My fight with anorexia began when I was 10 years old. I started dieting and exercising rigorously. What started as an innocent attempt to control my body, soon became an obsession. After three years of this behavior, I started eating even less (on most days, I only ate two slices of toast in the morning) and exercising even more. Everything in my life was defined by eating, not eating, working out. Everything I thought about were those things, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The first thought after waking up was, “How much did I eat yesterday?” I lost all of my friends, concentrated only on how much I could or should eat, how long I had to run in order to burn the calories, etc. My life consisted of numbers. I was always dizzy, tired, cranky, miserable, unhappy. It was torture. I could not escape from these thoughts for a second. They were always there. Concentrating was impossible. I did not enjoy anything anymore. If I went to the movies, all I thought was that I missed an opportunity to work out. When I was 18 years old, I tried to commit suicide because I just could not take it anymore.
Basically when I was 18 years old, my life felt empty. My body and mind were exhausted from years of dieting, rigorous exercising and the abuse of laxatives. My brother continued to terrorize me, beat me, verbally abuse me, and I just could not take it anymore. I coulnd’t go on anymore. Nothing made sense. I was hurting so bad. I was sad and tired and had no energy left. It was a very dark place to be in, and I wanted to end it all. I can now say that I am more than happy that God let me live (even if it was so very difficult). I made it out of this black hole, so strong, and I will never go back to that dark place again, never.
My parents never abused me. They have their own struggles, but they never hurt me. I don’t know why they let my brother abuse me in this way, but I have forgiven them now. They were terribly sad when they saw how miserable I felt, but I guess they were too weak to help me. I have a good relationship with my parents, when we don’t talk about this part of our lives. But I accept that they have their reasons for acting the way they did.
I survived, but the next four years would be even more horrible. I slid into a depression, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t smile, couldn’t motivate myself to do anything. I spent the entire year of 2007 in my room, alone, scared, hopeless and without any energy left. In the years after that, I started studying several courses, but quit all of them because I *had to* go to the gym to work out instead of going to the university. I couldn’t even change my behavior when I got to know my husband in 2010. For a while, I pretended to be happy (in those 14 years of being anorexic, I became an expert in pretending), but on the inside I was even more miserable. I beat myself up for not even stopping my behavior now that I was in love and supposed to be the happiest girl alive. But after a few months of being married, and realizing that I was genuinely and madly loved, I was able to admit to myself that I needed help, and this realization couldn’t have come soon enough. I was on the brink of death because of being so underweight. Had I continued on this destructive path, I wouldn’t be here anymore. This was in December of 2010 and the beginning of my recovery process.
Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder. The deadliest kind of it. Twenty percent of people who suffer from anorexia die either from the sickness itself or from its symptoms.
Anorexia is a mental disease.
You lose weight through dieting and ridiculous workout routines. You lose control over yourself. You cannot eat anymore, you count every calorie, think you are fat even if you almost die from being underweight, your thoughts circle around food and calories, and you define yourself by how much control you have over yourself.
A typical day started with the thought “How much did I eat yesterday?” The answer to this question determined the rest of my day. If I could answer “nothing,” I was fine (for the moment). If I said “too much,” the day was going to be horrible. I woke up and started a 30-minute workout routine. I ate two slices of toast. Depending on what day of the week it was, that was all I ate. If it was a Wednesday, Friday or Sunday, I would eat something for lunch. I would then go for an hour- or an hour-and-a-half-long walk. In the evening, I would run on the treadmill.
Every day, I measured my thighs, hips and arms.
I weighed myself every single day, sometimes more than once and freaked out because of every gram I gained. I was often so hungry that I dreamed of large quantities of food.
On some days, I was so hungry that I had eating attacks that lasted all day long. I would eat everything that I could find from 6 a.m. until late at night. I ate until I felt so sick that I thought I was going to throw up. However, I never made myself throw up. I did, however, abuse laxatives. After those days, I had to punish myself for this behavior, and ate even less and worked out even more.
I was very, very, very lucky and did not have major health problems. I stopped growing when I was 12, which is very common when you develop an eating disorder in your adolescence, and there were years when I didn’t have my period. My skin was always dry, and I was always cold. That was it for me. But I really need to stress how lucky I was, this is very unusual. Most anorexics have major health problems.
Anorexia itself didn’t make me stronger, but recovering from it made me a lot stronger. The recovery process was brutally hard. Having to admit to yourself that you are seriously sick and that you need help immediately is very hard. But now I look back and see how much courage it took to make this step, and I am proud of it. I did not want to die (even though there were many days when it would have been so much easier to give up) and instead fought. I still have to make a decision every day that I want to fight against this disease. Every morning I need to make a decision: Do I want to give up or do I persevere? And I move on. It is the hardest thing I ever did, but also the most rewarding process. I am starting to grow into a woman, and I am proud of it. I am starting to develop self-confidence. I am learning to love myself for who I am and to trust myself. These are things I learned in the last year, and this journey will continue for a long time. The girl I was last year and the woman I am now are worlds apart.
If you are struggling with anorexia and being underweight, I would like you to know that you are not alone. and don’t feel ashamed. Anorexia is a disease, not a choice. We do not behave like this voluntarily, we cannot help it. Don’t blame yourself and seek help. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of strength, of wanting to survive.
Talk to someone who is close to you, someone you feel comfortable with. If you want to talk to me, email me (firstname.lastname@example.org), I would love to help you.
Now that I am in recovery, I am starting to appreciate life for what it is. Life has always seemed to be nothing but misery. I used to be scared of every single day. I used to fear the future and the decades of hating every day. But now I know that life is miraculous. I am starting to appreciate the little things like the beauty of flowers, wonderful days in the sun, spending time on the couch with my husband, laughing until we cry.
Life should not be defined by how much you weigh. Yes, you should try to be healthy and make the right choices, but you should learn to enjoy every single day. Life is so short and I am now living every day to its fullest.
I have decided to follow my passion of writing, podcasting and helping those who suffer from the same disease as I have. I won’t let others define who I am or who I should be.
I have suffered enough, now I want to live.
About Anne-Sophie – courtesy fightinganorexia.com
Standing on the brink of death, having struggled with anorexia for 14 years, Anne-Sophie has finally been able to break the cycle of eating, not eating, exercising and taking up to 60 laxatives in the summer of 2011. After a three-month long stay at a sanatorium that resulted in almost no weight-gain, Anne-Sophie has been able to gain more than 20 pounds and is slowly finding her way to health and a better life. It is a difficult journey, one that will last years, but Anne-Sophie is determined, as determined as she was when she started her first diet, and she will be the winner of this fight against her own body.
During her time at the sanatorium, Anne-Sophie started her first podcast called My Intercontinental Life, which was then followed by Fighting Anorexia, the podcast that she had been dreaming of doing for years. This is the podcast that is the most important to her.
The goal of this podcast is it to spread the news about the dark side of the slimming craze: the suffering, the loneliness, the deceptions, the heartache, the weakness, the mental terror and the deteriorating health. Furthermore, this podcast wants to provide a platform where anybody struggling with an eating disorder feels save to have his voice heard and feels understood and never judged.
Anne-Sophie’s story is only one of millions. The podcasts are her attempt to do something against this horrible disease.