Reading the diagnostic criteria for Anorexia Nervosa from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is vastly different than hearing the stories of individuals who have suffered with the condition. In this post, I want to offer some insight into what it is like to live with Anorexia Nervosa.
I initially began starving myself at the age of 13 or 14 as a way to lose some weight, to look as thin as my friends looked. I wanted people to compliment my looks like they did with my friends.
Because I attended a residential school for most of my high school career, starving myself was easy. All I had to do was lie to my mother about what I had eaten that day. No one could force me to eat away from home.
When I transferred schools in the middle of my junior year, I was already obsessed with the amount of food I was eating. It became harder to hide my starving behaviors, though, so I gained a little weight during that time.
However, when I moved to college, I began starving myself with a new vigor I never knew I had. I was determined to be thin, beautiful, and perfect. During my college years I lost a significant amount of weight.
It was during this time, too, that I began to have insight into why I was so intent on starving myself. I learned that I used restricting behaviors to cope with feelings I couldn’t handle, especially “negative feelings”.
I began to explore my restricting behaviors in therapy and I learned that being with my family was especially triggering for my eating disorder. When I went home I felt as if I had no control over what happened to me, and I used restricting behavior in order to give myself control over something – my body and weight.
I hated my body so much. No matter how thin I got, it was never thin enough. I thought thoughts like, “I am so fat!” even when I was extremely underweight, “I am eating too much” when I was only consuming a mere 500 calories or less a day, and “I’m still not good enough”.
As I entered into my Master’s program, I continue to starve myself, at least for the first year of my program. When my boyfriend, Dave, moved in during my second year in the program, however, things changed. I actively sought more intensive therapy for my eating disorder and Dave and I worked on getting my weight to a healthy level.
Since then, I have spent a year in recovery from Anorexia Nervosa. I still have plenty of days where I feel I am too fat, not good enough, or as if I am eating too much. But now I know that when these thoughts occur, I need to pay attention to what is going on inside of me. I need to examine my feelings and I need to examine why I feel as if I have no control over my life.
Recovery is possible for you or a loved one who has Anorexia Nervosa. Recovery is a hard and trying journey, one that you or your loved one will be on for many years. But once you’ve achieved a level of recovery, you’ll never want to go back into your eating disorder.
Eating disorders don’t have to control you; you can beat it with professional help, time, and a strong support system.
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