by Julia Hawkins ’22
“You won’t live to see your 18th birthday unless you make some kind of change.” That’s what my doctor told me when I had finally opened up about my eating disorder, just over a year ago. I remember how I felt that day. I was cold and my hands were clammy, but most of all, I was terrified. I tried to distract myself after my doctor left the room by staring at the fluorescent lights on the ceiling, but nothing seemed to take the pit in my stomach away. I thought, “My 18th birthday…but I want to see that day, I need to see that day.”
I have bulimia, which is commonly associated with a desire to become thinner through extreme measures, such as binging on food shortly followed by purging that food by self-induced vomiting. The thing about an eating disorder is that it’s like a recurring virus. It comes in, sometimes without warning, and knocks you off of your feet, causes you so much physical and mental pain, then just leaves. You think you’re in the clear, until it comes back again, and you’re stuck in a vicious, toxic cycle until you’re just too tired to try and combat it. This is my story.
I began to have body images issues when I was 13. There was a constant pressure surrounding me to be thinner than I was. At the time, I was pretty chubby, but not to the point where my doctor was concerned for my health. This notion struck me in a way where I thought, ‘I need to lose weight. I need to be skinny.’ When exercise and diets didn’t seem to help me, I turned to trying and making myself throw up. I would spend minutes on end hunched over my toilet or my bathtub forcing myself to erase any food I had consumed previously, and this was painful, physically and mentally.
The toxic cycle of eating and purging continued for nearly 5 years. I dropped nearly 60 pounds going from 180lbs to 120lbs. I felt awful: I had become snippy, irritated, angry, and I was in pain. The horrible thing about having an eating disorder is that your body will feel awful and in pain, but your mind sees results and your mind wants to continue to see those results, so you continue. I was skinnier, yes, but I felt horrible. You can always fool your mind, but never your body. I finally had a breakthrough and, for the first time, I asked for help. I reached out to close friends and family, realizing I couldn’t handle this on my own, this is when everything changed. I developed and began reaching out to my support system, the people I trusted the most to help me through the bad and the good days. There are days where I want to purge and prevent myself from doing so, and the days when I feel great and they celebrate those small victories with me.
I write this now…and I’m on the cusp of turning 18, that fateful day when I’ll be considered an adult. Reflecting upon this, there’s one important factor of my life that’s gotten me this far: I wasn’t alone and I never was. The funny thing about that is, I spent years thinking that I was alone. I was seriously ill and it was up to me and me alone to cure myself, but that wasn’t the case. I was ill, that much was true, but all it took was a simple outreach. That outreach changed my life, and brought me here…on the cusp of 18.