I’ve always been a bit of a perfectionist. Actually, I’ve always been A LOT of a perfectionist. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I need things to be just right or I will not be able to focus on anything else. I remember the first time I cried in school was in second grade when I got a 96% on a test. In third grade I hated myself for a week because I was in the 98th percent of math MAP testers instead of the 99th. In fifth grade, I would melt down if there was a single bump in my bun before ballet class. And in sixth grade I would force myself to eat a certain number of calories each day to lose weight.
I didn’t see it as a problem right away. I had no idea what an eating disorder was. In fact, I remember wishing to be anorexic. I just thought it meant skinny. And oh did I want to be skinny. I was so obsessed with having the perfect body that I became stuck in a constant state of panic, always double checking the calories of the food I ate or going to the bathroom every class period to see what I looked like. I needed to be perfect. And I figured if I could do one thing perfectly, it would be being the thinnest in the room.
From the ages of eleven to fourteen I developed an eating disorder that could have killed me. I don’t remember much from that time. My clearest memories are marked by what I thought about my body at the time, or what new crazy technique I had found to lose even more weight. I remember crying alone in a bathroom at school because I was so upset that I could never eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich again, because it was too fattening. My focus declined, my hair fell out in clumps, I wore a winter jacket inside all day because I didn’t have enough fat to keep me warm. Every waking moment was consumed with the thought of what I would eat, how much I would eat, how little I could get away with eating. I was miserable but I was too scared to ask for help. I had convinced myself that this is what I needed to be doing, and if I got help, I would no longer look perfect.
But then I finally did. The day that I got help was probably the worst day of my life. But it was also was the day that saved it. My parents had told me I wouldn’t be able to keep dancing if I didn’t gain weight and I finally broke down, telling them what I had been dealing with for years. Seeing the pain in my moms eyes is something I will never forget. But that day is the reason I am able to smile again. That day is the reason I can dance and laugh and think clearly.
Recovering from anorexia was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. It felt like a never ending battle. But through all the pain, it was worth it. I still struggle with my body image every day. I will always have to fight with my mind to make the healthiest choice. Knowing that can be exhausting, even a little hopeless, but it gives me something to fight for. Finding a support system within my family has allowed me to reach out for help when I need it. My dad is a never-wavering rock that I can lean on that will never fail to remind me that “food is medicine.” For me, the most helpful thing was envisioning my eating disorder as a separate person that I would always have to battle. I know the consequences of my choices, and even though I may never be “cured” I will forever be happier because I choose to fight. And I think that’s better than trying to be perfect.