This is Hannah’s story, as told to me.
Bulimia kind of caught me by surprise. I grew up in a great Christian home, but my dad was a pastor for most of my life, and I always felt pressure to be perfect from others because of that. I was pretty average, really, with weight, academics, and sports ability for most of my life. At 5’9”, I weighed 160 pounds. My senior year of high school, I started to get serious with lacrosse because I discovered I was really good at it, and I started eating healthy and working out a lot.
People noticed the changes, and at first I got a lot of compliments, so I continued to work out harder, eat less, and lose more weight. Those compliments soon turned into concerns. Friends made comments on my body shape, which made me feel more self-conscious, when I was finally feeling good about myself. It felt like I could never be good enough, no matter what. People kept commenting on the amount of food I ate, and I began to get angry and defensive. My thought was that I had great self-control to not eat a lot or not eat sweets. I thought I was being “good” and that people were just jealous. I was so angry all the time. I was wrapped up in my issues, and I became someone that was never happy, kept everything bottled up inside, yet appeared to others to be fine. But the constant comments tore me up.
I started to binge eat to make everyone else happy, but then a tremendous amount of guilt would come upon me and I would go purge. This continued for the whole summer after my senior year, and during my freshman year of college; I just spiraled downward. I felt so alone, and I binged and purged all the time. I became deeply depressed, and at times I wished God would just take my life. I had fallen very far from him, and I tried to fill that void by obsessing over my body. It was sick. At this point, I weighed about 125.
At that point, my best friend opened up to me that she was bulimic and wanted help with how to tell her parents. I told her I couldn’t help her because I was working on that myself. I finally opened up to my parents about the bulimia a bit after Christmas; it was the hardest thing to do, but I felt such release. My family had known that something was wrong, but didn’t know how to approach it with me. I renewed my relationship with God that day and huge guilt was lifted from me; I started climbing out of the deep hole I’d fallen into.
From that point on, I only purged once more. Because I had invited everyone back into my life, I told those closest to me, and they were so supportive. I started to pray more, read my Bible again, and was able to listen to people again. I had issues with anxiety when I stopped binging and purging, and did feel guilty about eating normal amounts of food. But whenever I felt that anxiety, I would tell someone and pray. I finally realized that everyone experiences anxiety sometimes, and it’s not that big of a deal. I got over myself and let God take my thoughts captive and make them his. It wasn’t an overnight success; the process took months. But it was surely worth the effort of climbing out.
I’m doing well now. I’m at a place where I can gain weight and still be ok. I lost my period for almost a year, and recently got it back, which makes me so happy because I really would like to eventually have kids. It would break my heart if I couldn’t have children someday, because I’ve been so focused on myself. People still make comments about how skinny I am. But I’ve decided to just joke with them, and I don’t take it personally anymore. I’m ok with who I am now.
As far as advice to anyone struggling with an eating disorder, you need to know that you’re not the only one! Get help if you need it. You only live once. You need to just live, and learn to love life, it’s so short! God made you in his image, and you’re perfect just the way you are. It can be a hard concept to grasp, but once you learn to love yourself and appreciate all the things that make you who you are, life becomes so much better!
I’m ready to begin my sophomore year of college at Winona State, and I feel that I’ve fully climbed out of the dark hole of bulimia. I plan to focus a lot on school, and I am determined to do well and keep up my close relationship with God. He helped me at my lowest, and I know that with him anything is possible! I want to become an occupational therapist because I love helping people. I believe it is part of who God created me to be.