As a 16 year old girl, I had everything that anyone could ever want. I was pretty, had tons of friends, lead several clubs, got good grades, was successful in sports, and had a boyfriend in a band. I didn’t need ED. But there he was, nonetheless, staring at me every time I stared at my own reflection. Wooing me, convincing me, lying to me, destroying me.
ED wasn’t always in my life. He just sort of was there one day…slowly creeping his way in until he fully consumed me. It started small, a few laxatives that I found in the medicine cabinet. I had read somewhere that if you eat too much food, you could take some and it would get rid of it and make you feel less bloated. I tried it and it worked. So I tried it the next day, and the next. It became addicting, this gross habit that made me feel empty…a feeling that I grew to like, then love, then crave.
ED was with me each step, encouraging me to take the pills, convincing me that I was making a good choice, reminding me that I could eat anything that I wanted and get rid of it without anyone really knowing. But then, ED lied to me. He said that it would work forever, but my body started to get used to the pills and not get rid of the food. ED convinced me that more pills would work, that the intense pain that I felt in my stomach was normal, that if I just kept going I would feel the feelings that I needed. So I took more and more. But instead all I felt was disappointment, not emptiness. So, I tried to leave ED, telling him that he lied to me and I didn’t want him around anymore. That he wasn’t good for me and I didn’t want him having a hold over me anymore. I vowed to never see him again and thought that I was strong enough to leave him. But I was wrong.
Someone noticed. “Have you lost weight?” they would ask, examining my new body and commenting on how much I had changed. Four simple words that would change the whole course of my life. I went running back to ED, telling him that I needed him again, begging him to take me back, to teach me new ways, ways to feel empty and in control. ED gladly took me back and taught me how to look up how many calories I should be getting each day as a normal teen girl. I decided to eat exactly half of that amount. ED showed me how to count the calories of each food that I was consuming to make sure I stayed within my limit. I became a master at it. ED told me over and over again how proud he was of me, how he had never had a better student, and how I would become the person I always wanted to be.
And people noticed. “Wow! You look really good!” they would say, examining my new body and commenting on how much I had changed. I grew proud, proud of my body, proud of my accomplishments, proud of my discipline. And I grew hungry, hungry to change my body even more. I asked ED for help, and he taught me how to burn the calories that I was eating so that I would literally be left feeling empty. I jumped at the opportunity and began exercising everyday before school and then going to swim practice after school for two hours and then coming home and exercising again. ED encouraged me to step on the scale. I was shocked at what I saw. The numbers that normally stared back at me, were lower, much lower. And I loved it.
Those numbers became my new best friends. I grew to love them, craving to see them as much as possible throughout the day. I would rush home from school and run to see them before running off to exercise. I would wake up in the middle of the night and miss them, so I would sneak into the bathroom just to see them one more time. I would even look for them in other people’s homes, stores, mall bathrooms, locker rooms. ED loved my newfound friendship and encouraged me to keep setting new goals for my numbers. And, I. Reached. Every. One.
And people noticed. “I’m worried about you,” they would say, examining my new body and commenting on how much I had changed. ED would get mad, and tell me that they were just jealous, to ignore them, and that I was healthy now! But their concern continued and they tried to ask me about ED. I would lie and say I didn’t know what they were talking about, after all, my relationship with ED was our business, not theirs. ED convinced me to avoid those people that asked questions, to start wearing baggy clothes so that they would leave me alone, to come up with a list of excuses and reasons for why I wasn’t eating like they thought I should. But their questions wouldn’t stop. And some of the questions started to make sense, and I started to wonder if I really wanted ED anymore.
But ED was relentless and refused to let me go easily. He convinced me that he had another way, a way where I could eat food and make the questions stop, but maintain my new body. He taught me how to eat the food put in front of me and then how to sneak to the bathroom. He taught me how one strategically placed finger could bring up everything that was destroying all of my hard work. And so I found a new friend; a friend that I visited often; a friend that I would seek out at every home, every store, every locker room, every school hallway; a friend that brought me joy at first, then pain and then an abundance of shame and guilt. ED encouraged the friendship, telling me that it was for the best, that this was what I wanted.
And people noticed. “You are doing significant damage to your body,” the doctor would say, as he examined my new body and commented on how much I had changed. ED and I listened to the doctor explain how my throat was coated with thick scars, how my esophagus had a small tear in it, how my teeth were losing enamel, how my stomach lining had high levels of acid, and how my heart had so much pressure on it that it had the potential of stopping. And ED whispered in my ear to ignore the doctor, that he didn’t know what he was talking about, that we just needed to be more careful and everything would go back to normal.
But more people noticed, “Your struggle with ED goes much deeper than a struggle with your looks, your weight, even with food,” the counselor said, as she examined my mind and commented on all the ways that I needed to change. ED didn’t like the counselor and fought against her constantly, trying to convince her that she was WRONG and that I was fine and that I didn’t need her help. But she didn’t give up and learned to speak louder than ED’s whispers and shouts. So ED would try different ways, convincing me that I didn’t need to see her that day, that I wasn’t feeling well and didn’t need to go, that I could handle my life on my own. But she didn’t give up and I learned how to leave ED at home when I went to visit her, and how to work through the deeper struggles that brought ED into my life in the first place, and how to heal from a damaging relationship that had tried to destroy me. And I learned how to break up with ED.
And people noticed, “You seem healthy…and happy,” they would say, examining my new body and commenting on how much I had changed.
WRITTEN BY Amy Hanna