‘You don’t deserve to die.’ Seeing the number on the scale became an obsession. I struggled to find the strength to fight.’: Teen recovers from eating disorder, ‘You can set yourself free’

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Trigger Warning: This story contains descriptions of eating disorders, suicidal thoughts, and depression that may be triggering to some.

“I grew up within a loving family that taught me the importance of kindness, respect, and equality. As a little kid, I felt happy and safe in this environment. To me, it was a judgment-free zone. But as the years passed, my curiosity widened and I became conscious of the many standards society expected of me. This pulled my self-esteem and confidence completely down the drain as I became an absolute perfectionist, which meant I started feeling like I was ‘never good enough.’ I have always cared for others more than myself, thinking it would reward me with a sense of relief and happiness of having managed to make myself somewhat useful.

Courtesy of Louise Randall

It goes back to the days where I was in primary school and I was bullied by another girl my age. She kept taking advantage of me and shattered me into a million pieces in the process. Sometimes, after school, she would send me messages trying to make me feel remorseful towards her and she gradually managed to convince me I was a terrible person. Everything my bully did impacted me seriously and I remember how it felt like a living nightmare at the time. However, I had hope I could try to find my way out of it so I could stop hurting. One day, she started saying she wanted me to die and that ‘Louise would be better off dead.’ I was 9 years old at the time. My struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts had started when I was 7, two years beforehand. I already had very low self-esteem and it was constantly thrown a little more away. I kept wanting to kill myself. I once managed to open up about this. I was told as a response, ‘You don’t deserve to die.’

Courtesy of Louise Randall

Ever since I can remember, I’ve always hated my body. I remember how uncomfortable I used to feel about my thighs and my stomach in dance classes. I can also recall the series of appointments my mom took for me to go and consult the generalist, just so I could be reassured I indeed, was not ‘too fat.’ My whole life, I’ve had a tendency to be taller than the other children from my age group, and fairly logically, my weight has followed that too. This meant when girls used to compare their weights in school, I was constantly reminded of how mine was higher.

My relationship with my body worsened, especially as puberty struck and my body slowly began to change. I suddenly realized I couldn’t control its evolution and was devastated at the idea of it not reaching society’s standards. That same summer of 2018 (after obsessively Googling calories, watching YouTube weight loss videos, following Instagram fitness models), I decided to take on my very first diet. My goals were clear: to lose a little weight by eating ‘cleaner’ foods and doing more physical activity which would also allow me to get ‘fitter.’

What I didn’t admit to myself at the time was that trying to shrink my body size was so I didn’t feel like I took up so much space. The belly rolls in my stomach or the jiggle in my thighs – I saw it as pure fat. But the reason why I so badly felt the need to get rid of it was because it felt like it represented an extra layer or envelope that was filled with the too many bottled up emotions I had to suck in overtime.

Courtesy of Louise Randall

Seeing the weight on the scale became an obsession and I sometimes used it up to five or six times a day, just so I could feel in control. The digit that appeared meant everything to me and when it had gone down, I felt an immediate sense of adrenaline rush through my body. I would feel powerful like I had managed to (finally) achieve something in my life. Yet a few moments later a voice inside my head would begin shaming me, telling me it wasn’t enough of a weight loss and I had to keep making it go down. As a result, I would set a goal weight, one I thought was ‘sufficient,’ convincing myself once I had succeeded, I could stop the weight loss and allow myself to eat everything I wanted. But these were all lies. The kilos dropped yet I got no happiness or merit out of any of it – all I obtained was a complete dependence on disordered habits that were slowly killing me. I just couldn’t stop restricting and over-exercising, no matter how painful it was, I put myself through it. I believed I deserved to suffer.

My eating disorder was only diagnosed months later (the 26 of December 2018 to be precise), after having lost 20 pounds. The doctor and my parents told me I was sick and I needed help, but  I was so submerged by this little voice inside my head. The month that followed my diagnosis was intense and I plummeted downhill, I was completely put off rails and lost all energy whatsoever. My dad would come to my bedside table, when I couldn’t move a muscle without screaming, due to the abnormal pain it procured, and beg me to eat yet I kept refusing. Every little bit of Louise was fading and rotting away while she was being replaced by the demon of anorexia. My dad would often say, ‘I want Louise back. Let me talk to the real Louise, I’m not interested in talking to anorexia.’

Courtesy of Louise Randall

I continued losing weight, despite it being slower due to my body shutting down and going into ‘starvation mode.’ My parents were extremely worried and they scheduled an appointment at a specialized center, but the wait was months long. I pushed through to try and hold on until this appointment when the endocrinologist was alarmed by my physical state and contacted various hospitals to obtain a spot for me to go inpatient as soon as possible.

I was later hospitalized for 2 and a half months, where I gained back over thirty pounds, but as soon as I was discharged, the little voice inside my head became louder and started destroying me all over again. I tried to fight against it but struggled to find the strength. I cut out certain foods from my daily intake and forced myself to walk at least 30,000 steps a day despite the freezing cold weather it was that December 2019. My psychiatrist made me attend an outpatient clinic and I would go there from 8:30 a.m. till 5:30 p.m. every weekday. After trying out this new treatment program, I decided it was not giving me the support I needed so my parents agreed to pull me out against medical advice.

Courtesy of Louise Randall

The summer break came to an end and the time had come for me to go back to school. I was tired but pushed through my fatigue and found the strength to attend for the first 2 weeks, although I then wasn’t able to carry on much longer. I soon ended up spending my time at home, completely drained both mentally and physically. I was seeing a dietician that was attempting to help me up my food intake, but no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it alone.

I had to consult with a pediatrician at the hospital every week or so, and each time my weight dropped by another two pounds, at least. The rapidity of my health deteriorating seriously worried my entourage. On October 26, I went to one of these appointments and expected to come home like any other, but ended up being obliged to stay and be hospitalized in their unit. My stay lasted 2 and a half weeks, where I started eating proper amounts again and stopped all physical activity – all of which was far from being easy. This also allowed me to maintain my weight, which was an important factor for my discharge.

As I write this today, it has been about a month since I have been back home and it has been a real emotional rollercoaster. My anxiety has suddenly sprung up at times, resulting in many panic attacks, and the little voice inside of my mind has been playing reasons as to why I should feel shameful or guilty repeatedly. I am aware of how difficult it is for me at the moment, but I still try to have some hope that someday, I will become recovered – happy and free.

Fighting an eating disorder is an exhausting constant battle that takes place within yourself. You feel separated in half as you are partially controlled by the demon of anorexia, yet you have your angelic self trying to gain your trust back and get you ashore. Like any illness, it is a vigorous fight that can take a while, but that does not mean you cannot set yourself free of it in the end. Recovery is definitely not always linear and my own journey documents that rather well I suppose. I have tried to find support by creating my own Instagram account that tries to show the ups and downs of recovery, by sharing pictures of some good moments and writing captions alongside that truly captivate my mindset and emotions. The most important thing to me is honesty and I try to write as openly as possible – obviously avoiding triggers at all costs, but as truthfully as I would come across in a personal diary. If there is anyone that suffers from this illness or knows someone that does, all I can say is that I am just a message away, if ever you need advice or motivation. I insist on this, as I know just how tough fighting a mental illness can get, and getting to feel understood by another person can be incredibly helpful.”

Courtesy of Louise Randall

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Louise Randall from Maisons-Laffitte, France. You can follow her journey on her Instagram. Submit your own story here and sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more stories about eating disorders and recovery here:

‘No one else has the guts to tell you this, but you look like a crack addict.’ I was surrounded by a looming cloud of self-hatred.’: Woman beats lifelong battle with eating disorders, ‘I get up every day and fight for my life’

‘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’

‘Oh wow, my thighs look huge in these jeans. After you have an eating disorder, they say you’ll never be normal again.’

‘Nobody commented on my bathing suit. Not only that. My butt. I’m sad now, you see. I was never a bikini kind of girl.’: Woman struggling with body positivity says ‘the world isn’t judging you like you think it is’

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