Moving Forward: My Story

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By: Samantha Havens 

 I’ve never been bullied by a classmate, friend, or family member. However, I lived with a bully in my head for years. That bully was my eating disorder. He gave me orders to eat less, count my calories, and cut out certain foods. If I didn’t listen to him, I was a failure. He tormented me. I let my eating disorder consume me. I was 11 years old when his voice crept into my mind. I never thought anything of it. I simply thought it was my insecurities getting to me. I always saw myself as overweight when I looked into the mirror. I never realized that I looked malnourished and underweight in reality. My eating disorder never let me think I looked good. One day my best friend told me she was worried about my weight, that a lot of people thought I was too skinny. When I looked up anorexia online, there were a lot of symptoms I related to. As I read the complications of having this mental illness, I got worried.

I decided to tell my family. After I told them I felt relieved; I thought it would all go away now. However, it got a lot worse before getting better for me. I was hospitalized at an eating disorder inpatient unit. The hospital was intense and frightening. I was only 14 years old when I got admitted. There were strict rules, my eating disorder was stripped away from me. I felt as if the hospital had all the control, and I craved to have that control back.

However, the second time in the hospital changed my life. I listened to my treatment team, ate according to my meal plan, and tried to push my eating disorder out of my life. As I was opening up in therapy and getting to the roots of my problems, I felt less drawn to restricting. When I wasn’t restricting and consumed with worrying how fat I looked, I began to live in the moment and enjoy life. I may have still been in the hospital, but I felt true happiness and genuine laughter once I started to let go of my eating disorder.

Recovery is not easy, it is a tremendous amount of self talk all the time. You have to fight the voices everyday. However, it is all worth it. I believe that suffering is a gift. It gives us the chance to embody courage, to learn, and to grow. My eating disorder was a gift because I learned a lesson not many people actually learn: I may not have control over what happens in my life, but I can control the way I react to it. Being anorexic is not having control, it is being controlled. All along I had the control to put an end to it and chose real happiness. I came out stronger than I ever could have imaged from my struggles. I will forever use that strength in times of any struggles and obstacles I encounter.

You have one life to live. You have one body that is given to you. Your body has amazing abilities to keep you alive and to do everyday functions. Why waste your life away hating yourself? I promise you, you will get so much more out of life if you can try and start to love yourself, and live the happy life you deserve. Everyone’s story is unique. Don’t be afraid to share yours. Eating disorders are nothing to be ashamed of. It’s a disease that no one chooses to have. Nobody wakes up wanting to become anorexic or bulimic. However, you do get to choose to fight and get your life back. The more people open up and share their stories, the less stigma there will be surrounding eating disorders. Not only that, but sharing your story can motivate someone silently struggling to open up.

About the Author: Samantha is a past volunteer for the central New Jersey chapter.