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Hi, I’m Sarah. Meeting me in person, you probably wouldn’t know my life was controlled by the demon of eating disorders for over fourteen years. Because I’m “recovered,” I refer to eating disorders as a demon because, to me, that’s what they were.
I never saw them as an illness, disease, or a negative voice in my head. In fact, I didn’t even know I had eating disorders until I was twenty-four.
This demon first came to perch on my shoulder when I was around ten years old. Perhaps because I was so young, I thought it was normal. I mean, didn’t everyone have a demon on their shoulder, whispering horrible lies into their ear?
My family was conservative Christian, and I was taught girls were supposed to do “girl things,” and boys were supposed to do “boy things.” I was a tomboy, though, and my mom would get frustrated and ask why I couldn’t be more like my girly sisters. I didn’t know why, but I got annoyed when I was compared to them. I thought this meant something was wrong with me, and I started to dislike myself.
My mom and older sister dieted and exercised and seemed more innately “girly” than I was. I thought if I dieted and exercised, too, maybe I could make myself more girly. While I preferred being outdoors, climbing trees with my brothers, earning acceptance seemed more important at age ten.
Before long, my efforts to become less of a tomboy turned into a full-blown obsession with my body weight, body size, and clothes size. At some point in my teens, my determination to become girly morphed into pure self-hate and a subsequent need to disappear.
The demon on my shoulder told me I was worthless, and no one could possibly love me unless I was smaller, thinner, tinier. So, I restricted, binged, purged, and over-exercised with fervor. I believed the demon’s taunts that eating was not a privilege I deserved because I was pathetic and without value. In fact, I believed everything the demon said and did whatever it told me, including self-harm and suicidal thoughts.
I hid behind baggy clothes and thought of little else besides eating less and exercising more. Somehow, I thought shrinking away was what I deserved, and in some chance of fate, I could earn love by taking up less space. Looking back, I realized food, weight, and size were never the issues but were rather outward expressions of my unresolved emotional trauma and lack of self-love.
In my early twenties, I married a guy I barely knew, and I thought to start over clear across the country would make everything better. Getting away from the environment I thought had caused all my “problems” seemed logical, but the little demon followed me into my new life, and things got bad really quickly.
The man I married had his own unresolved trauma, and lashed out as a self-righteous gas-lighter in verbally, emotionally, and sexually abusive ways. Given my naivety and unstable mental and emotional states, I listened as the demon on my shoulder reaffirmed my husband’s words that I was undesirable and a horrible wife for disagreeing with his wish for polygamy. He sent me to therapy to fix my “issues” and [hopefully] become more agreeable to his demands.
It was in therapy that I learned how insanely dysfunctional the marriage was, how the demon of eating disorders had lied to me about my self-worth for much of my life, and how believing it was thoroughly destroying my unique value and potential.
It was in therapy I learned my unresolved emotional trauma tainted my perception of reality and hindered my ability to love, value, and celebrate me. It was in therapy I learned I had the power to cage the demon of eating disorders, throw away the key, and find health and wholeness through recovery.
Twelve years later, with a fitness coach, nutritionist, and mentor still by my side, I have learned to forgive myself, embrace myself, and honor myself. My journey has been long and tiring, and it’s far from over, but I’m glad I reached out for help when I did. What are you waiting for?
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Reviewed & Approved on February 24, 2020, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC
Published February 24, 2020, on EatingDisorderHope.com