Anorexia: How It Affected Me and How I’m Getting My Health Back | Teen Ink

Anorexia: How It Affected Me and How I’m Getting My Health Back MAG

January 19, 2019
By Anonymous

Ballet was a significant part of my life for over four years. I loved it because of the challenge, the effort required to improve every single day. In the fall of my sophomore year, I moved by myself to Florida to attend Miami City Ballet’s pre-professional program. This program required three to five consecutive hours of ballet class per day, six days a week. There were no breaks between classes, and we were expected to work as hard as possible.

I had sacrificed so much in my life to be there; I was a six-hour plane ride away from my family. The pressure in Miami was intense. The program wanted to prepare us for life as a professional dancer in the company, and our technique was criticized in every class. There was also pressure to be thin. As a dancer, you need to be strong and lean. I had never had an issue with that, I was always naturally built that way. However, the teachers in Florida did not hint about us needing to be thinner, and I found myself desiring an unhealthy weight. I had heard about eating disorders in the past and potentially knew more about them than the average person. That’s why I never imagined that it would happen to me.

I began to restrict my eating in September of 2018 after I weighed myself on my roommate’s scale. It wasn’t drastic at this point; I still justified my behavior as normal. The other girls around me also talked about their “healthy diets,” and I told myself that my habits weren’t any different. I have always been strong-willed and perfectionistic – two traits that can be beneficial, but are also linked to anorexia. Unfortunately, my obsession with food and weight continually got worse. I weighed myself multiple times a day and heavily restricted my calorie intake. I still furiously exercised in ballet class and pushed myself to exhaustion. By November, I had lost over 10 pounds.

At this point, my parents started to realize how unenergetic and depressed I seemed over the phone. They knew something was wrong. I wanted to tell them, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. The logical part of me knew that I needed help, but the other part told me that I still wasn’t thin enough and I needed to lose more weight. I had two days off from regular ballet classes for Thanksgiving break, so I flew home by myself for the weekend. As soon as I arrived, my parents realized what was wrong. I broke down and told them everything; I am so thankful that I did. After it was decided that I wouldn’t be returning to Miami, I was extremely conflicted. I was relieved that I was home, but I knew it meant I would be receiving treatment that would force me to eat.

I was diagnosed with anorexia one week after Thanksgiving. It was recommended I attend a day program at the UCSD Eating Disorders Center for Treatment and Research. However, I was not cleared to attend this program because of my heart rate. Because I had lost so much weight in such a short amount of time, my organs suffered. My heart rate was dangerously low, and the doctors were worried that I might go into cardiac arrest when I slept. I was admitted to Rady’s Children’s Hospital where I was fed and my heart was monitored. They also found an issue with my liver that would only be mended with rest and calories. I was in the hospital for four nights and five days. During this time, I realized the serious damage I had done to my body, and I was ready to recover. After being discharged from the hospital, I moved directly into the day program at UCSD. I was there for 10 hours a day at first, but quickly progressed and moved into the six-hour per day schedule. I attended the program for five weeks and was discharged into outpatient care on January 4.

As part of recovery from an eating disorder, I was not allowed to exercise for a few weeks. During this time, I thought about ballet and whether I truly wanted to continue it. It wasn’t something that bought my joy anymore. Dancing was tightly tied to my eating disorder and the two couldn’t be separated. I let go of ballet, but I haven’t regretted it once. When I was finally allowed to exercise, I began with walks around the neighborhood with my mom. We also took long hikes and yoga classes together, and she would occasionally let me run a few steps ahead of her. These activities were incredibly enjoyable for me, but I especially loved running. I didn’t enjoy it because I was good at it, but because it was exhilarating. Being outside in the sunshine did wonders for my mood, and running helped me realize that I don’t need to be amazing at something to continue it. Right now, I am running multiple times per week. Unlike ballet, I’m not trying to make it my career. It’s just for fun.

As for where I am now in my eating disorder recovery, some days are better than others. I still struggle with it every single day, but I am home and have people around me for support. This hardship has completely changed my outlook on exercise. I know that I still need to pace myself because I am in recovery, but I take every day as an opportunity to get a little bit better. I celebrate every meal I eat, every minute I exercise, and every day I am free of anorexia. I do not exercise to burn calories anymore, I do it because I love it.

The author's comments:

Writing has always been a passion of mine, but I never knew how impactful my words could be to others. My mom posted this on her Facebook page and many of her friends reached out to tell her that they were affected by my story. I would love to share this article with even more people who might experience the same struggles I did.

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