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There was a girl, a girl smiling from ear to ear. She was laughing at something her friend had said. While she was still laughing, her mom took out her camera to take a picture of her daughter with this enormous smile illuminating her face. Flash, the camera went off, freezing a moment of joy forever - a moment of her daughter’s life captured to cherish always. As the picture was being printed, colors splashed onto the photo paper pixel after pixel; the moment was still frozen. Once the picture was finished being processed, her mother held the picture in her hands, preserving the evidence of her daughter’s smile, like crystals on the photo paper. She took it home and stored it in the picture box, not looking at it again until a few years later.
Over the years this girl with the radiant smile changed. She became more sullen and subdued. She was wasting away.
Imagine yourself walking down a gravel road on a cold summer morning. There is no sun peaking through the thick wall of fog barricading you from the outside world. All you see is fog in the midst of every piece of your life. Imagine yourself walking down this barren gravel road, you are all alone, you can see only glimpses of people hustling about their day, not even stopping to give you any attention. The road you are walking on is a road you thought you would never be traveling on; a road that is cold, damp, depressing, a road where little-to-no-light peeks through the thick fog that has consumed your life. You become weaker and weaker physically and mentally. Your day is consumed by counting what few calories you allow yourself to eat. You count how much exercise is needed for you to lose the calories you ate and more. You have no rest. Everything you do is building the fog around you thicker and thicker. Soon you don’t even see the people hustling around you anymore; all you see is a blur. It’s becoming darker around you; the gravel road is becoming bigger and feeding off of your weakness. But you feel good every time you get on that bathroom scale and see that you have lost another five pounds in the last two days. These are the happiest moments on this road. These are the accomplishments that give you the most joy. The moments when you find out the numbers on the bathroom scale are now half of what they used to be. This excitement turns into aggression, aggression to continue making the numbers fade on the scale. Once again you continue down the cold, foggy road, not knowing when it will end. This is a day in the life of someone struggling with anorexia nervosa.
The girl in the picture that had been taken and stored in that box a few years before, was no longer herself. She was on that foggy desolate road. She was no longer the bubbly, fun-loving girl she used to be. If a smile ever found its way to sweep across her face at all, it would no longer radiate the room with joy but fill her face with pain and suffering. Anorexia consumed this girl moment after moment. She felt it was her only friend, a friend that in reality was really a foe. Anorexia was a friend that changed from being the friend that was controlled by her, to the foe being the controller over this girl’s life. Anorexia nervosa had gotten the best and the worst of her, slicing her down to merely half of what she was before. She still held onto her eating disorder because it was the only thing she felt was comforting, hers and hers alone.
There was a day when this girl, deeply consumed by the foggy road, was looking through old photos with her mom. Her mom found a picture of her when she was not traveling on the foggy, desolate road. It was the picture her mom remembered placing in this box a few years earlier. In the picture she was smiling and laughing at something her friend had said. When she looked over at her mom and then the picture, she saw a tear splash from her mother onto the photo paper that held the frozen moment when the girl was happy and carefree. Her mom then took her trembling hand and stroked it across her daughter’s cheerful face in the picture, the face she remembered capturing those few years before. As the girl saw her mom fight back tears, her eating disorder ripped her heart in a way that can’t even be expressed on paper. There are no words to describe how she felt. The feelings of making her mother cry all because of her friend and foe, anorexia nervosa.
That girl in that picture was me. I suffered with anorexia, a deadly condition, for about three years. I held its enchanting hand from when I was eleven till when I was about fourteen years old. I believe I will always remember the day when my mom held that carefree picture of me and how one person’s choices, mine in this scenario, can hurt someone else so deeply.
Many days after that day when my mom held that picture of me, I reached a breaking point. A point where I realized I could no longer walk on that dark desolate road. I could no longer carry the immense amount of torture I put upon myself. I could no longer go on living the life I was living. I had to give up. I was defeated by anorexia nervosa; I had lost the battle within.
It was a hot summer’s night when I went on my routine walk with my mom. A walk I hated to go on but my mind told me it was imperative. If I didn’t go on that walk I wouldn’t lose the calories I needed to for that day. Our normal route was a trail across the street from our house, surrounded by tall billowing corn crops. As the corn rustled in the wind, I could hear my heart beat as I sped further and further ahead of my mom. If I would walk faster I could burn more calories. We were on the third bend of the walk when my mom caught up with me. She asked me about girls in my school, the popular girls, the “cool” table at lunch where the popular people sat. That may seem to be middle school drama, but to me in that time, it was much more. I was not one of those popular girls. I didn’t sit at the “cool” table. On a daily basis I didn’t know where I would be sitting, whom I would be sitting by at lunch. I was in a world of my own. A world filled with counting calories, battling depression, exercising till it hurt, standing in front of the mirror crying at my reflection. This world of my own is one I couldn’t live in anymore.
The day I went on this walk with my mom was my breaking point. I couldn’t live like I was living any longer. My mom caught up with me and after we had finished discussing these kids in my school, I couldn’t hold in any longer what I had been holding in for about two years: The deep seeds that sprouted into the eating disorder I had. There was not one thing that had started anorexia for me, it was many things. I can’t pin-point a certain event or experience that started it all. But I broke down that day, on that walk that was only intended to burn more calories. I remember sitting in my mother’s arms, sobbing to her words that probably didn’t even make sense. I remember the whistling of the corn next to us as the wind blew, the poking of the green grass under us. I remember the way my mom cried like I have never seen her cry before. I remember how much my tail bone hurt as it dug against the solid summer ground. I remember my mother’s arms that wrapped around me more than once because my body was so small. I remember I was so cold, but it was more than 80 degrees outside.
My mom and I sat like this and just cried for more than two hours. I revealed to her my secret I had kept for more than two years. She had known all along the burdens I had been carrying, but she was just too afraid to admit to herself her daughter had a problem. Her daughter had a problem that she could not fix. She could not instantly wipe away the tears and kiss her cheek to make things all better. This method of compassion didn’t work like it did when she was young like when her daughter would fall off her bike and scrape her knee. This was a war going on inside her daughter’s mind, heart, and body. A war only her daughter could fight.
The next day my mom called a therapist and a nutritionist. I went once a week to each of these two women. I absolutely hated going. Sometimes my mom would have to drag me into the office to see these two women. Even though I hated going, these two women were the people that helped me overcome my battle with anorexia. It was a battle within my mind that still comes back to this day. I still have symptoms, I still have yearnings to become, as horrible as it was, the girl I was when I was 13 years old. I hope and pray that no one has to experience the living nightmare I experienced. I know many people struggle with this exact same illness and many die. I know God was carrying me through those three years of my life. The three years that shaped the person who I am today.
A lesson I have learned the hard way but you can learn the easy way, just by taking my advice, is that you are beautiful and you don’t need to change. God has made you just the way you are on purpose. He makes no mistakes. You are perfect in every way. Life can hand you garbage, but it is the garbage when sorted through that can make the perfect fertilizer for a beautiful bouquet of roses.