A few days ago I was having a great time with some of my best friends. We were all still filled with excitement and nostalgia over our Cabo trip that concluded just about 2 weeks ago. The day was filled with smiles, Cabo inside jokes, and Cody Ko references. Suddenly, I took to my Snapchat memories to hunt down a visual aid for one of my stories. That's when I saw it, a memory from that particular day one year ago. I looked at the photo and my stomach dropped. It was me, but the version of me that I hope will never see the light of day again. My collar bones were bulging out of my chest, my skin hugged the grooves of my ribcage, and worst of all, my eyes housed some of my darkest secrets. Artificial smile plastered and phone in hand, this photo helped me realize I was approaching the one year mark of my eating disorder recovery process.
Before this moment, I considered the first day of my recovery process my first day of hospitalization. This photo changed my entire perspective on my recovery journey. I remembered every moment of that picture as if it happened just yesterday. I hadn't eaten more than 300 calories between 3 days. I stepped on the scale 8 times that morning because I felt like I was gaining a pound each minute. My clothes were falling off of me, but I had convinced myself that I had just stretched out my denim. Yes, I really thought that. I was on a high, elated that hunger hadn't caught up to me, and the "you're so skinny!" comments were alive and well. But everything came to a crashing halt when I picked up my phone for that photo opp. It was the moment I knew something was wrong, 20 pounds was not enough for me at that point. My weight loss addicted brain would never be satiated no matter how much my body was begging me to stop.
The events that followed after this photo were some of the most devastating days of my life. I self destructed until I came home for the summer, and my family knew right away. After one conversation with my mom, I went to a 2 hour doctor's visit and began my hospitalization. This was one of the most shocking moments of my life. My doctor looked at me with calm, yet potent concern. As I was wheeled to the hospital, a recurrent form of transportation for the next three weeks to follow, my mind was going a mile a minute. I couldn't wrap my mind around the fact that I was deep enough in to require inpatient. More often than not, between body dysmorphia and our bodies screaming for food, anorexia patients do not believe their health and habits solicit treatment. Those three weeks were my wake up call.
I spent my mornings getting blood drawn at 7 am, vitals and weight being taken at 7:30, and eating approximately every 45 minutes. I sat at a cleared table without anything on my lap, facing a nurse that made sure I ate all of my food within the 15-30 minutes allotted. Ethically, my dietitian could not enforce my restrictive habits by honoring my vegan diet, so it was broken at full force, 3 times a day. I spent many nights clenching my shrunken stomach that was crammed with animal products. I began missing the little things—driving, coffee, wind, walking, and of course my dog Gizmo. I never cried, I became as stale as the white walls that surrounded me. I fought tooth and nail to get out of the ED ward that had no definitive end date. As July concluded, I got the go-ahead and was discharged about 2 weeks from my move in date for Fall 2018. I got my freedom back, and from that point on, my recovery was completely in my control.
Ever since that July afternoon, my recovery has been incredibly bumpy. There are days that I cradle my underweight photos and dream of the day I can be 4 jeans sizes smaller again. I dream of the days I can look at my unnatural thigh gap, or watch my formerly tight fitting clothes drape along my shrunken figure. But there are so many things that keep me from becoming the worst version of myself. I think of the nurses that have become my friends—the people that saw me at my worst and built me back into my best. I remember having to leave 15 minutes earlier to my classes because my body couldn't walk at the pace I was used to. I remember the night my heart came its closest to stopping, and I vowed to never put myself into a situation of so much fear again. The milestones truly hit you out of nowhere; the first time my vitals reached healthy numbers consistently, the first time I was able to step on the scale without fear, the first time I looked at a meal with excitement, rather than dutifully. In all regards of my life, I vow to find the small milestones, and celebrate them as much as I celebrated my acceptance into USC.