Life with Anorexia
Anorexia is running five miles yet only eating an apple for lunch.
Anorexia is being exhausted from running but not being able to fall asleep at night because you’re hungry.
Anorexia is never feeling good enough and never understanding why you can’t seem to see what others see.
It’s feeling so guilty about eating that you literally can’t.
With every pound you lose, you expect to feel happier, but you just feel emptier than before.
And you don’t see a way out.
I know this because I’ve lived through it. From my junior to senior year of high school, I deeply struggled with Anorexia Nervosa. Anorexia is called “the silent killer” because it silently takes over your brain until you succumb to its lies. Often when the physical symptoms manifest themselves, the person struggling with anorexia has lost an extreme amount of weight: such was the case with me.
I don’t remember the day that I decided I needed to starve myself. But once the thoughts were there, they seemed impossible to get rid of. At first, people weren’t concerned when I began losing weight; they had no reason to be. I seemed happy on the outside. But inside, I was slowly breaking. I didn’t feel like God was with me, and I didn’t know how to stop listening to the lies in my head. Lies that told me that I wasn’t enough, that I was disappointing people by eating. By the end of my junior year, I had lost nearly twenty pounds.
People began to be concerned.
I began to be concerned.
One evening, as I stepped on the scale to weight myself for the fifth time that day, I realized that I weighed the same weight that I had been in seventh grade.
I was terrified.
I remember frantically running to my fridge and grabbing a can of ginger ale to get some calories into my starving body. I drank half of it and felt like I was dying. My tiny stomach wasn’t used to holding more than a sandwich and an apple a day, and it was rebelling. It was enough to scare me into eating a little more, but I relapsed after regaining some of the weight that I had lost.
My senior year of high school, I felt exhausted emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I didn’t see any way out of what I was doing to myself. But I slowly started to want to get better, especially when I went on a missions trip to Costa Rica that February. I spent days playing with orphans, telling people about God’s love. But I wasn’t extending that love and grace to myself. One night at a worship service with my classmates, I found myself suddenly surrounded by my close friends, and realized that I had been crying. I finished my senior year feeling like I was slowly drowning in the ocean, getting knocked over by wave after wave, until summer came and I couldn’t bear it anymore.
I talked to my friends, who forced me to get help, and I received guidance from a teacher that had struggled with anorexia herself. I began to feel God’s presence in my life again. I had pushed Him out of my mind by believing the thoughts in my head, but in reality, He had never left.
Recovery was slow but possible with the help of my family, friends, and more importantly, God. Today I can proudly say that I have been in recovery for two years. Sadly, my story is more common than I would like. According to the website of the National Eating Disorders Association, I am only one in 30 million individuals struggling with an eating disorder such as anorexia, bulimia, or binge-purge syndrome.
To anyone who is struggling with an eating disorder:
Recovery is possible.
It won’t be overnight, and there will be times where you feel like giving up. But don’t. Life is worth living.
During recovery, you will still have setbacks. I have triggers and bad days like anyone else. This is to be expected, and normal. But it doesn’t mean that you won’t get better. Your friends and family are here to help you. Trust them. And trust God. He loves you with a love that we can’t possibly pretend to understand. Lean on Him through prayer.
With His strength, you will get through this.
Just like I did.
My name is Rebekah Richmond. I am a Christ-follower, a musician, a book worm, and recovering anorexic.