7/27 – Ten Years Ago

7/27 comes and goes every year and for most, it’s just any other day. For me, it holds special meaning and today marks the 10th “anniversary” of the day. In the last 10 years so much has changed that I don’t even recognize who I was back in 2001. I was 17, my grandpa was in the hospital, I was a month away from starting my senior year and I just started, what felt like, my 100th diet. (in reality, it was probably my 5th or 6th) & I was determined to “get it right” this time.

I bought a special notebook, one that I can still see perfectly in my mind, and recorded everything I ate. I had a list of safe foods that I was allowed to eat. I was NOT going to fail so I counted those calories like nobody’s business. In a very short amount of time a healthy 1200 calories a day soon turned into a 800 calorie a day diet then 500 calories and when I was “super good” I even had 300 calories a day. The false sense of accomplishment and pride was unlike anything I’d ever felt before. The light, airy feeling confirmed what I was doing was working. Some pounds were coming off and things were fitting better. I became absolutely obsessed and never felt so good about myself.

To my utter disappointment and shame, it didn’t last. My “will-power” and “discipline” didn’t hold up & I found myself craving the worst kind of foods. Fatty foods, sweet foods, carb-y foods…foods I didn’t even like and I gave in and gave in and gave in. Now looking back, the self loathing that takes place after a binge and purge is something so horrible and hurtful it’s no surprise bulimia is such a secretive disease. You want to hide from the world so nobody will see what you feel your true colors are: you’re a failure. you’re disgusting. you’re stupid.

The cycle continued and grew into something bigger than I ever intended it to be. It was fall of 2001 and I could only focus on food and weight. I weighed myself multiple times a day and the workout room at the apartment I lived in became my favorite place to go. The number on the scale fluctuated between 10-15 lbs, I was frustrated and so incredibly angry with myself. I never stepped back to see that what I was doing to myself was harmful. I reassured myself, “Once I get to X weight I’ll stop! I won’t do this forever!”

If only one thing was true about what I thought during my senior year, it was that last statement. I wouldn’t do it forever. I did, however, continue to suffer from bulimia through college until I was 21. With the help and support of my sister and an amazing counselor, I found the courage to look inside the eye of this disease. Why had it so much control over me? Why was I so trapped in these cycles? How did it become so addicting? Why didn’t anyone notice or worse…say anything? It took me about 2 solid years of going once a week to see my therapist, B (keeping her name private), to really answer all those questions. And to understand the question, “Why me?” My self-worth stopped being determined by a number on the scale and more by the person I was becoming from the inside out.

There are so many details from when I was 17 (actually 15/16 when things started turning towards this road) to 21 that I’ve never shared with anyone but I can remember certain moments crystal clear. Moments that I look back on with both sadness and appreciation. I am now 27 and fully recovered from my eating disorder but will always be affected by those years. To be honest, most days I don’t even think about that time but then 7/27 comes along and memories rush to the front of my brain and I can’t help but embrace that time with a sense of gratitude and relief. I’m grateful that it’s been my biggest victory and I’m relieved to know it only now lives in my past. That little voice inside my head who told me I wasn’t good enough and that I needed to look a certain way to be loved has been silenced with truth and love.

I share this with you because I know it’s a very lonely and scary place. It’s a bottomless pit where hope, positivity and freedom do not exist. But love does exist and it exists anywhere…and you can feel hopeful, positive and most importantly, free again. I’m living proof of it.  Happy 10 years ED…here’s to 10 more full of love, health and happiness.

-Ashley xoxo

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