What I Want You to Know is a series of
reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their
personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the
unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to
this series,
click here. Today’s guest posts is by Katherine.
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There
is nothing sexy about eating disorders. You will never have the right
curves. The weight will never be lost from the correct areas. The
number on the scale will never be low enough. You will never be
beautiful enough. Or skinny enough. Or model-esque enough. Or
glamorous enough. And that’s the way eating disorders work. It’s never
enough.

It doesn’t happen the way movies or books describe it.
There is no active thought one day, “I think I’m going to be anorexic.”
Committing to an eating disorder is hard—recovering from one is even
harder. You don’t get to just decide to stop. You don’t get to just
decide to sit down for a normal meal one day and defeat your disorder.
It’s not even as easy as going to a therapist. There is nothing easy
about eating disorders, whether it be falling into one or recovering
from one.

To make a long story short, I will simply tell you that
the only background information you need to know about me is the fact
that starting from 4th grade, my life was filled with a mess of dramatic
(to an elementary schooler) friendships that chipped away at my
self-worth until I was left with nothing. Friends that decided when,
how, and if I could be their friend. Friends that decided I just wasn’t
smart enough, cool enough, pretty enough, or skinny enough. As my
self-worth was reduced to nothing, the flames of self-hate grew until
they consumed my entire being. As a perfectionist and control freak of
my own life, I was completely not okay with being a failure. As I
entered high school, I became increasingly “emo” and depressed. On the
outside, I was cheerful and perky, but on the inside, I brooded and
pondered on how to be better. My sophomore year in high school, as I
struggled to be perfect in something, to be the best in something, to be
in control of something, I realized that while I couldn’t control my
looks, or my intelligence, or my cool points…I could control what I ate.
And so the downward spiral began. It started off with eating less on
weekends, then less for dinner, then less for lunch. By the middle of
my junior year, I was eating half a ham and cheese sandwich for lunch,
half a bowl of rice with a few veggies for dinner, and nothing on the
weekends. I also played basketball at my church on Sundays and relished
in the lightheaded feeling I got when I played too hard with no food in
my stomach. It meant I was working hard—it meant I was succeeding.

Falling
into anorexia was hard and messy. Days I “failed” at starving myself
were the messiest. I didn’t even realize I had anorexia until my
freshman year in college, because it didn’t begin as an intentional
eating disorder. It didn’t start off as an “I’m too fat” thought, but
rather, an obsessive, “I need to do this better” thought. It was a way
for me to exert some sort of control over a life that I thought was
spiraling away from me. It was a way for me to be good at something, to
fix a fault that others had pointed out in me. All my life, I thought
eating disorders only “afflicted” people who thought they were fat. The
movies and textbooks in health class only warned us of dangerous
thoughts about weight. I thought I was safe, because while I thought
about my weight, it wasn’t the reason I wanted to eat less. There is no
way I had an eating disorder.

But I did. And I never told
anyone about it beyond my friend, Melissa. She alone knew of my
struggles with identity and self-hate. In the middle of my junior year,
she approached me with a care package. Among many other things, a
yellow rubber duck was included. On the bottom of that yellow duck, she
had written, “quack! You are fearfully & wonderfully made! [A
verse from Psalm 139] I love you.” The duck was a reminder of something
her mom told her once that she had passed on to me. She told me, “Be
like a duck. The way water rolls off of ducks’ feathers…let others’
thoughts, opinions, and words roll off of you.” And that marked the
beginning of my road to recovery.

My senior year, I struggled to
“fix” it myself, alternating between hating myself for failing at
anorexia, hating myself for falling into it in the first place, and
hating myself for failing at fixing myself! The temptation to starve
myself continued to plague me. Unlike most people who will eat when
they’re hungry, I had to forcefully remind myself to eat. My body no
longer registered what hunger was. When I entered UT as a freshman in
the fall of 2008, the freedom of college ended up being too much for me
and before I even knew what was happening, I was keeping a food diary
again and skipping meals. I was no longer at home, so there were no
family meal times or school lunch times, and because my body still
wasn’t realizing hunger, meal times were often forgotten. And I felt
bad, too. Because Melissa was right—I was fearfully and wonderfully
made. God  created me purposefully and perfectly imperfect. Who was I to say
that He had made a mistake on me? With each food entry logged and each
meal missed, my guilt ate away at me. I felt like I was spiting God.

Easter
Day rolled around and the pastor of my church in Austin, Austin Stone
Community Church, gave a sermon about bringing sin to light. At the end
of the sermon, he showed a video called “Cardboard Stories.” Stories
of healing and recovery. Stories of people who had been redeemed by
bringing their brokenness to light! That afternoon, I told my family
about my anorexia for the first time. Then I told some mentor figures.
Then I told my closest girl friends. Darkness cannot exist in light. But
was that it? No, no it wasn’t. It wasn’t a magical off button. It
was an uphill battle, but slowly, ever so slowly, I began to heal.

There is nothing simple or glamorous about
eating disorders. There’s only a lot of pain and suffering and tears
and self-hate. But there is hope. There is always, always, always
hope.

[Note: I don’t write this with the intention of saying that
merely telling your friends is enough. Eating disorders are serious
business—get some help.]