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Battling An Eating Disorder I Never Knew I Had

It’s not like you just wake up one day and think, “Man, I have an eating disorder.” A lot of the times you don’t even know, no matter how self-aware you may be. This was the hardest topic for me to not only open up about but realize and accept in the first place. So, for all the girls out there struggling with self-image and questioning yourself, here’s my story.

Source: Etsy via Pinterest

Things happen and life can be really hard sometimes. We’ve all been there, and we all understand. And when life is hard, sometimes things happen to us both physically and mentally that we may not be in control of or even aware of at the time. And that’s exactly what happened to me.

During my first semester of college, I went through a life-altering, traumatic experience that my body chose to react to without asking me if that was what I wanted. Based off of the situation, I grew really depressed and stopped eating. I never intentionally meant to stop eating, but I just wasn’t hungry at most times of the day. When this was happening, food was the last thing I would think about, and that didn’t seem like a problem. I mean, I just wasn’t hungry, right?

Wrong. While it was true that I wasn’t hungry, that wasn’t the root of the issue and that wasn’t the only problem I had going on. I started losing weight: slowly at first, and then rapidly out of nowhere. Before I knew it, I had lost 20 lbs in the matter of a few months. Not only did I lose weight, but I lost energy, motivation and stability. I couldn’t go through the day without blacking out from dehydration or nausea. But, I was also far beyond a point that I could fix the problem on my own. My body had become accustomed to not eating, and I believed that I didn’t need food to go through my daily tasks. It got so prevalent that I would become nauseous and ill when I did try to eat.

It took me over a year to even begin to recover, and I am still learning to live with an eating disorder. I am still struggling with my self-image and learning to love my body. But, it had to get a lot worse, before it could get better. When it got to the point that food made me nauseous, I addressed that something was wrong. But, I was not able to fully admit it to myself or to anyone around me. It didn’t seem like an eating disorder, because I didn’t think that I was intentionally not eating.

Source: Pinterest

That is one of the first points I want to make about eating disorders in general. It is a mental health issue, and with all mental health issues, sometimes you are unaware of your state of being and don’t see a problem. Sometimes you genuinely cannot help what is going on. And beyond that, it takes a lot more than seeing a problem to actually admit it, get help, and then recover from it. And that is perfectly okay.

There hit a point when my friends, family and peers were concerned and didn’t really know to react and in turn, interact with me about what was going on. Some of my friends just chopped it up to the “college life” and the ups and downs that go hand-in-hand with being broke and drinking a lot. My father took a brutal route and often commented on my appearance in a negative way, telling me I looked “sickly,” and it was “unattractive”. He and my mother would try to force feed me and always offer me food. I understood their intentions, but I was past the point of recovery, so their words made me feel even worse while eating continued to make me throw up.

Source: Pinterest

It wasn’t until one of my friends made mention to an eating disorder that the possibility even crossed my mind. And when she first said it, I instantly thought “no way could I have an eating disorder”. I was always healthy growing up, played sports and my weight rarely fluctuated before this period of time. After that idea sat with me, I went to see a therapist.

This, unfortunately, was only the beginning of a long journey to recovery and rehabilitation. I know everyone tells you that you have to make the conscious decision to want to get better, and I’m going to be another annoying person to tell you that it is so true. As I began working with my therapist, I realized I did not want to get better yet. I had grown accustomed to being skinny and gaining weight now scared me.

I would notice when my weight fluctuated by a single pound, and I would subconsciously not eat a meal that day in order to compensate. It was this constant battle in my head of me saying I’m fine and I should eat and the other half telling me not to eat and I wasn’t hungry. This vicious cycle began seriously affecting my health and I finally realized it was time to step up and get help.  

Source: Pinterest

I am now in the second semester of my junior year of college, and I can finally speak about the journey of health I am still navigating. I have an eating disorder, and this is something I have never fully admitted out loud. I may not be fully recovered and over my eating disorder, but I can say that it gets easier every single day.

So from one survivor to another, I want you to know that it’s okay to struggle and need help. But sometimes, you need to be the one to pull yourself back up again. Sometimes, it’s empowering to be your own savior. Don’t be scared, I promise, it’s going to get better.

Maddy Atwater

CU Boulder '20

Maddy is currently studying Staretgic Communications with an emphasis in advertising at the College of Communication and Information, while minoring in both Business with the Leeds School of Business and Creative Writing in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder.  Her involvement on campus includes being chapter President of Branding for Her Campus CU Boulder as well as holding spots in the CU Boulder Photography, Ad and Fashion clubs. Outside of school, Maddy enjoys photography and yoga (she even works at Corepower Yoga!). When she isn't in the yoga studio or finding the best food in town, you can catch her reading a good book or exploring with her friends. 
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