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 post is by Lesley.

I want you to know that I didn’t feel beautiful growing up, but more importantly, I didn’t feel that I was good enough at anything. I had a great support network of close family, friends, and teachers. I was a straight A student and was actively involved in school activities. I should have felt good enough, but I didn’t, and when I was 17, I found a way to feel better about myself, more than just physically. I started losing weight. I hadn’t planned to diet and it happened almost by accident because I began skipping meals due to a busy schedule. The results were noticeable, though, and that was enough. Losing weight made me feel good enough. I think the reason for that is because so many people find losing weight so difficult. Also, it was something I could easily control, which was reassuring for a teenager where life seems out of control. Plus, there was a lot of positive reinforcement. What disturbs me is that the positive reinforcement I received for losing weight was more than I had received for any other accomplishments.

I want you to know that I starved myself eating less than 100 calories per day and I was happier than I had ever been… for a time. But that happiness was dangerous because when it went away, I craved it and thought the only want to get back to it was to keep starving myself. Instead of happy, I became scared. I was scared of what would happen if I kept starving myself and I was scared of what would happen if I didn’t keep starving myself.

I want you to know that I got lucky and without the help of some really great people, I would have starved myself to death. I was less than 80 pounds at my lowest weight and could have begun seeing organ failure at any moment. I hear great therapists are hard to come by and I knew the moment mine opened her mouth that she’d save me. My parents put their entire lives on hold to save mine. You can’t thank somebody enough for that. I’m here today because of them and many other amazing people. 
I want you to know that recovering from an eating disorder is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And I’m not done because recovery is something you can never stop doing. There were many times where I wanted to kill myself just so I could have a break from recovering. It’s that hard. In the beginning, it takes all of your effort. You can’t think about school, friends, work, or any other part of your life. You can only think about recovery because the only thing you’re actually thinking about is starving yourself. I have to work at recovery every single day, even after more than eight years. But it’s not even remotely as hard as it used to be. I don’t have to spend every single waking moment working on recovery. I may only spend a few seconds per day.

But I want you to know that it could change in a second. I know that, which is why I will keep working at recovery every single day for the rest of my life, even if it’s only a few seconds or minutes per day.

I want you to know that I wouldn’t take any of it back. My eating disorder, therapy, and recovery were the best things that have ever happened to me. I’m a confident person with self worth and I know that I’m way better than good enough at a lot of things.