Emily's Eating Disorder Story
I got a lot of really amazing and powerful responses to my “Tell the World Your Eating Disorder Story” contest, but a few stood out to me and - in my opinion - would be beneficial to share with the world.
This is Emily’s story. Emily is a senior in high school and has quite the past to share. Her eating disorder arose at a rough point in her life, where circumstances tested her ability to cope and eventually pushed her into the rabbit hole of disordered restriction. Her story is moving, and it was pretty inspiring to me to hear what she had to go through and the positive attitude she was able to maintain despite it.
Read on, and share this if it speaks to you. Help Emily’s experience not be in vain and instead inspire and encourage those going through something similar!
TW: Eating disorder talk, numbers, suicide, drugs, sexual assault.
How old were you when your eating disorder started? How did it start?
Emily: Well, I was 14 years old, almost 3 years ago when my eating disorder developed. I believe all the traumatic events I went through stressed my body so much I did not feel hungry, and because I didn’t feel hungry, I didn’t eat. Doing this caused me to lose a lot of weight in a short amount of time. I did binge every once in a while, but it would always go back to not eating at all.
[These are] the traumatic events I went through in my life, in order: As I was growing up, I was exposed to a step-father who had an opioid addiction (he went to rehab three times but it didn’t work); a divorce at home; moving from Florida where I’d [lived] my entire life to Louisiana; getting in a head-on collision with a drunk driver and [subsequently] five weeks of medical attention; four days after moving there I lost everything to 4.5 feet of water; my first high school relationship ended with him cheating on me with someone I thought was my friend; my step-father died; I started self-harming; got into a toxic, abusive relationship and was sexually assaulted by him after we broke up; and my best friend died of a suicide.
You described a long list of traumatic events throughout your childhood and the impression they left on you. Can you explain how all that affected your eating disorder?
Emily: I’ve been through a lot, yes, but I believe going through all of this stressed my body so much I just did not feel hungry. As I mentioned, I did binge-eat every once in a while, but [I’d just go] back to not eating. The issues I experienced with my step-father were major factors in [my] low self-confidence, which resulted in… wanting “men” who were boys in my life; they were the wrong choices. Because of the three compressed discs in my lower back and herniated disc in my mid-back, being in that horrible car wreck prevented me from doing things I loved to do, such as cheer, gymnastics, horseback riding, rollerskating, and being a normal teenage girl.
These injuries [led to] some low self-esteem due to not being able to do things I was before. I was told that over time I would have a slight chance of getting better with physical therapy. So that didn’t really help, but I did attempt to go through PT for a complete year, but I had intense therapy for five and a half weeks in Florida. And when I moved to Louisiana, I lost everything to four and a half feet of water. There was a major storm that caused flooding (the historic flood of 2016 in north-eastern Louisiana). This made me depressed, and I felt the need of having a boy in my life. I lost everything that had sentimental value, so why not trust some guy to hold the only thing I had left - an unbroken heart. He broke it [and] cheated on me with someone I thought was my friend. I was hurt. I [eventually] forgave him and we’re now distant friends.
But only two weeks later my step-father overdosed for the last time [on opioids] and died. At first, I was full of resentment and anger; why would he do that? Why would he choose drugs over family? Why would he be so selfish to not be in his children’s lives any longer? For months I dealt with this. It made my depression and anxiety even worse. I started [trying] to self-harm; it seemed to be the only escape to relieve the pain, but it wasn’t enough. [So], I didn’t eat, and the thinner I got and the lower the number on the scale, [the more] I seemed distracted from what had happened before.
I began going to therapy, and this went on for a few months. I was embarrassed about it, to be honest. I originally went for the depression and anxiety, but she noticed more underneath the heavy layers I would typically [wear]. She noticed the anorexia, so she started asking me about food, and I would answer the same way: I don’t feel hungry, so I won’t eat. I went to homecoming at the local high school with a guy I was set up with. He later became another boyfriend, and this ended badly too. He abused me and later sexually assaulted me. Just as soon as I would binge again, after the breakup and before the assault, things would get worse. I hated myself, my forgiving personality, my body, my mentality, everything about me. My anorexia got worse before it got better.
I went to a church group every Friday night and met people my age who struggled too. Bryce and Ariel became my two best friends from there. [They] worked together and got me a four-foot teddy bear for my 15th birthday. Three days later, Bryce committed suicide. This killed me and haunted me for months. It was my fault. That was the only thing I could tell myself. I even wrote a song about it. But it didn’t truly get better until I started going to church to work on my relationship with God. Once I did, I started getting better.
I hated myself, my forgiving personality, my body, my mentality, everything about me. My anorexia got worse before it got better.
You talked about acting and modeling and some unrealistic expectations they had of you and how you look. What impact did that have on your eating disorder?
Emily: My modeling and acting career began with pageants my mother put me in, hoping it would help me in a positive way. In some ways it has helped me, [for example] when it came to academics, [it helped] to make me confident with being young and graduating high school with a 3.73 GPA. When I got the opportunity to be a signed professional model with a company, I did really well with being confident within myself in my body image. I then became known as Paige Freeman. I shared my passions of music and got noticed. I had gotten many opportunities, like [an offer] to model at New York Fashion Week and Los Angeles Fashion Week. I didn’t do these jobs, due to the fact that if I were to model outfits to fit my age range (a juniors size/teen/young adult), I would have to be a size 0-2 and 5’7”. Well, I had the size but not the height, and I was already not healthy at my height of 5’2”.
What was the scariest part of it all for you?
Emily: The scariest part of it all for me was the constant fear of never getting better. There would be times I thought I was doing good and on the track of being normal, but I seemed to always go back to my old habits and relapse.
Do you suffer from this disorder just as strongly, or has it gotten better?
Emily: This is a question that varies for me. I think that right now I am doing [better]; last summer I was almost 70 lbs. and now in October 2018 I’m almost 95 lbs. My biggest fear is something else happening and me relapsing [back into] old habits, but as of this moment of my life, I’m doing good.
Did your experience change how you think about eating disorders?
Emily: In a short answer, yes. I used to think that eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia were just common results of cries of attention from girls. My experience with this killer, is that, no, it is not just a cry for attention, and it could happen to anyone. I think people need to be more educated on these disorders and know [the] signs in people around them. Maybe this [way, we] could change the world together.
What’s one message you’d like others going through an eating disorder to hear?
Emily: You are not alone. I know the phrases “just eat” and “just hold it in” don’t help, and I know they [can] make you feel like crap sometimes, because I’ve been there. Whatever the root cause of what made you feel like skipping that meal or eating your feelings away, it doesn’t have control over you when you look at yourself in the mirror and say, I am strong, I am confident, and I am beautiful. And if you feel like that is not enough, talk to [someone] you trust about what you are going through, [because] it’s not good to hold it in.
Whatever the root cause of what made you feel like skipping that meal or eating your feelings away, it doesn’t have control over you when you look at yourself in the mirror and say, I am strong, I am confident, and I am beautiful.
If you have a message/question/word of encouragement for Emily, write it here and I’ll be sure to get it to her! :)
And if you’re currently fighting through an eating disorder yourself, and you feel trapped in the cycle, without any hope of recovery…
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