You Always Deserve It
*Trigger warning* – for examples of untreated eating disorder and depression symptoms and behaviors
8:00 AM – your alarm goes off. It’s a below-freezing January morning. Even though you got well over eight hours of sleep last night, you don’t have class for another few hours and all you want to do is go back to bed. But you can’t. Not if you want to eat breakfast that day. In order to feel like you can eat, you have to go on a run. You have no idea why you feel that way, you just know that you can’t break this rule or else your entire day will be ruined. If you skip your run, every time you pass a window on the way to class you will see your reflection and your face will look twice the size it was yesterday.
You get out of bed and your legs ache. You can’t remember the last time you took a day off from running – it has to have been at least four months. Doesn’t that make you so strong and tough?
You put on long-sleeve shirts and a sweatshirt and sit down for a moment, dreading leaving your suite to step outside. No matter how many layers you put on, you will always be cold.
You contemplate what route to take – you didn’t run very far yesterday, so you definitely need to take a few extra loops today to make sure you compensate for that. You used to really love running. When you ran by a dog or saw a tree with really pretty leaves, you used to smile so big. Now you frown so much the entire time that your head hurts when you finish.
When you get back from running, you’re hungry – you think. But you can’t have your bar, AKA “breakfast” until you have also walked to class. When you get to class you finally eat and listen to your professor. But you can’t seem to hear anything she says. All you can think about is when are you going to eat lunch? What time are you going to eat dinner? What if the dining hall runs out of yogurt again? What if the dining hall has your favorite kind of cake and you won’t be able to have any?
At the end of the day, these thoughts have completely consumed your mind. Because of this you have not paid attention in any of your classes, not been able to finish any of your homework, and have spaced out every time your friends have tried to talk to you. At the end of the day, you get back into your bed, which you have been wanting to do since you got out of it this morning. The next day, you do it all again. And you have no idea why.
This is one example of what it is like to live untreated with an eating disorder. Not everyone with an eating disorder suffers these same symptoms or feels this same way. But this has been my experience.
One of the aspects of this narration that sticks out the most to me is that I did not feel like I deserved to eat until I had exercised. This is a fairly common eating disorder behavior – a high focus on your bodily inputs and outputs. What I didn’t consider when I adhered to this behavior is how hard my body works simply to keep me alive, especially when I was being so cruel to it. My eating disorder didn’t care that my body kept working all the time, even when I was asleep, or that it kept working even when I was overexerted and undernourished. So, considering these facts, I did not need to run every single day in order to deserve to eat.
We deserve to eat three meals a day, or sometimes maybe four or five meals a day, or maybe along the way as we get hungry, because we are human. We deserve a cookie at the end of the day not because we worked out for an extra hour or because we had a really hard exam today, but simply because we want it. Being a living organism means that we need to eat. Trying to earn the food that you eat does not work, because you will never feel adequate. Your eating disorder will always tell you that you are not adequate. And we don’t deserve that because, again, you guessed it – because we are human. Your body does so much for you – it grows hair, it repairs skin when you get a cut, it has ears so you can listen to music, it has feet for you to walk around on all day long, it has arms that you can use to give your friends a hug – the worst possible way we can thank our bodies is to deprive them of the nutrients that they need. So don’t let the thoughts in your head or that you hear around you take away what you have already earned just by existing. Keep existing, because all humans deserve happy, healthy lives.
20 year old undergraduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Diagnosed with depression, bulimia, and OSFED in June of 2015. Trying to get my life back through mental health advocacy and doing the things I love, which include but are not limited to: spending time with friends and family, going to the beach, playing frisbee, running, swimming in the ocean, baking, and traveling in the United States and beyond.
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