Updated: Oct 29, 2020
By Mehr Lokhandwala
Trigger Warning: This article is about my personal journey with my eating disorder, and some readers may find this triggering. Please take the appropriate precautions that you need.
Image via Joyfueled Nutrition (Quote from Rupi Kaur).
I wake up one morning with an achy body; I can feel my heart beating ever so heavily in my chest. As I start to get ready for school, I feel so lightheaded. As I start to dress myself, I can see the bruises on my spine and my rib cage. As I brush my hair most of it falls onto the floor, establishing a barrier above it. I move on to do my makeup, but my cracked lips and big dark eye bags can’t be covered up by anything.
As I sit on the ledge of my bed, I pull out a book and I flip to the bookmark. I write down in my shaky handwriting ‘one cup of water.’ I go downstairs and carefully pour exactly one cup of water, and then bring it back upstairs. I stand in front of the mirror and drink it. I will never forget the feeling of cold water trickling down my throat and into my empty stomach. I glance at my book and read what I wrote above, realizing that this is the first time I have had anything to eat or drink in two and a half days.
Then three months later I find myself sitting in a room with two doctors and a nurse; filled with fear, I clenched my fist. It takes so much energy, energy that I do not have. As I stared at the linoleum flooring one of them said, “You are going to die if you do not stop.” Three months from that day I was admitted into the hospital to be treated, more specifically, admitted to their Eating Disorders Program.
When I got sick, I was so focused on my eating disorder that I could not see what was happening around me. I couldn’t even see how sick I was. The friends I lost, the relationships that were irrevocably changed. I was so convinced that I would “stop” when I was enough, that I didn’t realize that there was no enough for my eating disorder. There was no skinny enough, there was no worthy enough, there was just never enough.
Eating disorders do not show up one day all strong, they take little pieces of you away slowly. It starts as small as passing on a snack or not having that last bite of your food because your eating disorder will convince you that you do not require it; that you would be better off without it. My eating disorder took ahold of me with its unforgiving hands, demolishing everything that could destroy it… including me.
Recovering from my eating disorder was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do, realizing that what promised me a blissful life if I listened to it was what was actually killing me. Accepting that I was sick was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. But nothing -- and I mean nothing -- would be as hard as staying sick.
Eating disorders are not essentially a physical condition. I mean sure, how one looks can be a symptom but that isn't really the root of the issue. The root is the eating disorder itself. Eating disorders are a mental illness that may have physical symptoms. But we cannot always judge one based on how they look. Sick is sick; the media plays a huge role in how we think one physically looks when they have an eating disorder. I used to think that I was not sick enough to receive help based on my appearance; that because I did not look the way the media thinks all eating disorders look; I did not deserve help. Breaking that chain of thought was baffling but so very crucial for my recovery.
Eating disorders are not a trend; they are not a diet gone wrong; and they are definitely not ‘self-control.’ They are real and life taking diseases that claim lives everyday. According to ANAD, someone dies every sixty-two minutes from an eating disorder.
When I was sick, I remember watching movies like Feed and To The Bone, and all I could think was; ‘I don’t even really look like them so I’m not that sick.’ Eating disorders are not always what you see in the media; The Centre For Discovery Eating Disorder Treatment explains it as real as it is, stating that, “The media often falsely portrays anorexia nervosa as a disorder associated with starvation and weight loss that affects young thin Caucasian females who are from an upper middle class background who strive for perfection… [but in reality] eating disorders do not discriminate against gender, ethnicity, age or body type and it is important for the general population to understand that men as well as non-Caucasian individuals are also affected by eating disorders.”
There is no glory in suffering an eating disorder, as throwing up to the point of bleeding is not applaudable. Having your hair fall out is not applaudable. Possessing a body that is shutting down and organs that are on the brink of giving out is not applaudable. There is no glory in practically dying from your eating disorder. There is no magic fix for eating disorders, no wand or fairy godmother is going to come save you; it ultimately has to be you and only you who chooses to recover. You can get admitted to the hospital, and you can have someone make sure you eat, but until you choose recovery and you decide to live -- you will not recover.
Recovery will push you so hard. It is exhausting to get up every day and fight with your eating disorder. There were days where I laid in bed staring at the ceiling because I didn’t want to be there anymore. Recovery is not yoga and Kombucha, but it is tough sh*t.
You lose people. You find new friends, and you build yourself a village while burning down another one.
I am now well into my recovery and I’m not going to sugar coat it: it’s been hard. But everyday I get to wake up and live in a body that is able to function; a body that is healthy. I won’t lie to you, there has been relapse in my journey. There has been pain, there have been countless nights spent crying, and there have been times when I just wanted to give up; but I am so grateful to be here, to be alive, to be present, and to be able to focus on more than just my eating disorder.
A couple months after I was discharged from the hospital, I had a day that I don’t think I will ever be able to describe for what it actually was, because it was such an emotional day. I woke up and instead of hopping out of bed I laid there and watched the sun shine into my room. I heard the birds chirping outside and immediately this wave of gratefulness and somewhat peace washed over me. It was that day when I realized that while I may still be on my recovery journey, I have already made it so far. I have fought to be alive, healthy, and happy. I smiled so much that day; genuinely smiled for the first time in months.
It’s hard to let go of something when it starts to feel like home; when your eating disorder gives you a place to wallow and self destruct. But you must realize that it is lying to you. Home is the warmth you feel in your heart. It’s genuinely smiling at yourself and loving yourself. Home is growth, it is your commitment to recovery. I hope that you find your home. There is light within you, and you are capable of so much. Do not let your light fade. You are so many things, let those things be what guides you on this journey. I hope that you can see the radiant light shining from within you.
It is uncomfortable to reach out for help or to admit that you are sick, but there is so much power within you. You have the power to recover, to fight for your life, to reclaim your life, and most importantly to live your life free from the clutches of your eating disorder. I can’t promise that it will be painless, but I can promise that living without your eating disorder is a life worth living.
I could write on and on about how you are worthy of recovery, how you should not compare your recovery to others, and the do’s and don'ts of recovery but I can’t. I can’t because this is your recovery journey, and it will be different than mine. No matter what I write, you will have to figure it out yourself, you will have to pave your own path on this journey; and I do believe that you will figure it out. You are whole, you are more than a number on a scale, you are enough, and you are worthy of recovery.
If you or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder please reach out for help, you are not alone and you are worthy of recovery.
NEDIC: Nation Eating Disorder Information Centre
CMHA: Canadian Mental Health Association
Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868
Written by writer Mehr Lokhandwala