My twenties were a whirlwind of amazing highs, and some terrible lows. I accomplished things I once only dreamed of doing. I smiled, cried, laughed and screamed. I graduated with two degrees. I moved to a different state, not once, but twice. I got married, had two beautiful children. I found a job I was truly passionate about. I also developed an eating disorder.
Recovered. Relapsed. Recovered. Relapsed. I just wanted to be happy and healthy.
Although I am not fully engulfed and controlled by my eating disorder at this very moment, I still very much have an eating disorder.
Am I at a healthy weight for my body? Nope.
Do I let my eating disorder control everything little thing about my life? Nope.
I am working towards recovery, striving to be happy and healthy.
I try to better myself every day and to make myself the best, healthiest person I can be. Not only for me, but for my family. I know that close loved ones feel the pain of an eating disorder. Which is why I am making recovery my number one priority. I do not want my children fall into grips of an eating disorder. I want my children to happy and healthy.
I recently turned thirty, never imagining that I would have gone through so much in my twenties. I am determined to make my next thirty years healthier. I have learned so much and gained so much wisdom. With the help of my family, I finally sought treatment and therapy.
I suffered for so long by myself, and in denial, never admitting my eating disorder to anyone. My family, of course, knew better. I always thought if I didn’t talk about it then it wasn’t true.
I was so wrong.
I felt somewhat relieved when I finally began therapy. It sounds so cliché, but talking about it, definitely helped. Once I began opening up, I was able to learn so much more about myself and how to help myself.
I want to use my journey to help people going through the same thing. I don’t want anyone to ever suffer in silence for as long as I did because they feel ashamed, scared, or embarrassed. Life is way too short.
Will I have bad days? Of course.
I hope that the good will outweigh the bad. I want to learn and grow more; so I can be an advocate for anyone needing someone to help them find their voice. I wish I didn’t go through what I did, but in doing so, I feel I ended up exactly where I needed to be. I want to live out the rest of my life being happy and healthy.
So, here is to growing older, embracing, cherishing, and loving everything that comes along with it. Here is to lending a helping hand and a listening ear to what others have to say. Here is to agreeing to disagree. Here is to being happy and healthy. Here is to 30.
By: Vanna Winters
“I have anorexia.”
I managed to say with an exasperated breath as they wheel me into the emergency room.
“You don’t look sick to me,” the nurse sweetly replies after she lifts up the thin white blanket draped over my body as if she’s hunting for evidence.
These are the moments that shrink me in size.
These are the moments that give my eating disorder even more power.
These are the moments that remind me my work using my story to educate is not done yet.
I know throughout the past two decades of living with an eating disorder, I’ve never met the vision most people have in their minds of what someone with anorexia should look like. I’ve been overweight and I’ve been underweight. I’ve been muscular and I’ve been atrophied. The severity of my eating disorder and the suffering it has brought me did not diminish because others would not legitimize it. The lack of validation from those around me merely kept me from feeling worthy of seeking treatment.
I spent years staring at the reflection in the mirror asking myself if I looked sick enough yet. I wasted so much time waiting for society to give me the final affirming nod, that I was now thin enough to own my diagnosis.
But “sick” has no one look or exact specifications. “Sick enough” too often became a trap that kept me away from the treatment I so desperately needed. No matter what I weighed, my pain was real. My outward appearance was not an accurate gauge of the battle I was waging on the inside.
The societal pressure that I needed to be a gaunt, walking skeleton to be considered ill needs to shift because eating disorders present in a spectrum of symptoms. Regardless of where you fall on that spectrum a person is still worthy and in need of validation and support. If I had only realized 20 years ago that “sick enough” rarely presents itself on anything but a tombstone.
I wish I could have told myself as a teenager that my worth and my pursuit of recovery were not dependent on a physical level of severity of my eating disorder. That at all points of this illness, recovery was possible and in my grasp, no asterisks or exceptions necessary.
If I could go back and tell my fourteen year old self that I didn't have to disappear to be seen, I would, that no number on the scale would ever bring me the feeling of worthiness I was hopelessly hunting down. There are no prerequisites for receiving treatment, I would tell that girl as I tried to shake the insecurities out of her. I wish I could save her from the years of pain as she suffered in silence, but I can't. I can't change what has already happened. I can only hope speaking to my pain and the time I lost waiting to feel worthy enough will bring someone else closer to realizing they deserve help. Every battle fought will leave its scars. Don't wait until they're too deep to heal.
Vanna Winters: Writer. Advocate. Survivor. My profound desire to bring awareness to the public and a sense of unwavering support to those forging their way through recovery from mental illness continues to push me through recovery. I've spent twenty years living both in the dark corners of mental illness and in recovery, as a child and as an adult and mother. These experiences have cultivated a strong insight into eating disorders and their manifestation that propels me forward to be a voice in the mental health community.