TRIGGER WARNING!!: Eating disorders and other mental issues mentioned. Please read at your discretion, please do not read to trigger yourself, it is not worth it. There is help out there and you deserve to be happy and healthy!
This year February 22nd through 28th is eating disorder awareness week. As a person who has been directly affected by eating disorders, I have decided that this year is my year to finally share my story. In 7th grade I was bullied, harassed, and abused by some boys. It lasted most of my seventh-grade year. After a year of being told I wasn't good enough, I was fat and ugly, and no one would ever love me I started to believe them. Most people, even the ones I was closest with don't know that over the course of the next 5 years I went through 3 eating disorders.
I was first diagnosed with an eating disorder by a therapist in the summer between middle and high school. She diagnosed me with anorexia. I was also diagnosed me with both severe anxiety and depression (those never get easier; you just learn to cope too). After that diagnosis I worked with her for a few more months before just completely stopping. Many people don't notice when someone stops eating, or their passions fade and their conversation fixates on one particular topic. I worked hard through my sophomore year to get through my eating disorder, and my parents and friends tried to help where they could. Unfortunately, when someone is so deep into a mental illness help can look like harm to them, it's someone trying to stop an addiction in some ways. This exact reason caused me to resent everyone who tried to help, especially my parents. Sophomore year was also by far one of the hardest years of my life, due to stupid boy drama leading into law enforcement intervention. Throughout all of this I worked hard in school, dance and cheerleading. I had pushed myself hard enough and decided to push harder than ever, I realize my eating disorder had taken over my life and I had pushed everyone away that could and would help. By summer I had made strides and gotten rid of most of my disordered habits, and built new ones that involved eating healthy and taking care of my health.
Fast forward two years, my senior year. My family moved from California to Texas for my dads job. For those of you who don't know, that is a big move with a big culture shock. It was hard for me to surrender and accept being in Texas. After breaking up with my ex-boyfriend and getting cheated by another I found myself in one of the deepest holes I've been in. My depression took over me completely, I would go to school, do my homework and watch Netflix. I listened to hours of sad music and hung out with a toxic group of friends filled with drama (initially they were great people, we just were not meant to be a friend group, y'all know who you are). I stopped eating, and this led to me losing weight of course, and all of a sudden, I fell in love with losing it. I loved getting dizzy from not eating. I almost bragged about it to people, I bribed myself to not eat for the longest period of time. I was in my darkest point when I visited "home" in California. My best friends, in my favorite place, people I hadn't seen since summer. "Are you doing ok?", "Wow you lost a lot of weight!", and "How's your health doing?" were three very common topics that got brought up over winter break. No one in Texas had known me long enough to see anything different and I loved it. But my family and friends in CA were quick to notice and point it out. And since CA is a lot warmer than TX in winter, I was wearing shorts, skirts and tube tops again. They were huge on me, falling and slipping off of me. I remember feeling almost caught, like I had been doing so "well" in my eating disorders eyes and these people were ruining my plan! I went home and the conversations were a common topic in my house again, leaving me more agitated than before. However, nothing really changed in the months following, eating disorders are NOT sustainable. I was going on runs I hated, and going to the gym for 2+ hours and not eating, I was exhausted all the time and did not want to do anything that required me to move or think.
It was during my 18th birthday I turned for the better, in April of 2019. For my birthday my family and friends created a birthday video for me, from people I hadn't talked to in years to my boyfriend. They all sent in their own messages and put it in a video. I only bring this up, because my best friend said a sentence I think about a lot, even now. She said "Happy birthday Tori I love you, and please eat a slice of cake for us all, you need it!", what she didn't know was how much I was struggling with my eating disorder, and how that sentence convinced me to work to get healthy again. And I did the process all over again.
Through that entire summer I did pretty well, my recovery was not easy but by the time I left for college my family and I were confident I was ready to go by myself. Unfortunately, college went downhill fast. I was in and out of the hospital a lot that first semester. My boyfriend and I at the time were long distance (Arizona to New York) and my roommate and I didn't see each other much. I felt and was alone A LOT. So, I turned to something I had never before, food. I went through cycles of eating everything I could get my hands on to not eating for days. It was the most toxic time for me, and every time I ate, I felt guilty for one reason or another. With that, I was diagnosed with Binge-eating disorder or BED. The difference between eating a lot in one sitting and "binging" confuses a lot of people. Binging is when you cannot stop, when no matter how full and awful you feel you keep eating, because you are just simply out of control. One day I woke up and hated looking in the mirror, I decided to go on a lifestyle change, I threw out the sugar and took up healthy eating. I worked out to an extent that make me feel okay and happy. And that winter break I moved home to get ahold of my health again. 2020 came along, and we all know how terrible 2020 was to most of our mental health's, mine no different. I thought I was getting healthy, but I was restricting like no other. I only ate "healthy" food and worked out twice a day, I refused to eat anything "bad" and would feel bad and cry about it when I did, and later found out that it was indeed considered orthorexia (the obsession to eat healthy).
Although my story doesn't end there, after becoming food obsessed and healthy obsessed, I started falling back into my anorexia patterns, just not eating. I also took 4 six-week summer classes and gave myself so much anxiety it became impossible to eat. I ended up in the hospital 3 times in 3 weeks due to dehydration, anxiety and lack of nutrition. It got so bad I was almost put inpatient, but I promised to get better, and I worked hard from the rest of the summer and through the fall semester. I worked to be able to drink water and other liquids without having a mental breakdown, and I pushed to expand my stomach again so it could hold food. I met with a therapist and dietician weekly for months. And neither of them had a problem telling me what I didn't want to hear, and how I had to keep going in order to take my life back.
Now lets bring it to 2021. I am the healthiest I have ever been. I still have countless food rules and disordered patterns to work through, but now I'm ready to do it. I can recognize them and know that it's something to work on. I challenge myself daily, and it's terrifying, but I got my life back, and I have finally found out who I am. I am a mental health advocate, for all mental health issues, but especially for the ones I have endured in the last 5-10 years.
If you are going through something similar, or know someone who is please reach out for help. It can be scary and a lot of hard work but it is completely worth it, don't look back and wonder how long ago you could've gotten help and what your life would look like now if you did.
For more information on eating disorders, how to help, where to find help or finding someone to talk to, click the link below or call the phone number below.
Call: 800-931-2237 (Mon-Thurs 11am until 9pm ET) (Friday 11am-5pm ET)
Text: 800-931-2237 (Mon-Thurs 3pm until 6pm ET)
If you need someone to talk to, and do not want to reach out to a professional yet, please message me on Instagram (toriashleyyy). PLEASE REMEMBER I AM NOT A PROFESSIONAL. I am someone to talk to and support you through whatever you are going through.