**Content warning: This is one person’s story; everyone will have unique experiences in recovery and beyond. Some stories may mention eating disorder thoughts, behaviors, and symptoms. Please use your discretion when reading and speak with your support system as needed.
My name is Lexie Chambers, and I have bulimia nervosa. Although I was only diagnosed as of May 2019, I have practiced eating disorder, or ED, behaviors since 2012. Over the years, I have developed an unhealthy relationship with my eating disorder, letting it control my life. However, after seven years, I am ready to say goodbye.
Dear Eating Disorder,
It has been an exhausting journey to say the least. Throughout the years, ED, you have infiltrated my brain with negative self-talk, body dysmorphia, and a false sense of self-worth. You have broken me down to the point where I couldn’t see a life without you.
You presented yourself to me for the first time in 7th grade. Skipping lunch became normal because I started to idolize the idea of thinness, always wanting to maintain how I looked. Beauty to you only had an outside perspective. And, you were confirmed in your perspective when others made comments about how good I looked solely based on my body shape. Skinny meant “healthy,” “worthy,” “popular,” “more attention,” and “beautiful.”
In 8th grade, two coaches informed me that if I did not start eating, I could not compete.
In 9th grade, my father had the lunch supervisor at school make sure I ate. This was the same year I lost the ability to play sports because of an injury. I clung onto you because my self-worth could not be determined by my athletic success anymore. ED’s thought was, “I may not stand out in sports, but I will stand out as the skinniest.”
Your ugly thoughts intensified throughout my high school years. You told me that I could be confident in a skinny body, in the same body that I had in 7th grade. You told me that if I did not fit in my jeans from middle school, I was not worthy and if I didn’t have a flat stomach, I was too big. You convinced me that I enjoyed feeling hungry.
In 11th and 12th grade, I started body checking by pinching and mirror checking. I also started the cycle of restriction and binging, not because I wanted to at first. My days started in the weight room at 6 AM, then school until 3 PM, and then practice until 5 PM. “My day did not have time for a healthy eating schedule” or so you told me. I started skipping breakfast, eating a light lunch, and after a hard practice going home and binging. You made this cycle seem “normal” to me.
In the 1st year of college, unhealthy, negative self-talk turned to action. You convinced me that these actions were innocent. You told me that to succeed in sports, I had to eat healthier. “Food rules” controlled me. Calorie counts and food measurements consumed me at every meal. MyFitnessPal became my best friend. Without it, I felt lost. The weight scale measured my self-worth. All of these behaviors, you, once again, normalized. And, once again, I sat through another lecture from another coach about eating habits.
The summer of 2018, I got down to my lowest weight. But, hey, you were happy because I was nothing but skin and bones. Nobody seemed to notice either because you took advantage of my title as a “runner.” You hid behind the normalcy of “skinny” runners, but my body was dying inside. Fatigue, lightheadedness, and tingling hands and feet all became normal.
In my 2nd year of college, years of restriction finally caught up to me. My urges escalated. For the fear of binge eating, I ate in secret. My friends joked because I was known as the “diet coke queen.” However, little did they know, it was a way to mask my urges. You made my body scream back at me. You made my body fall apart. I was wrongly diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. I also became anemic and had low WBC count, all within 6 months. You, ED, were killing me. Urges and binges increased. Laxative use and purging started. Not to mention I was running tons of miles a week for Division II Track and Field and taking 17 college credits.
Every year got worse because every year you, ED, got stronger. For the longest time, I thought I had a grip on you. It was not until my sophomore year of college when I decided enough was enough. I did not deserve to be in pain anymore. I did not deserve to be physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted by simply trying to get through my days. I once had time for you in my life but not anymore, so I decided to get help.
The summer of 2019, I decided to love myself again. I admitted myself into treatment. For three long summer months, I was in a treatment program called Intensive Outpatient Care, IOP, through The Emily Program. It was hard, and by hard, I mean HARD. You fought back several times, but with the right tools, I can say, today, that I have won. I can finally say that I am so much more than my body. You made me believe for so long that my self-worth was solely based on my body, and you are wrong.
Today, ED, I am recovered. I have won. But, that does not mean I still do not have bad days. You like to pop up from time to time, but I hope you know there is no place for you anymore. You once brought me great joy, confidence, pride, and self-worth, and for that reason, I am thankful. But, I now find joy, confidence, pride, and self-worth in being myself. Because I am simply enough.
ED, you are not welcomed. Goodbye.