I remember hearing a lot of different whispers when Ed (anorexia, my eating disorder) lived with me. Whispers like “No one will like you if you don’t lose more weight.” And like “You don’t really need to eat that.” These whispers played like a broken record in my head, rudely reminding me that I would never be good enough. And they became louder and louder until they were screams. Screams filled with lies. That’s what Ed does. He screams constantly until that’s all you can hear.
Ed made me give up everything to keep him. I lost a lot of things. I lost motivation. I lost joy. I lost relationships. My friends and family are the most important things in the world to me, and yet Ed made me choose him over them. I lost my ability to concentrate. I specifically remember a conversation with the secretary at my school and not being able to form cohesive sentences. Why? Because my brain was malnourished. That’s what Ed does. Ed made me lose self-respect. Because of that, he made me engage in self-harm. I was cutting myself. Why? Because I felt so unworthy and broken. That’s what Ed does. Another thing that Ed took from me is hope.
I feel like hope is ingrained in us. We grow up learning to hope. We feel hope for the little things and the big things in our lives. When that hope is taken away, life becomes confusing and a lot like a traffic jam. You’re stuck, and you can’t see a way out.
But as much as I believed that all hope was gone, that Ed had taken it from me and I’d never feel it again, I was wrong. I can promise you: HOPE IS REAL. Hope is real. Recovery is real. Self-love is real. Even at my worst, deep, deep inside there was a little flame of hope. And that hope led to a cry for help. Thankfully, people answered. I started to be able to hear the whispers of truth that my therapist, my friends, and my family members were speaking. Then those whispers became louder.
I was reminded that I was good enough. I was reminded that my worth was not based on my appearance, my weight, or the size of my jeans. I was good enough. Period. End of sentence. For a while, my life looked a little like a game of tug-of-war — my team of encouragement on one side and Ed on the other, fighting, pulling, straining to keep his hold on me. He was almost stronger than all of their strength combined. Almost.
Today, the whispers I hear are different. They’re both still there, but now Ed’s voice is quieter, and self-love is louder. Ed lost the game of tug-of-war.
NEDA’s Awareness Week fills me with a refreshed feeling of hope each year, but especially this year. The theme, It’s Time to Talk About It, pulls Ed from the shadows where he lives and sheds light on him. This theme allows messages filled with truth and hope to be spread far and wide, messages that link us together in the fight against Ed. Let’s beat Ed. How? We have to scream louder than him. Let’s scream — not whisper, but scream — messages of hope. Because even though it’s hidden, hope is there. Hope is real.
by Gabrielle Bridgeman
Oklahoma Christian University
To learn more about eating disorders, visit the National Eating Disorders Association website.
If you’re struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association hotline at 1.800.931.2237.
To take a confidential eating disorder screening, click here.
If you’d like to see more of Gabby’s beauty-full, inspiring writing, check out her blog, Sincerely Me.