Naples, FL USA
“I have anorexia', I manage to say with an exasperated breath as they wheel me into the emergency room. 'You don’t look sick to me,' the nurse sweetly replies after she lifts up the thin, white blanket draped over my body, as if she’s hunting for evidence.
These are the moments that shrink me in size. These are the moments that give my eating disorder even more power. These are the moments that remind me that my work of using my story to educate is not done yet.
I know throughout the past two decades of living with an eating disorder, I’ve never met the vision most people have in their minds of what someone with anorexia 'should look like'. I’ve been overweight and I’ve been underweight. I’ve been muscular and I’ve been atrophied.
The severity of my eating disorder and the suffering that it has brought me did not diminish because others would not legitimize it. The lack of validation from those around me merely kept me from feeling worthy of seeking treatment.
I spent years staring at the reflection in the mirror, asking myself if I looked 'sick enough' yet. I wasted so much time waiting for society to give me the final affirming nod, that I was now thin enough to own my diagnosis. But 'sick' does not have just one look or exact specifications. 'Sick enough' too often became a trap that kept me away from the treatment that I so desperately needed.
No matter what I weighed, my pain was real. My outward appearance was not an accurate gauge of the battle I was waging on the inside. The societal pressure that I needed to be a gaunt, walking skeleton to be considered ill needs to shift because eating disorders present themselves in a spectrum of symptoms. Regardless of where you fall on that spectrum, a person is still worthy, and in need of validation and support.
If I had only realized 20 years ago, 'sick enough' rarely presents itself on anything except a tombstone. I wish I could have told myself as a teenager that my worth and my pursuit of recovery were not dependent on a physical level of severity of my eating disorder. That, at all points of this illness, recovery was possible and in my grasp- no asterisks or exceptions necessary.
If I could go back and tell my 14-year-old self that I didn’t have to disappear, in order to be seen, I would. That no number on the scale would ever bring me the feeling of worthiness I was hopelessly hunting down. There are no prerequisites for receiving treatment, I would tell that girl, as I tried to shake the insecurities out of her.
I wish I could save her from the years of pain as she suffered in silence, but I can’t. I can’t change what has already happened. I can only hope that speaking to my pain and the time that I lost waiting to feel worthy enough will bring someone else closer to realizing they deserve help. Every battle fought will leave its scars. Don’t wait until they’re too deep to heal."