For almost 12 years I lived with a mask on my face. It was a dangerous mask and a deceiving mask – a mask so convincing that I, myself, was almost unaware that it was a mask and not my true self. However, I made a decision 357 days ago (November 3, 2011) to take off the mask for the last time and to never put it on again. That mask was anorexia nervosa, and 357 days ago I made a commitment to myself to never be a victim of my sickness and to fight it until I beat it.
You see, for almost twelve years I lived with a secret, battling an illness that not even my closest friends and family knew I faced. It consumed me, my thoughts, my behaviors and my actions. Every minute was spent focusing on ED (my eating disorder). ED was my best friend, my comforter, my confidant, my supporter. But ED was really none of those things because deep down ED was a liar and he was destroying each day bit by bit. I lost more than I could count to ED: time, money, friends, grades, family and health. And ultimately it led to a lack of abundant life that ED stole from me.
I spent years trying to fight ED alone, thinking I could beat him without anyone else knowing. When that didn’t work I came back to him. Because unlike everything else in my life, I could control ED, or so I thought. Once again though, I was lied to, because the more I believed I could control him, the more he controlled me and, eventually, my entire life. Even as recently as a year and half ago, I thought admitting to others that ED was a part of my life was enough. It wasn’t. You see, I could admit to a few that ED was in my life but deep down I wasn’t going to let him go. I wanted him to stay with me. I was terrified of not having him in my life.
That was life with ED, but 357 days ago I took a leap of faith. A leap of faith that there was a world outside of ED – a better world and a brighter world. The road has not been easy. It's not all roses and sunshine, but it is worth it. It is so worth it! What I've learned is that there is a beautiful world beyond ED where my life is not held captive and I have freedom for the first time ever. Sure, ED likes to put his two cents in every now and again, but what I discovered is that the more I commit to fighting ED, the quieter his voice gets. And one day soon, ED’s voice will become unrecognizable, even mute. One day soon I will win this fight, and in that belief I have more faith than I have ever had with ED. And the beauty and joy that my life lacked before, well, my life is immensely full of it now and always will be.
It was not an easy decision to leave ED behind, and in order to admit that I had a problem I had to do a lot of talking about what had been going on with me. I first had to admit it to my parents, (and since my parents are not trained professionals on the issue) then I went to my Reformed University Fellowship pastor at the time, Ron Hamby. He helped me get in touch with the TCU Counseling Center and then the TCU Office of Campus Life. Both of these places were invaluable in helping me on the road to recovery. As I sought treatment, I began to open up to my closest friends and family because I knew I needed help and I knew I needed the support of the people in my life who loved me the most.
Even once I sought out treatment from the counseling center, it took many months for my counselor and I to realize (and I finally came to realize) that my anorexia was serious and that I had to seek further outside treatment. This included finding an eating disorder specialist counselor, nutritionist, primary care physician, psychiatrist and cardiologist. While every support team may look a little different for each individual and each path to recovery is different, I know that without the above individuals I would not have made huge progress in recovery. I spent nearly a year in intensive outpatient treatment, including therapy sessions, nutrition sessions, medical testing, doctor’s appointments and more. That may all sound incredibly intense, but it saved my life, and I am so blessed to only have minimal check-ins with each of those individuals now, because after almost a year I have made huge progress. The first step is talking with someone you trust and seeking professional guidance regarding what the next step should be. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, so if you go to a professional that tells you it is not serious, find someone else and don’t stop until your voice is heard! And if you need an advocate you know where to find me. I know how scary it can be but there is so much more to live for than your life with ED.
I could not have made this journey on the road to recovery alone. I have been blessed to have the best support team that I could ever imagine, including doctors, therapists, a nutritionist, a psychiatrist and the most supportive and amazing team of caring individuals any one could ask for. So if you are struggling with ED in your life, do not be afraid to speak up and don't do it alone. A world of immense beauty and joy awaits you that I want you to see, and I believe you are worth fighting for.
Martha Moseley is a senior English major from Fort Worth.