You would think a tray of cupcakes would be well received by a room full of teenagers, but that wasn’t the case, not for us. Welcome to the eating disorder center, where the most dreaded days of the week were those that included a snack challenge. It may sound ridiculous to you that a group of people would cry over miniature cupcakes. You probably think it’s ridiculous to cry over any type of food, for that matter. However, the reality is that eating is one of the biggest struggles thousands of people face every day.
People often trivialize anorexia. There are so many misconceptions. We’re the skinny girls who “choose” not to eat. They tell us to “just eat, you need food” but unfortunately it’s not that simple. I wish I could just eat.
I’ve struggled with an eating disorder for as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t until almost two years ago that people realized how serious my disease was. I was hospitalized for the first time in March 2014. I became physically stable at the hospital but my thoughts were still toxic.
When I was discharged from my first hospitalization, everyone expected me to be cured, but again, it’s not that simple. I almost immediately got caught in another downward spiral, and I pretty quickly landed myself in a residential eating disorder program.
For the first couple of days I was there, I did what I was told to do. I ate my food and drank my supplements so I could restore my weight. But very soon after I got there, I learned that the program wasn’t meant to solely stabilize me physically; they were going to try and cure my mind as well.
The first snack challenge came a few weeks into my stay. We’d been badgering the staff all day to try and see what the challenge would entail, but none of them budged.
Two-thirty finally rolled around – it was snack time. Cupcakes. Everyone groaned. Out of the six of us, four were in tears, myself included.
For me personally, the root of my eating disorder was a need for control. I thought that starving myself put me in control, but it didn’t. I was far from in control.
People often say they wish they had my willpower, but it wasn’t my will that stopped me from eating. It was the screaming voices in my head that told me I was worthless. I was at the will of my disorder. I realized then that taking back control would be choosing to recover, so that’s what I did.
I ate the cupcake. We all did and yes, we cried for a little bit, but by that night we were smiling. We had finally taken control. We took a step toward recovery that day even though it was one of the hardest things we had to do.
People think they know about eating disorders, but they don’t know the insane level of strength and courage it takes to recover.
With every snack challenge, I watched as we gained our lives back one bite at a time. I can’t put into words how difficult it’s been to overcome my illness, but it’s been more than worth it.
Today, I’m finally in a place where I feel content with myself. So maybe a mini cupcake is a little thing to you, but for me it meant so much more.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.