Beating My Eating Disorder: Enough Was Enough

{Guest Post by Megan Thompson}


 

“…It takes a bit of learning before you realize not every drama is going to kill you and not every hard day has to lead to another one.”

-Andrew McMahon

I suffered from an eating disorder for six years. It took a lot of struggling, of eating when I didn’t want to, stopping when I felt like stuffing myself, sitting when I preferred to be standing, resting when I rather have been exercising, talking about my feelings when I wanted to shut up, but I did it. I recovered. But what made the difference? How did I beat something that almost killed me, which has taken several of my friends, along with thousands of others throughout the nation and increasingly around the world?

Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, and 1 in 5 will ultimately die from the disease.

Think about that. A whopping 20%.

And yet, somehow, I survived.

I wish that I could say that I did it all on my own, that there was some crazy insane secret that could take it all away, and there kind of is, but while the answer is incredibly simple, it was anything but easy to get to.

Now, when I tell people my story, a lot of people are curious about the dirty details: how much weight did I lose, how much was I exercising, what did or didn’t I eat? That, or they want to tell me about how they totally get what I went through, that they also dieted, or that they admired me for my amount of self-control.

Believe me when I say that anorexia is not about self-control.

Eating disorders are not about self-control. They are about self-loathing, defeat, of trying to be the smallest you can possibly be or just not existing at all. Eating disorders are about trying to be “better” than the starving girl beside you, being the “worst” patient in the hospital, tricking your mother into believing you’re okay when really you’re dying inside and out, the number of bones you can see sticking out of your stretched-to-thin skin, of how many friends and family members you can alienate, and the number of social gatherings you can weasel your way out of. Eating disorders are about feeling full of feeling empty, and not feeling anything at all.

Eating disorders are an appeal to pride, but at the same time, whatever goal you set and attain will never, ever be enough, leaving you unsatisfied and struggling to be even thinner than you’ve been before. Once you reach 110, you’ll want to go to 100, then 90, then 80. Eventually, if given the opportunity, it will kill you. So how do you fight back?

Honestly, I don’t think you can.

But hear me out.

I spent six years fighting my demons, and while I had marginal success and experienced periods of time where eating was easier than usual or I was in my weight range or whatever, on the whole I was nowhere near being “recovered.” I could fight the urges, but only for so long.

Which brings me to the shift.

Nothing, up until this point, really worked. I was a senior in high school, and treatment wasn’t working anymore. Any rules my treatment team or parents set, I could weasel around, and my weight continued to drop. My parents decided to take a leap of faith: withdraw Megan from treatment, and she’ll either recover, go to school, and live her life; or she’ll fail, wind up in the hospital, and possibly even die. For a while, I was choosing the latter. My eating was all over the place, I was working out an insane amount, and I was bone-thin. I’d given up. This went on for an entire year.

Fast-forward. After my freshman year of college, I went through a particularly rough breakup. As with my eating disorder, I wasn’t very good at picking men and was with this awful boy that was, as far as I’m aware, a diagnosed sociopath. So, things were rough. But I tried to push it to the back of my mind, using my disorder to numb and avoid my issues, when more terrible news struck.

One of my best and closest friends had died. He was twenty-two at the time, having suffered from bulimia for half of his life. I was crushed.

Now, I should interject the fact that both of my parents are remarried, and a few days prior to this, my stepmother had just given birth to my baby sister. Change was in the air, but I didn’t know what it all meant. On one hand, there was this new life, this tiny little body that has an entire life ahead of it, full of adventure, loss, love, and learning. On the other, there’s all this pain, this self-loathing, this “How did I survive and not him?” “What do I do now?” and “Will I ever be normal enough for someone to love me?

It was in that moment I had a decision to make.

Suddenly, things became undeniably real. Either I could keep playing this game with the scale and it could kill me (or leave me miserable enough that I might as well be dead), or I could give that all up and move on with my life. In a way, it was incredibly difficult, but on the other hand it was the easiest decision I’ve ever made because I finally got to the point where I was sick and tired of being sick and tired all of the time.

So I gave it up to God. And something interesting happened.

I realized that things didn’t have to be the way that they were. I didn’t have to be defeated; I could choose and be differently.

From then on, everything changed. Eating got easier. I stopped looking at every nutrition label and I wasn’t worried about being a size 0 anymore. Going out to eat became fun, I made friends again, and I began to feel alive, more so than I had my entire life. I realized how blessed I was to have a body in the first place, and the importance of liking it regardless of what shape it was, if there was stretch marks or freckles or whatever. In turn, I began to see the beauty in all of God’s creation. Other girls weren’t competition anymore, every sunrise and sunset infinitely more precious because I had lived to see it, each breath was a miracle, and flowers were breathtaking because of their frailty and God’s care in making all of them and the rest of creation. The smallest things and the biggest became infinitely more important because God blessed me with the ability of experiencing them.

Believe me when I say that I don’t regret what I went through. I don’t wish that that my eating disorder had never happened, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. It was certainly the darkest period of my life, but it shaped me into who I am today, and God used it to show me that I can overcome anything through Him when I trust Him to bring me through it.

Anorexia took more from me than any person could, and yet, it left me with an unexpected gift: the appreciation of life, all of it.

“Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He saved them from their distress. He sent out His word and healed them; He rescued them from the grave. Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for mankind.”

-Psalm 107:19-21


 

megan
Megan is currently wrapping up a degree in English with a concentration in Creative Writing at the University of Texas in San Antonio. Her favorite hobbies include but are not limited to: procrastibaking, petting dogs, drinking more caffeine than the average twenty-year-old can take, crying over video game/book/film endings, going to bluegrass shows, and sharing her love for Jesus with whomever she meets. A military brat and travel fanatic, Megan has been to twenty-two different countries on four continents, though her favorite place is home.
You can find her short stories and other assortment of blog posts here.
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