My story begins as a pretty, intelligent, and a 17 year old who has a beautiful life. This is how people talked, but that’s not how I felt. I lived with another identity at home. Make no mistake, I am blessed with family, but like all families, we have our struggles.
I have struggled with depression for several years. When my eating disorder developed, I was under a lot of pressure with home, school, and my commitments to dance. Dance was my lifeline. I used it to escape reality and become somebody I couldn’t be without the music. I injured my chest while dancing and was put on steroids. I rapidly lost weight from the amount of stress and found control in the fact that I was getting thinner. This is when my eating disorder began and also when I stopped living and trusting God. I avoided food, people I love, and conversations about my weight loss. I avoided conversations about other problems I was faced with. I avoided life. I idled the scale and number. I had a “dancer body.”
I started to question my behaviors when two different teachers asked me what was going on. I started getting remarks from friends, and people asked my sister if I was anorexic. My best friend said to me on the phone one night, “Don’t you think this weight loss is a big problem?” I started crying hysterically. That was the moment I realized I had an eating disorder.
I didn’t seek treatment or discuss any of my habits. I put on enough weight to look “healthy.” The thoughts and behaviors regarding my weight were overwhelming. When I was a freshman in college, I began praying about my eating disorder and asked God to heal me. Nothing changed. At this point, I thought I could fight this myself.
Summer before my sophomore year of college, I discovered that one of my best friends was living with a man who had sexually abused her. She was terrified to sleep there alone so I stayed with her often. Her story fascinated me, and she is incredibly strong and brave. She began struggling a lot with her sexual abuse when she began college. My other best friend also struggles with major depression and was going through a rough patch. I jumped in and wanted to save both of them. I didn’t have to deal with my eating disorder if I focused on them. Regardless, I lost pieces of me in the fight for their lives that I will never get back. I kept secrets that tore me apart. I kept their secrets and my secrets.
One of my friends from school knew my story and kept encouraging me to not let my pride stand in the way. She was a strong Christian, which was not something I was used to seeing in 21 year olds. She told me how God helped her through her own eating disorder. My pastor spoke about people who try to take control of their lives and be strong without God. He mentioned how pride stands in our way. I was getting the same message over and over. My best friend on the phone one night just plainly said, “Hannah, you will die from this if you don’t get help!”
I called the next day to set up an appointment. My first appointment was with a counselor who specializes in eating disorders. (I don’t believe in coincidence.) I was diagnosed with an eating disorder and had to tell my family and friends for support. This was hard for me because I always wanted to be independent and not burden anybody, but God has placed beautiful and strong friends in my life. I have been in recovery for nine months and am grateful for those who encourage me every day.
I have learned so much about myself through counseling and discussing family matters with loved ones. I have learned even more about myself through God. I am learning how to love myself as He loves me, which is freedom in itself. I am learning how to live all over again. God’s purpose for me was not to have an eating disorder that could potentially result in death. This is why I’m fighting my eating disorder.
My story doesn’t end here, but I am now a 22 year old, intelligent, and beautiful girl (inside and out) determined to become the woman God created me to be.
Encouragement for Others
So many people struggle with eating disorders but don’t seek treatment because they are not “too skinny” yet. I wasn’t deadly skinny when I began counseling or even when I was diagnosed, but I firmly believe that I would have eventually gotten to that point. I encourage others who know somebody or for those who are struggling to be brave and seek treatment early. Seeking treatment when I did has saved my loved ones and me a lot of grief. I also strongly encourage people, as hard as it is, to share what you are going through with loved ones. You’d be surprised at how many wonderful people God has placed in your life to help and guide you. I have discovered through recovery that God created me to be me and only me. Learn to appreciate the gifts God has given you and use them to inspire others.