My eating disorder started with a few unfinished meals.
I wanted to lose weight and be healthy.
It was January of 2006. Middle school hounded me with its cliques and changing hormones and I wanted to fit in.
Not eating my whole dinner turned into skipping breakfast, then I cut back on lunch. People started to notice my weight loss.
“You look great,” they said.
The compliments drove me deeper into disordered thinking. Girls don’t seek eating disorders, they form over time. It doesn’t happen instantly. Many times its victims don’t even know they have a problem until it’s too late, and the disorder has taken root.
Soon I at no breakfast—no lunch—and very little dinner. It felt so good. I imagine it’s like what a drug addict feels when they get a high. Restricting calories was my high.
I can stop whenever I want. I thought.
But that’s not how eating disorders work. They pull you under and keep your head from the surface as you grasp for air. I became so engrossed in losing weight that it became a part of me. I weighed myself every day and restricted food accordingly. I needed to see the numbers on the scale decrease. I thought I was in control, but really the disorder was. My eating disorder was like a secret friend I hated but needed.
My friendships became strained. My family worried about me and my life became a day-by-day struggle.
Mom suggested I see a counselor.
I agreed to go, but my sessions were about as helpful as a student sleeping through class.
Almost a year passed by and I’d lost about sixty pounds. My heartbeat decreased, fatigue overtook me, and fear invaded my mind.
For months, my parents could do nothing but watch me deteriorate, but finally after a year I was considered a danger to myself and admitted into a treatment facility. At least, I thought it was treatment—turns out my addled brain didn’t even realize I was being sent to the psych ward.
I spent one week inpatient and one week outpatient. I saw things that would permanently alter my view of the human’s ability to hurt, and feel. I met girls who had eating disorders, had been raped, or suffered trauma.
They were just like me—we all have our things—we are all worth more than our deepest places.
After the Psych ward, I tried to be better. For a few months, I’d been applying to a program called Mercy Ministries. They accepted me into the program and I was placed on a waiting list, but I had to gain a few pounds to be considered medically stable to enter the program.
Needing some sort of control, I began to cut myself as I gained weight.
In August of 2007, I entered Mercy Ministries and I was forever changed.
I’d grown up believing in God and trusting him, but when I struggled with my disorder I thought he was far away, that he’d made a mistake in me. I was ugly. Why did some girls get to be beautiful, but not me?
My view changed. I began to believe that I was loved, desired and worthy.
God placed a desire on my heart to help other girls like the girls I’d met at the psych ward and in the Mercy program. I left the program equipped with the tools I needed to continue in recovery and healing.
I began to live again.
I know it sounds so easy reading it here on the page, but it isn’t. Recovering from an eating disorder is hard and takes years of dedication. Almost eight years have passed since I grabbed ahold of the freedom I found in Christ, but still, I struggle with certain mindsets and thoughts that would be considered ‘distorted thinking.’
But now I know that I’m not a mistake. I wasn’t created ugly. None of us are.
Sometimes I look in the mirror and see ugly. Sometimes I get caught up in looks and weight. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still find some sort of self-worth in how much I weigh. But that’s why I choose recovery. That’s why I choose to fight and try to help others through my story. I am nowhere near perfect, but I hope I can encourage and inspire others.
My current project is a New Adult novel called “Beautiful Bones”. In the book Bethany wants to win her boyfriend back, finish college and continue living with an exercise and food addiction. When a fainting spell lands her in the hospital and a doctor suggests eating disorder treatment Bethany must decide if she wants to fight the dark voice inside telling her to starve or fight her way to live and love.
Someday I hope to have the book published.
Recovery is hard but so worth it.
Each day is a new chance to choose life and love.
You can find me on Facebook under the name Shelbie Mae or on twitter at @MaeShelbie.
I also blog here.