Story time: life, defined by an eating disorder



Trigger Warning: eating disorder behavior including purging and restricting. 
I remember the first time I purged. I was 19. My stomach was in knots from anxiety, my throat felt as though I’d swallowed a flame and my eyes were tearing. When I was done, I stared at my reflection. In a sick way, I was proud. The rational part of me felt ashamed. My body image was shot. I hated myself. I was depressed. Just existing was a struggle.
Ninja—my son (not his real name), was three months old at the time and was sound asleep in the next room. He was completely unaware of the demons inside his mother’s head. My eating disorder felt like a living person—a frenemy, capable of killing me slowly. 
‘What kind of mother does this?’ I thought. 

Disordered eating was nothing new to me. 

I remember spitting food into napkins during dinners. I’d count and severely limit calories or stop eating altogether. I remember one day—I think I was 16, I was out running during the summer and nearly collapsed on the side of the road because I hadn’t eaten a full meal in days. I remember comparing what I’d eaten each day with an old friend—over AIM messages after school. I don’t remember how we found out about the other’s eating disorder, but we helped each other stay sick. Once when she said she’d only had a slice of cheese, I worried I wasn’t “staying on track” and told myself she was better than me. I had my own list of safe foods and foods to avoid at all costs. I was member of different pro-ana and pro-mia communities and I saved thinspiration on my computer.


I remember being on a date with my high school boyfriend and staring down at the plate in front of me. We were at a Chinese restaurant and I’d ordered general tso chicken. It was my favorite then and it’s my favorite now. I wanted to eat it but my anxiety stopped me. I sat there looking around at the people in the restaurant. They were all eating their food without a second thought. I wished I could be any one of them. 
I was angry—at myself, for actually wanting the food and at my head, for telling me 'no.’ My mind was a conundrum of oxymorons. 
My then boyfriend was understanding; he knew about my eating disorder but there was nothing he could do to stop it. We left dinner early—my food wrapped in a doggie bag, untouched. My boyfriend was the one who told my mother what was going on. She brought me in to an intake appointment but the treatment center needed my permission. I refused, claimed I could stop on my own, thoroughly pissed off my mother and became better at hiding my behavior and thoughts. 
Two years later, my boyfriend became my husband. I was 18. Eight months after the wedding, I got pregnant. For the length of my pregnancy, I “controlled” my disordered thoughts and ate “like a normal person,” knowing I’d need to be healthy to carry a child. 

But I never changed my mindset or followed through on any kind of treatment. 

So my eating disorder lingered on the back burner until I had our son, Ninja. That’s when I lost all control again. Pregnancy brought on new feelings of self hate. I couldn’t stand to see my pregnancy progress. And my postpartum body was a disgraceful war zone, in my head at least. 
After I confessed what I’d been doing when Ninja was about 8 months old, his father called the same treatment center I refused to go to years before. He drove me to the intake appointment and waited in the waiting room for an hour to show his support. They diagnosed me with bulimia and admitted me into their intensive outpatient program. The program consisted of 4 hours of group and individual therapy with dinner every night. I did it for three days and then I bailed, against everyone’s wishes. They wanted me to go their inpatient program instead but I wouldn’t hear of it.
It was a long road of indecision and conflicting thoughts to finally get to the point where I not only wanted to get better for my son, but for myself. And that’s what I needed all along to really begin the lifelong journey of recovery. You can’t recover for anyone else, it’s all about you. 
When I discharged myself from that program seven years ago, I was ashamed. I was scared. I was afraid of the unknown.During that time, I thought I’d never be free from my eating disorder. I thought I would never be a good mother; I’d always be sick. 
It’s been four years since I last “slipped up” and it’s been over two years since I’ve even been tempted to. I may never be fully recovered—it’s a never ending journey, but the battle is so worth it. Now I look at myself with admiration and love. I’m strong. I’m beautiful. I feel free. I am free. 
If you’re struggling with an eating disorder, please reach out for help. I promise—life and freedom are waiting for you on the other side. Don’t ever give up. You deserve better for yourself. Don’t let the disordered thoughts tell you differently. You’re capable. You’re worth saving. You’re strong. You got this. 

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Hey! I’m Sarah Rose, a recovering bulimic and former depressed soul. I’m also the gal who runs Discern, Describe—my personal development & lifestyle blog for girls looking to build confidence, find inner peace and have stronger relationships. Sign up for the 7 Weeks to Happiness email series and get weekly mini challenges, trackers & over 20 worksheets here.

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