It started in eighth grade.
I was 160 pounds and terribly unhappy. I had few friends at school and I dreaded going each day, being locked into the four walls that contained every miserable memory of my pre-adolescence. School might as well have been torture.
I decided to do something about it. I was a dancer and much, much larger than all of the other girls in my ballet classes. I was so deeply insecure from all of the bullying and social rejection I had endured in junior high that I was desperate to feel good about myself like other girls did. I made several goals for myself: make more friends. Try harder to get along with my parents. Lose weight.
The first two were very hard because I didn't have complete control over them- other people had to cooperate too. Losing weight was easier, though. I stopped eating out of stress and boredom and tried to exercise more.
When I started trying to lose weight, I realized three things: that I was terribly out of shape, that pizza was the only food I could not eat less of no matter how hard I tried, and that I basically hated all aerobic exercise except for dance and rollerblading.
I was a size 12 or 14 when I started losing weight. It was very slow and frustrating at first, but then I really started to shed the pounds. This kind of success sent me into a prideful euphoria that I came to crave. Chasing after that happiness was the beginning of my eating disorder.
No one chooses to have an eating disorder. You do not wake up and decide to be anorexic, bulimic, or a compulsive overeater. It just happens to you without you having any control over it, which is ironic because deep down eating disorders are about exercising control over one's life and not food. They're caused by many different specific reasons and can manifest themselves in many different ways, but every single eating disorder victim is insecure.
There are two big myths about people with disordered eating. The first is that there are three black and white disorders, anorexia, bulimia, and compulsive overeating. Eating disorders are as different as the people who have them. One patient may be an athlete who vomits occasionally to make weight and otherwise eats fine, another maybe be someone who eats normally in public and either starves herself in private to compensate or hoards food in her room, and another patient may be a person like me who started out with a diet that crossed the line the very first time I threw up.
The other big myth about eating disorders is that all of their victims must be emaciated. Although a high percentage are, there are also many who have less severe versions of the disease and may appear to be at a normal weight. Also, sufferers of bulimia tend to be less thin than those of anorexia because of all the calories consumed during a binge. I am normal-sized, in the middle of all of my friends, but this doesn't mean I don't measure out portion sizes or look up fast food nutritional information obsessively to figure out how many calories I am consuming.
Three things made me realize my diet had turned into an eating disorder. The first was the guilt I felt if I ate something that I felt like I wasn't supposed to. The second was that I realized that sometimes I throw up and then try to block it out. The third was that I continually shrunk sizes and I still looked fat to myself.
Realizing that I had a problem took two years. Hopefully, I'll be starting treatment soon. The last thing I would want is to be like this my entire life. It's like prison sometimes. But I'm optimistic- I'm already better than I used to be.