Eating Disorder Stories
Share Your Personal Experience
Share your story with our online community. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with your poem, story, or other message regarding your personal experience with an eating disorder. Our staff will choose one periodically and post it online for others to read. Please note that not all submissions will be posted to the website and that by submitting you are granting Mirasol, Inc., a non-exclusive license to use the material submitted. Postings may be edited for length and style.
Gracie Jean's Story
For as long as I can remember I have felt as if I don't belong, like I just don't fit in this world. I think that these feelings haunting me everyday are something that seriously contributed to the development of my depression. I have a hard time even pinpointing when this started, but will say it was about age 13. At the time, I didn't realize I had depression, I just knew something was off in my system.
Around this time my parents divorced. My mother worked long hours and my brother and I barely spoke, so I was left alone basically all the time, which was way too long to be with only my thoughts. At 14, I began binge eating; I was lonely, depressed, and had no one to talk about my feelings with, so food seemed like a good fix for the sadness. I can vividly remember walking in the door after school, dropping my bag, and going straight for the food, full of intense anxiety, waiting to get that first bite in my mouth. Then of course came the guilt, especially on the days I had dance class and was forced to put on a leotard after eating until I was so stuffed I thought I was going to die. However, dance was my only outlet at the time, and I strongly believe it is why I am still alive today. Dance allowed me to unconsciously connect with my feelings.
The binge eating and depression continued throughout the rest of high school and into college (where I majored in dance of course). There were bouts of restriction, but most of the time I was focused on stuffing my feelings down with food. When I was 19, things changed drastically, and I began to restrict. I was so proud of myself for not binging that I became obsessed with restriction. Counting calories, dancing until exhaustion, and weighing myself became my religion. My weight dropped quickly and before I knew it I was severely underweight. I can remember going to the doctor and being told that if I continued to dance that I would probably have a heart attack. I didn't believe him, and frankly I didn't care.
Once summer came and the school year was over, I became a complete slave to my eating disorder. My life consisted of only a few things: sleeping, locking myself in my room, going to my part-time hostess job, and obsessing about my body. I was constantly crying and couldn't think straight. Even with all of the things I was in denial that I had any sort of problem. There was, however, one fateful day when I became so hopeless that I finally called my Mom and declared that I needed help, I couldn't live this way anymore.
Within days I was going to my first appointment with the therapist who would literally save my life. After beginning therapy, I was set up with a dietitian and began my attempt at weight restoration. As much as I tried doing this outpatient was not working so I was admitted into a residential treatment facility for what ended up being 66 long and memorable days. I had some of the best times in my life when I was there, and met some of the most amazing people. I ended up having to take a year off of school, but that was okay because I now understood that I needed time to allow myself to get better.
Unfortunately, as we all know, recovery is by no means a linear process and may not stick the first time. Through the years I have gone through multiple relapses, and for a while alcohol replaced my eating disorder (which is a whole other story in itself). However, getting through each relapse has made me stronger, and each one has started to be for shorter periods of time. That is growth, which is something I am always reminding myself of.
Now at 26, six years after I first began treatment and 12 years after my eating disorder began, I am fighting once again. Today I am working harder on my recovery than ever. I feel that this could be the time that things stick. I have an amazing treatment team and a support system that I will forever be grateful for. I have been sober for almost two years, and with all of my being, I want to get to that same place with my eating disorder. Yes, I fear the unknown but I now feel that the future can hold great things. Every day I am choosing to nourish my body, mind, and spirit properly. I am allowing my feelings to be expressed, and I am slowly but surely gaining freedom from my illness.
Today I am choosing recovery, I hope you all will stand with me and do the same.
— Gracie Jean
Today I Am ...
Hi my name is Jenna Somerville. I am 20 years old and a sophomore in college at Arcadia University. I just recently started to talk about my eating disorder that I have suffered with for seven years. I hope you enjoy my story.
I know that Ana (Rexia) was never my friend. Maybe there was never a fat or ugly girl in the mirror. There was a girl whose loneliness distorted the mirror: the veil of pain adding thick layers onto my reflection. The pro ana sites lied to us: they told us to value these layers, to bury them yet deeper by deceiving ourselves, and others, by overcompensating with losing needed weight. Ana lives on the surface and dies within: she is like the advertisements and magazines that show impossibly skinny women as the standard of health and happiness. Like these cold magazines, Ana cannot be a real friend, she cannot listen to real fears at night yet awaken to live with others, to grow, to move to new places... leaving the layers behind to blow away, unneeded, with the next storm.
At this moment, I know these bad days will happen, but that I will be okay, because I am strong enough to endure them. I know these days will not last, that they will go away soon enough and that they do not define me. I no longer live under the cruel spell of an eating disorder. I am currently in control of my life, as much as a person can be. I am the boss of what I eat and I always eat that cookie that is offered to me. Today I love myself, and I am happy. And when I am down, I know that I am resilient, that I have the ability to survive the darkness. I have found hope in others and in myself. Without hope, the heart will break, distorting our vision of ourselves. With hope, Ana dissolves like the Wicked Witch of The West and the mirror is clear again.
I used to be afraid to talk about what I went through I thought it showed weakness; now I know this is not true. I am proud of what I had to experience because it created the warrior I see myself as now. The scars on my wrist are signs of not giving up. They show pain but pain is inevitable, pain is okay, and pain is not my enemy. It taught me that I needed to change. I struggle, not to win or lose, but to live and grow.
Today I am in a new life, life without Ana, and I now speak to my family differently, with new honesty, with feeling, and with regret for my actions balanced against anger and pain over the words and actions of others. Too often I was told the simple words that were supposed to make me feel better: "tomorrow is another day", "you need to develop a thicker skin", "sticks and stones ... but words can never hurt you." What I heard was that people did not know what to do, that they could not help me. Their simple suggestions were, accidently, a way of telling me to be quiet, to stop making everyone uncomfortable if I brought up really difficult feelings.
An individual does not have an eating disorder, a whole family does, whether they realize it or not. I went through this with my mother. Today I am able to say to her ... and she is able to say to me ... Today we are able to ...
I went through this with my father. Today I am able to hear him tell me that he knew, and that he did not know, about my pain. His greatest regre t was never having the answer for me that would stop my suffering, even if he did not understand much of what I was experiencing. Today I am able to tell him how bad it was and how important it is. And he is able to hear this without having to defend himself and without ever telling me that "tomorrow will be a new day." Instead, we are able to find tomorrow, today.
When my journey at Mirasol started I wasn't too excited about being there or getting better. My mind wasn't set on anything but numbers and worry of what people thought of me. The thought of having to share a room with other girls who had the same problem as me made me sick and I defiantly didn't want to admit to how bad my eating disorder was. I was so trapped that I didn't even know it and as my mother said I "was living in a box so small" and it wasn't filled with happiness or love, it was only filled with self-disgust.
After a long plane ride to Arizona I was very tired and didn't feel like meeting a bunch of new people who had my recovery in mind. When I walked into the door I only had to meet one nice person who helped fill out paperwork with me and my dad. To my surprise the inside of the house was absolutely beautiful and nothing like I had seen back home. It wasn't like my past treatments which were hospital like. After my tour of the house I met the other girls who were living there at the time which was scary for me because I had very bad self-esteem. Again, I was very surprised because there were only two girls there at the time which meant I only had two names to memorize. Everyone was very welcoming but not too pushy because I was new. The girls helped me get used to the program and were very kind to me.
When the work started I became homesick and sad but my therapist let me call my home often. I had a lot of family therapy sessions which terrified me at first because I didn't want to tell anyone the truth or the "hard things". Soon I became very willing and wanting to get better but I still wasn't very trusting. As I watched my friends leave and move on to a new life I knew soon it would be my turn, and when my family week came I was very anxious.
However, my family week was one of the most healing things that have ever happened to me and my entire family. We had a wonderful time doing Zuzi dance and the other activities, but the most healing part was psychodrama. My Dad and I had a very hard and distant relationship and at the end of the family program I felt how close we really always were and that communication was key. It's very hard to pinpoint just a few things that I have learned because I have learned so much.
When it finally became my turn to move on I had a hard time thinking of my new universe project. How could I portray my new world in one thing? So I decided to make two things combined: a drawing of my heart and all that is in it and a poem of the words within me.
My eyes can see,
My muscles can move.
I am lucky.
My nails can grow,
My lungs can breathe.
I am lucky.
My hands can write,
My brain can think.
I am lucky.
My smile can bring happiness,
My soul can fly.
I am lucky.
My arms can reach anything,
My heart can sing.
I am alive.
This is how I feel now. Since I have been home I have had to recite this poem many times to myself to remember all that life and my body is. I wake up and look in the mirror and smile because I can see who I truly am now. Even when I am down I can pull myself out and reach to my heart where I know the truth exists because my eating disorder isn't there! After having made this journey I know things about myself that I would have never known or accepted. I can now trust myself to take care of me in even the hard situations. I thank Mirasol, of course, for helping me to get where I am now but I also give myself props for doing the hardest most amazing conversion in my life.
"Taylor, come on out! We want to see what it looks like!" I pulled aside the dressing room's velvet curtain, exposing myself to the full length mirror that stood next to my impatiently waiting mom and Courtney, my sister. I opened my eyes, preparing myself for the disappointment so I could just try on the next dress. But what I saw was not something I was ready to reject. I stared at myself and my body as it was wrapped in the hot pink ball gown that complimented and flattered my every curve and contour. The dress seemed as if it was made for me. Tears crept forward from the backs of my eyes; I had never envisioned something so perfect. I had never envisioned finally being happy with my body.
More than six months earlier I stood leaning over the toilet seat, fingers down my throat and tears streaming down my face. Thoughts of all the foods I had eaten that day raced around in my mind, taunting me before coming back up out of my mouth. I sat back on my heels and took a breath. "Just one more time," I thought.
"That isn't enough. You have eaten so much. You don't want to gain more weight now, do you?" The devil that stood looking over my shoulder yelled at me, making me feel even guiltier than I was already feeling. But it was right. I leaned over again and shoved my hand down into the back of my mouth. Just one more t? Suddenly I heard a car door slam. Was my sister home already?! I rushed over to the sink and rapidly brushed my teeth. Glancing in the mirror, I saw that my eyes were beet red; partly from tears, partly from reflex. I quickly splashed some cold water on my face and stepped into the hallway just in time to see my sister walking up the stairs. I was breathless, my heart racing out of my chest.
"Are you okay?" Courtney asked, "Your eyes are red."
I'm fine." I said, wiping my hands on the back pockets of my jeans.
Days later I was sitting at my usual lunch table alongside my friends, although the food had long been cleared away except a few snacks still lingering around. The topic of the week was homecoming, only a few weeks away. As I was chatting, I reached across the table to grab one of the cookies only about an arm's length from me.
"You sure about that, Tay? With homecoming around the corner?" a friend questioned, unaware of what this seeming innocuous comment would trigger. I slowly brought my arm back to my side, unsure of how to react. My worst fear, someone asking aloud the thoughts that were consuming me 24 hours a day. I was embarrassed. I needed to get out now. Where was the closest bathroom? Which ones were empty? The ones in the science hallway towards the back of the school were a sure bet. But I couldn't hold back that long. My tears were coming faster than my legs could move so I stayed sitting in my seat, head buried in my arms as I tried to conceal my sobs. My friends, I knew, were very confused.
My friend, Jackie, turned to me.
Tay, are you okay? What's wrong?"
I faced her; I knew I needed to tell somebody. I couldn't let this go on anymore. I needed help.
"Can you take me to my counselor?" Jackie nodded.
Moments later, I was sitting on the worn, plaid-covered couch in the school physiatrist's office, tissue clutched in hand. I struggled trying to get the words out of my mouth. I had never before categorized myself as bulimic; never said it out loud. But once I did, my story poured out in sentences I had never pictured myself revealing to anyone but my journal. I felt so exposed, my darkest secret that I had kept to myself for nearly two years was now lying out in front of me and someone I barely knew, but it felt good to let it out.
"I'm going to get help," I thought.
Once the hard part was over, telling my parents and getting them through the initial shock, it was time to look for some professional help. My parents and school counselor were, of course, going to continue to be involved, but I needed someone who specialized in eating disorders. After a couple of tries, I finally found a therapist-nutritionist team who met my needs perfectly.
My therapist, Jen, and my nutritionist, Kathy, would work together to create a food plan and devise a list of strategies to help me work through those tough times. However, I had a lot to do on my end as well. The next few months I would be recording everything I ate, my thoughts after meals, when I had my episodes, and many other things that seemed tedious but would eventually lead me to my recovery.
The months that followed were the hardest I had ever lived through. I had never been so aware of my feelings and insecurities until they were pulled out from the back of my mind and sprawled in front of my face. I needed to learn to face my anxieties instead of ignoring them. I needed to learn how to organize my thoughts and contradict the bad with the good. Most importantly, though, I needed to create balance. As a bulimic, I was always walking on a tightrope and the slightest worry could cause me to slip and lose control. This balance involved juggling my school work, family time, food plan, job, boyfriend, and free time. I eventually would develop strategies and distractions to fill in the gaps; keeping myself busy was key. Slowly I felt safer while walking across this tightrope. My family and a few carefully selected friends were always there to spot me in case I felt like I was going to fall.
Months ago, I might have written this essay with a different outlook. Being a bulimic used to be something that defined me. It was what I thought about every minute; it controlled thoughts, my moods, my actions, my life. But now I am just a girl recovering from bulimia. Although my recovery has been far from perfect, it has given me a greater sense of determination. My "eating disorder behaviors" have not completely disappeared and I am still learning to control my thoughts, but I have come too far down to road to turn back now.
Being the victim of a tragic death of a brother, rape, abuse, and depression; I needed to find something I could control. This year, I had a heart attack the middle of algebra two class. Reason being? I hadn't had anything except for gum and Jolly Ranchers for 15 days.
I was quickly admitted into Forest View hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to seek help on the life threatening problem I was facing. In all honesty, I did not want help, I had control over ONE thing in my life; or so I thought. It's all so clear in my mind, many years ago, when I threw up for the first time. My mother had been caught cheating on my dad again and venom was being thrown in my house. I went into the bathroom and locked the door. Looking in the mirror, I saw no reason to be alive; nothing about the reflection was beautiful. In the corner of the mirror was the reflection of the toilet. I sat on the floor crying for what seemed like hours before I actually did it. 12 years old, and I felt as though I had to be good at something and being attractive was what ED had chosen for me.
All control had been lost when I was 7 years old, my brother died and that same week, my cousin began his hobby of raping me. This went on until I was 12, when i started my period. Everything around me was collapsing, all I had was ED; he was my only friend. Sitting in class, focusing was just not an option ED was willing to let me have, all day he would spit at my self esteem. "No one loves you K," "See those girls whispering? They're talking about how fat you are," "I am the only thing you have," "All the guys voted you the ugliest in the school," "You are going nowhere in life." On and on, I heard those words 24/7, for 7 years.
In those years, I stopped once, for 6 months. Why? I fell in love. At age 15 I began dating my high school sweetheart. The first year of our relationship was just like a fairy tale. For the first time in my entire life, I felt truly beautiful. However, all good things come to an end. After a year, he broke up with me. We ened up back together but at that point I had already broken my sobriety and was again addicted to ED. We were together another two years after that and he never knew. He suspected on many occasions, but never figured it out. Once, he walked in on my throwing up and I panicked and told him I was pregnant. He believed me for months, planning, saving money, picking up shifts. He was perfect. How could I let myself do that? Needless to say when he found out he was just shattered. We broke up, and I still wasn't done hurting him. ED kept yelling at me, convincing me it was his fault. So what did I do? Harassed him to the point of blocking my number and facebook.
After that, I broke down completely. Starving myself as punishment is what it really was I believe. After my heart attack, while in the hospital, I met a girl. She was in there because of attempted suicide. We always say, "we found love in a hopeless place," because we became best friends in the 4 weeks we were both in there. Between her and my support group, they honestly saved my life.
After I was discharged, I felt like a million bucks. Came back to school expecting to receive hugs from all of my friends; no. When I got back to school, my ex had completely destroyed my reputation. None of my friends would talk to me, people would snicker when I walked by, and I felt honestly alone, again. To this day, I have no idea how i managed to stay strong until graduation, but I did it. After that, however, while going open house hopping, I found out my ex had a new girlfriend. Relapse happened faster than I could think. I never went back to the hospital, though I probably should have, but I was seeing a therapist every day and was so high on anti depressants I couldn't even talk straight half of the time. To this day, I struggle with depression very intensely. And to be honest, I still hear ED almost every day, but I stay strong. I have post-it notes all over my mirror with recovery quotes on them, reminding me that I am beautiful. I have no idea what is to come in the future but as for now I am still trucking along and doing alright in my recovery.
I'm weary of filling the void in my life, anxiety is devouring my soul
I numb myself from hand to mouth the hunger is taking its toll
But if I stop to see who calls will fear have locked the door?
Where is the key to that part of me that knows life is so much more?
It's buried deep as deep can be beneath the layers of pain
My inner light is barely bright for my heart is drenched with rain
We all have our methods of coping we all have our weapons of choice
If we cast them aside and get off the ride can we free our inner voice?
We have much for which to be grateful, yet at times it seems we don't care
Our inner berating and self-medicating consumes us with despair
We cannot fight this battle alone or we're sure to lose the war
If we retreat we're admitting defeat without knowing what it was all for
If we close our eyes and open our minds we'll open ourselves to joy
And bit by bit without knowing it, ego we'll start to destroy
And as its hold on us loosens, so do the knots it has tied
And so we'll find as our truths unwind we no longer need to hide
We'll be free to shine for the world to see, free to live our dreams
Forever we'll know that wherever we go, it's never as dark as it seems
If we reach out a hand will help us, if we speak our call will be heard
Amazing grace puts us back in the race we have only to say the word
We all have a flame within us, though at times we don't always see
That spark of life between joy and strife is what's joining you and me
FREE Eating Disorder Support Group!
FREE weekly eating disorder support group for adults struggling with food issues, staffed by therapists from Mirasol Eating Disorder Recovery Centers. Thursdays from 5:30-6:45 pm at 3116 N Swan in Tucson. For more information, call 520-546-3200.
"Mirasol is light years ahead of any other program in the country."