Caitlin N An Open Letter to Anyone Battling an Eating Disorder

"I made the choice to never give up on myself, and I couldn’t be happier with the outcome."

Eating disorders suck. Throughout my decade-plus long battle, that’s one of the few truths I know and can say without blinking an eye. It’s the most abusive relationship you can find yourself in, with the most devastating consequences of any mental disorder (i.e. death).

As someone who has gone through multiple stints in treatment, I can attest to the fact that it’s one of the most difficult and painful processes imaginable. I can also attest to the fact that it is in time the most rewarding experience you can put yourself through if you’re struggling. I cannot sit here and tell you it will be easy—you’re going to cry... you’re going to scream… you’re going to be exhausted... and you’re going to hurt emotionally, mentally, and physically. There’s a reason it’s called a battle. You’re going to learn things about yourself that you hate, but, I promise you, you’re going to learn so many more things about yourself that you love. DO NOT GIVE UP!

Early on during my struggle, when I was about 17 or so, I went into an inpatient treatment facility. I was extremely lucky to have insurance that covered the program; however, I was young and unprepared for what I was fighting against. I did not take it seriously. I rolled my eyes, gritted my teeth and played along with the doctors, but I was nowhere near the mindset I needed to be in to be successful. I did not believe this would be a constant, ongoing fight. I thought I was somehow immune to the consequences. I thought I could just stop whenever I wanted. I had no clue I was completely immersed in a horrific disease.

Fast forward 12 years and I found myself in the same predicament, except, this time around, the effects were much more severe. Grossly underweight and suffering from malnutrition, my body began shutting down. I hadn’t menstruated in years; my hair was thinning; my teeth were rotting; my organs were failing and I had full blown osteoporosis. But the repercussions weren’t purely physical. Relationships were damaged; my marriage failed; my ability to work was compromised; my cognitive abilities were tarnished. I struggled to string sentences together; I failed to get excited about things in life; I became numb to the outside world. My life was crumbling to pieces, and for some reason the only thing I gave a shit about was holding onto my eating disorder.

This past December I made the decision to seek treatment once again. It was the best decision of my life. My dad kept asking me if I truly wanted recovery, and, at the time, I wasn’t sure. For my entire adult life, this is all I’ve known—it’s the only way I knew how to cope with things. But I made the choice to never give up on myself, and I couldn’t be happier with the outcome. If you’re still at that point where you’re not quite ready to let go, please, please give yourself a chance. When I was in treatment I sat next to a girl who had a meltdown. She felt she was no longer the “skinniest girl in the room”. But WTF is so great about being the skinniest girl in the room? Why is that what you want to be? Don’t you want to be the smartest girl in the room... the bravest girl in the room... the strongest, most beautiful girl in the room? Think of everything you sacrifice when you strive to be the skinniest girl. It’s not worth it. You deserve so many things out of life, but what you DON’T deserve is an eating disorder.

If you’re struggling with an eating disorder, don’t be ashamed to get help. If you know someone who is struggling with an eating disorder, support them in every way you possibly can. Throughout everything, all I ever really wanted was someone to tell me that everything would be ok. From my experience, people who suffer with this are some of the most intelligent, loving, compassionate and incredibly strong people you’ll ever meet, don’t let them slip away.