Trigger Warning: This story contains details of eating disorders and suicidal thoughts that may be triggering to some.
“It was the summer of my final year of middle school. I looked in the mirror and saw an ugly girl who needed to lose weight. As I began my eighth grade school year, I also began a journey that would change my life forever. I would restrict what I ate daily, probably eating only 1,200 calories a day. I also tried to exercise as much as possible, stood whenever I could, and avoided sitting, since that would ‘store’ calories and cause me to not burn as many. I wanted to look like the models on Instagram who had flat stomachs, big boobs, round butts, and chiseled faces. So, I continued to deprive my body of the nutrients it needed. The clothes that once fit me began to become baggy. But I didn’t care, because I was achieving what I wanted—skinniness.
The same winter, my mom noted my weight loss and brought me to the doctor, where we found out I had lost over 10 pounds in the span of 3 months. I didn’t care, I wanted to keep becoming smaller. I was put on a meal plan and had to see an eating disorder specialist almost every week to keep track of my weight.
The same pattern happened for years, where I would gain weight, almost reach my healthy weight, and then I would slip again. In the summer of 2018, I had to go into my first partial treatment for recovery. I cried every day, struggled to eat the meals they gave me, and fell into a deep depression. I hated myself for causing this. I left 4 weeks later, unrecovered but happy to be free from the place that felt like a prison. I remember it was February 25, 2019. I felt alone, isolated, with no hope for the future. I called my friend after having a panic attack in the bathroom at school and told her I wanted to go home, swallow a bottle of pills, and end it all. She helped me calm down enough to be able to go back to class. Not long after I called my sister, telling her the same thing. She took me to the guidance counselor’s office, and they had to call my parents. I was taken to the emergency room for an evaluation, where I was cleared to go home. My parents hid my pills so I couldn’t harm myself. I went off to college, on my own for the first time.
The start wasn’t too bad, but I was severely homesick. I was out of my routine, out of my element, and without guidance from my parents. I called my dad one night, having a panic attack over school and friends and being away from home. I nearly reached for the pills again, but my dad said, ‘Don’t do anything.’ I stopped and stayed on the phone with him. I was sent home the next day for 3 weeks to try and heal myself. I went back into the eating disorder treatment center and again fell into a deep depression. I was numb, and couldn’t find anything to bring me happiness. I finished the semester and absolutely loved being home for break. I was even considering transferring schools. But then the opportunity of a lifetime came—I was invited, as a freshman, to go to Florida with the crew team to train over the break. I knew this meant I was locked in, having to go back to Marist, but it felt right. Before going on the trip, I began recovery for real this time. I started an account on Instagram and surrounded myself with people who struggled like I did, shared their stories, and embraced the beauty of imperfect bodies.
I went on the trip and everything changed. I made new friends, got more involved in school, and enjoyed being myself. I slowly started to let go of the control I once craved, and began to let God take the wheel of my life. I was starting to feel happy again, like my life had meaning. Everyday was still a struggle, but I tried to take it day by day. And then COVID hit. I was sent home for the rest of the spring semester, away from friends and my second home. I was trapped in my own home for months, trapped with my own thoughts 24/7. But this actually helped me, like a blessing in disguise. I gained weight, became closer to God, and grew my account. I was trying to help others and let them know they were not alone in their struggle, especially during the pandemic. I remember one day I tried an old pair of jeans on, after not wearing jeans for weeks, and they fit, but instead of feeling joy, I cried.
I cried because I wasn’t the tiny, small girl I used to be, who was stuck in an endless cycle of self-hate. I had gained weight, and that was absolutely terrifying for me. It took me a long time to accept my weight gain and to be okay with it. Right before I went back to school, I got my period for the first time in years, meaning I had reached my goal weight—I was technically healthy, but it didn’t feel that way. I still struggled with accepting my body and its weight gain. I wore what made me comfortable, and tried to take care of myself as if I were taking care of a friend.
Soon, I went back to school in the fall, but it was different. Everything wasn’t new anymore—I was separated from my friends because of housing, and crew was on hold until Marist deemed it to be safe. I began to struggle again. I felt lonely and like no one liked me. Most days, I was stuck in my room. School was harder than the past year. But I surrounded myself with people who loved me, and soon, I was able to be in the boat again. I started to let go of trying to be the ‘perfect’ girl. I started to be who I was. I started to love myself. I started to feel confident in myself. I was finally free.
I began to build my account around self-love and self-acceptance. I wanted to be real with my followers. Recovery is not linear, and it can be hard to accept weight gain, especially if it is unplanned, as I know many people struggled with weight gain during quarantine. But what I try to emphasize is loving yourself for who you are, no matter what you look like. All bodies are good bodies, whether they be big, small, hairy, dark, light, etc. I try to emphasize you are the only person you have throughout your life, so it is important to love yourself as you love others. I want everyone to know they are worthy, and a life of self-hate will lead to a life of misery. Letting in what other people think of you will hold you back from being your most true self. Once you start to act confident and like you love yourself, flaws and all, you will actually begin to love yourself and feel good about yourself, and you will start to shine like the star you are.
For years I hated myself, but it was because I didn’t accept myself for who I truly was. Once you start to accept who you are, and what you look like, flaws and all, you will start to love yourself. Surround yourself with people who make you feel good, who accept you for who you are. Do what you love, even if no one else supports you, because it brings you joy. Wear what you want because it makes you feel like you’re on top of the world. And remember you are fearfully and wonderfully made, made perfectly in God’s image. You have a purpose, are beautiful, and are worth more than anything. You are loved. You are never alone. Just because it is not okay, does not mean it is the end.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Allie Bohenko of Westford, Massachusetts. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
Read more inspiring stories from eating disorder survivors:
‘I wouldn’t use Chapstick. I was afraid I might lick my lips and accidentally swallow some of it, convinced it would make me fat.’: Woman suffering eating disorder is admitted to recovery center, ‘We aren’t treated like people. We were treated like patients’
‘Our beautiful, once vibrant Sarah is now a shell of a human.’ I was spiraling out of control. A monster was being born.’: Young woman overcomes eating disorder, ‘struggling is not a character flaw. You are worthy of help.’
‘Watch what you eat. Work harder in the gym.’ I started purging. To be better means to be smaller.’: Young woman overcomes eating disorder, uses her recovery to help other young women change their way of thinking
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