I found myself in my counselor’s office for what felt like the twentieth time that month. Blissfully unaware that the life I was leading had put me on a path of self-destruction that essentially could have ended it.
“You have an eating disorder,” my counselor had told me. “I’m not sure I can help you anymore.”
And just like that, I was no longer in control of what was going to happen to me. Not if, when, or what I ate. Legitimately nothing. It was as if I was a child again.
In the time that proceeded, there are so many things that I wish I could tell my sixteen-year-old self. She wasn’t prepared for how things would unravel.
There was no one to warn you, and I’m sorry.
The struggle isn’t knowing what to say; it’s knowing how to say this to you in a way you will understand. It’s hard to wrap your head around any foreign concept, let alone one that contradicts everything you thought you knew about yourself. Your basic instincts. It’s like defying gravity.
Right now, I know that you have an unclear perception of what you look like. You look back at pictures of yourself from three months ago and convince yourself that you looked better then than you do now. You’ll do the same thing three months from now and then three months after that. It’s all a mind game.
Everyone will tell you that you look exactly the same. You won’t believe them. How could you? You live your life in this cycle but have never known better than to try and break it.
You’ll feel crazy. The only way that makes sense to describe the feeling is that it’s like you’re living in a house of mirrors. But always. Like there’s literally no exit. You’d wonder why you were always so afraid of those.
You will dream of surgeries to fix things that weren’t ever broken. Your brain will start wars between logic and reasoning. You will push away every person who gets in the way. You’ll get sicker before you get any better.
And this is normal. For someone in your position, anything less would be astonishing. If I could make you understand one thing, it would be the normalcy of the obstacles that recovery brings.
The misconception that surrounds any mental illness is that time passed has a direct correlation to recovery. It doesn’t. Know that. Know that regardless of what any program or human in your life tells you, X amount of time cannot begin to uncover the depth of your struggles because this has been your life.
You had this unhealthy relationship with food long before anyone cared to notice, and now you are expected to change what feels like the very makeup of your mind. They can call it what they want. They can give it a name, but what will that change?
The voice in your head that provokes all of your insecurities has been with you so long that you can’t distinguish the difference between it and your own mind. You think it makes you weak. You aren’t, though. You just don’t know it yet.
As you will quickly figure out, it’s hard. The one thing I can tell you about relapsing is that it doesn’t get any easier. The worst part about it is being consciously aware that you are falling again but not being able to do anything about it. Not being able to change your mindset into one that is “normal.”
But this is a mental illness. The physical imprints that are left as a result are what you are focused on. The root cause is something else entirely. A decade of external and internal verbal abuse that was left untreated. Approval that was never received.
No matter how much time passes, you are never going to be completely content with yourself. That’s how this illness works. It preys on every fiber of your being. It offers you the satisfaction that you sought but will never deliver. It’ll be with you one minute and against you the next. It’s toxic. Your best friend. A silent killer.
You are stronger than you know. Because despite it all, you will be okay.
We will be okay.
It’s taken me years to get to this place—a place where I can accept that my struggles give me strength. I give so much of the credit to my sixteen-year-old self. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for her courage. I owe her to keep going. I owe her a future.