My 13th birthday was spent with some of my closest friends at Glamour Shots. I remember the outfit I wore and how unaware of my body I was. I also remember the cake that we enjoyed-Oreo with cookie crunch. I didn’t think twice about digging in. I could never imagine that just one year later I would be standing in the bathroom pinching my flesh, apologizing for what I had eaten.
By my 14th birthday, I had been dieting and cutting a few items here and there. Unbeknownst to myself, I was nowhere near prepared for my birthday pizza dinner. Nevertheless, it was imperative to be normal, and what normal 14 year old doesn’t eat pizza? That night, staring in the mirror, I scrutinized my body, pinched the “excess” flesh, hating myself for what I’d done. Needing to fix it, I purged.
From there, my “casual” diet grew into vegetarianism and new dislikes of too many foods. The purging had scared me; it did not begin again for quite some time. I never used the words anorexia or eating disorder. In my head, I was still in control. I was nothing like “those girls” I had heard about. It’s never you, until it is, and for me, it was the beginning of an almost eight year battle with an eating disorder. One that nearly took my life.
The doctors claimed that had I not gone out that day I wouldn’t have survived the weekend.
Things came to a head in 2007 when my mom insisted I get out of bed. I fought. I was too tired to move and of course I felt too fat to go out in public. After a draining trip through the pharmacy, we headed to the food store. I gripped the cart tightly and lasted the whole shopping trip, almost. By the end of the day, I was so exhausted that I ended up in the local hospital. After seven days I was transferred to the Princeton Eating Disorder Unit. The doctors claimed that had I not gone out that day I wouldn’t have survived the weekend.
I spent almost four months at the University Medical Center of Princeton’s EDU, reclaiming my physical health. When I left the center, I relapsed. It wasn’t easy, but through the support of my family and an outpatient program, I eventually learned how important it was to “do the work.” My eating disorder is something I never thought I could overcome. However, recovery is possible-full recovery, and yes, the ability to not only enjoy food, but to live without being confined to a mental prison.
While in treatment, I met a girl named Kristina Saffran who co-founded an organization called Project HEAL. She and Liana Rosenman met in treatment for anorexia and helped each other to achieve full recovery. This inspired them to help other girls. Founded in 2008, Project HEAL works to raise funds for individuals suffering from an eating disorder to pay for treatment. The necessary treatment is rarely covered by insurance companies and therefore many cannot afford the programs they need and deserve.
Recovery is a long, arduous process, but it’s possible.
Additionally, Project HEAL promotes positive body image, eating disorder awareness and provides recovery mentors. Thus far, Project HEAL has raised over $200,000 and sent seven women to treatment. I’ve always wanted to help others, so I joined the organization after I had completed my treatment. I head up the New Jersey chapter, where I regularly do recovery speeches and moderate recovery groups. It’s reinvigorating! Helping others is a constant motivator for me to stay strong and healthy.
On Katie, Dr. Bulik said, “Eating Disorders are not a drive-thru disorder.” This couldn’t be truer. Just entering treatment does not fix or solve the problem. Keep in mind, it is NOT about the food, and Rome wasn’t built in a day. Recovery is a long, arduous process, but it’s possible. The other side is scary and unknown, but learning to love myself is more worth it than I could ever properly express through words.
Has an eating disorder impacted your life?