. Giving the small amount of fat left on my body, the wind was too cold and the bed was too hard. At that time, the person that was scared the most was not me but my mother. She saw my body’s degradation but did not understand why and how to deal with it. In fact, most people don’t; they will comment on your physical appearance and try to force you to eat, not dealing with the real issue. I even remember a teacher who had noticed the change. He pulled me to the side and asked me if I was okay; of course, I lied. Actually, I didn’t realize right away that something was wrong.
One night, I had a terrible nightmare. I was looking at myself in the mirror and the reflection I saw was my own skeleton. It was like an epiphany – my mind was trying to tell me that I was on a death road. I very rarely remember dreams or nightmares but this one felt so real, it will never leave my memory. From that day on, I knew I had to get help. The first thing I did was search the web. I think that learning about my illness was my best tool to recovery. At some point, I reached out for a professional’s help but I did not like their approach and decided to pursue this on my own. I did a lot of introspection to understand what was happening to me. I must say I am also very grateful for my big sister, she was my biggest supporter. Even though sometimes she challenged me the hard way, I believe I needed it. The moment I realized I was ill, It was as if another being was living inside my head. The process for recovery was long and painful. I had episodes of binge eating followed by periods of starvation to compensate. I had completely lost control and my body was screaming – it had forgotten what being full meant. I had deprived my body of crucial nutrients for so long that It lost its ability to feel satisfied. Ultimately, I started gaining weight in a surprisingly quick time. The truth is that my body was stocking fat in case I would starve it again. Yep, the body is smart that way – it’s called survival instincts. This entire process was emotionally brutal, I hated my body even more but the worst part is that I had lost complete control. I remember crashing into tears right after my binging episodes. The truth is, I hated myself.
I wanted to get better and I did. I wasn’t going to let this thing win. It took me a few years before I made peace with myself but in the long run, I was able to heal. I kept researching and learning about nutrition to better understand how the body works, but more importantly, I gained spiritual maturity. Through introspection, defined as the ability to contemplate one’s own thoughts and feelings, I found my way to consciousness. It is only through the realization of one’s actions and feelings that one can bring change to his or her life. You must let yourself be vulnerable, admit and accept your situation.
Throughout this experience, I learned what was really important in life. What we look like doesn’t matter, it’s how we feel inside. I am now 28 and I love myself and my body. I have a balanced diet and keep active without being OCD. I still sometimes criticize myself but not in a self-destructive way. Would I want to change my past if I could? Most probably not and the reason is that I wouldn’t have become the person I am today. It sounds cheesy but I’ve come a long way. In fact, I believe that this part of my story brought me here today to remind others that being healthy is also part of living sustainably. If you are reading this and struggling with an eating disorder, I just want you to know that there is a way out. You have to be convinced that life is worth being lived and that YOU are worthy of life.