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Sarah’s Story of Recovery and Fighting the Demon of Eating Disorders
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