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Becoming a Real Girl This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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I crouched over the toilet, frozen, waiting for the door to open. As the knob turned, the shame poured over me; there was no way I could hide what I was doing. My dad stood there, open-mouthed, unsure of how to handle the situation. “You know this isn't going to help your recovery,” he said.

After three long months of an endless cycle of starving, bingeing, and purging, I decided it was time for a change; I had become a one-dimensional girl. I had lost my friends, my ability to play oboe and soccer, my interests, my energy, my focus, and my life. All that was left was food.

Every second of the day was spent planning what I would eat, measuring it, waiting to eat, trying not to think about food, eating as slowly as possible, wishing I could have more, working off or purging the food, and then waiting for the next meal.

Every day was so cold, figuratively and literally. My grades dropped dramatically; I had no energy to do homework. I would just go home and sleep. In addition, I had more important things to worry about, like how I was going to keep my dinner under 300 calories. I had become a zombie, and I wanted more than anything to be a real girl again.

At my first meeting with my nutritionist, Julie, she told me I had to eat at least 1,500 calories a day for the next week. She might as well have asked me to jump out the fourth floor window and land like a cat. Planning for the next day was horrible. I couldn't think of enough “healthy” foods to add up to 1,500 calories. Of course, my idea of healthy was completely distorted. Very few foods made the cut. I lived on carrots, peppers, salmon burgers, black coffee, and anything low-fat and low-calorie. I eventually allowed myself to eat a few less-healthy foods to reach the calorie quota, and I was surprised how good it felt not to constantly be ravenous. As time went on, Julie gradually increased my calorie quota. It seemed to get easier, and I began feeling more energetic and more like my old self.

A few months into my recovery, Julie told me it was time to stop counting calories. I started to panic. How would I know if I was eating too much, or too little? What if I gained 10 pounds in a week? What would I do with all the time I spent planning my meals? What if I ate so much that the food ripped open my stomach? I needed to maintain control. She assured me that if I truly listened to and trusted my body, I would know when to eat and when to stop. I would be able to make smart choices based on what my body needed, and my body could make up for any mistakes. I decided it was worth the risk. After all, it's not physically possible to gain 10 pounds in a week, and I could always begin counting again if I needed to.

I have not counted calories since that day. It was my first taste of freedom. The world seemed to grow to 10 times its size. I let my mind wander when it wanted to, focused on my schoolwork, enjoyed meals, and went out with friends. We listened to music, watched movies, played games, and joked with each other; I was reminded of what fun was. My brain was not dominated by obsessive thoughts of food or weight. I felt alive for the first time in months.

As I got used to my newfound freedom, I realized that I was happier than I had ever been. I was myself again, but even better. I no longer felt pressure to be perfect. I now knew what that felt like, and it was not what it's cracked up to be. My friends started talking to me and inviting me to hang out again. I had fun with them on a whole new level. I realized they liked me when I wasn't perfect, so it was okay to just be me.

With so much stress lifted, I was able to have faith that I would make it through junior year alive. I essentially had three months of work to make up. Thankfully, my teachers were very understanding and supportive, so we set up individual deadlines for all the missing assignments. Every paper or worksheet I turned in felt like a huge accomplishment. After being mentally detached from school for so long, I derived so much joy from every five points my grades increased. I loved being able to function again.

Nine months ago, when my dad opened that bathroom door, little did he know he was opening the door to my true recovery. If I hadn't been forced to be honest with myself and my family, I would never be where I am now. With all the love and support I received during my recovery, I eventually learned to love myself. I am, once again, a real girl.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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This article has 6 comments. Post your own!

bREATHEtODAY said...
Oct. 15, 2010 at 9:49 pm:
Wow, that was inspiring. I've never battled with eating disorders but a lot of my friends have. I can only try and emphathize what they went through..great story and I'm really happy for you(:
 
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C_B_Mia said...
Oct. 11, 2010 at 10:24 pm:
I had anorexia. This story was so very touching.
 
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z0mbie said...
Oct. 8, 2010 at 7:25 pm:
Just last night, I decided that I want to change my ways as an anorexic and that I want to get better :) I know exactly how you feel-- life with an eating disorder isn't easy :l
 
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DeathsWhisper said...
Sept. 30, 2010 at 9:22 pm:
This is really inspiring, aspeshaly to someone like me who is still in the heat of an eating disorder. I'm just like that, Spending every spare moment thinking about food, how much to eat, how many calories are in that, how can I get out of eating or trick my parents in to thinking I ate more. I love this article and it's deffinetly going on my favorits list. AWSOME JOB! 
 
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Melissa A. said...
Sept. 29, 2010 at 8:03 am:
I liked it and like the fact that you trusted your self,and everything changed to the best...Keep it up :D
 
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Sarbear This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
May 26, 2010 at 12:28 pm:
wow. this is amazing. i like how you started it out with her dad opening the door, then ending it with a conclusion that tied it all together. it's a very powerful story and i absolutely love your writing... great job keep writing!!! check out some of my work too? thanks!
 
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