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We All Have A Seat At The Table (Eating Disorder Awareness Part 2)

Some of us aren't brave enough to share our struggles and that's ok. It's more than ok. I wasn't until I started this blog and I struggled to share my story on my struggles with Eating Disorders. However, while we are flooded with these "perfect lives" we see on social media, behind them are the real stories like the ones you will read here. You truly never know what can be going on in someone's life until they allow you to hear their whole story, and these few people were brave enough to let me share theirs with you.

Majority of them decided to remain anonymous, but regardless these pieces are not here for you to go on and share for yourself. They are a mix of their mental struggles along with their eating disorders, including how they developed theirs and what they have done to help themselves. These are real people with real feelings and struggles who decided to share their inner demons in order to help promote change and reduce the stigmas. Please be respectful of their bravery and remember that them along with you, ALWAYS have a seat at the table.

Alex Kyllonen (Female, 23)

I spent a huge bulk of my life wrapped around the finger of both Anorexia and Bulimia, both at different times, bouncing back and forth in a desperate attempt to gain some sort of control of my life through my weight, throwing up after every meal and starvation. This eventually landed me in the hospital with a weakened heart and on the verge of a heart attack, a damaged liver, damaged kidneys and an acid burned esophagus. I felt like a monster, and probably acted like one too. My best friends family had been telling me for about 5 months that I was losing too much weight, too quickly, that I was becoming thinner and thinner every time they saw me (which was pretty often) and they expressed their concern quite a bit, but I just brushed it off my shoulder with a laugh and an "oh I'm fine, I'm eating." I wasn't. They saw through my deception, and as they are in the medical field, they immediately recognized my behaviors as unhealthy.

The thing was, I didn't go from already skinny to skin and bones, aka the stereotypical image of a girl with an eating disorder. I went from slightly overweight, to a healthy weight. Generally speaking, I was praised when people noticed my weight loss because it was seen as a positive change. The fat girl gone skinny. And I loved the positive reinforcement. Because truly, I looked good. I won "Most Changed Since Freshman Year" for my senior year yearbook superlatives, so everyone recognized the difference in me. I didn't really see a problem because I looked healthy. I felt healthy, too. Aside from the constant hunger pangs, never ending fatigue and dizziness, I felt good.

When all of my self-destruction caught up with me at 19, I spent 2 months total in the hospital, and then in a residential treatment center until I was cleared to be sent home. Those were the two most miserable, but well spent months of my life. I had to drop out of college, leave my job, make up an excuse as to where I was- but it was either recovery or death at that point. And most times I was too scared to leave my eating disorder behind & wanted to choose death, because it just seemed easier. But something in me knew that I had way too much to live for to take the easy way out.

So I fought. And most of the time in the beginning, I fought half-assed. I did this until fighting became a habit & I realized it felt so much better to actually... well, feel good. I still struggled. There were times I felt motivated, but didn't at the same time. There were times I didn't think I could do it anymore. There were times I felt so motivated that I thought I could maintain recovery forever. Recovery is a rollercoaster. It goes up and down and loops around. It makes your head spin. But despite the loops and the unpredictable nature, it is more than worth it.

It's okay to have bad days in recovery. It was hard to learn that, though. I'm still learning that. And maybe, one day in the future, I will love my body for what it is, and not for what it isn't. But I'm not quite there yet. That's okay too. Because I'm closer than I was yesterday. And tomorrow, I'll be closer than I am today. I'm not a skinny girl, and that's just by nature. But not being skinny does not mean that I am fat. Being "healthy" does not mean I am fat. I'm not fat. I'm where I need to be at this point in time. My life should not be consumed by weight loss. I have friends, I have school, I have a job that I love, and things I still need to cross off my bucket list.

My life and my experiences are so much more important than focusing on my Eating Disorder. And that is the bottom line Michael Silvestri (Male, 29 )

I remember the first time I learned I had an eating disorder. Growing up, I was a little chubby in the face and upper body, stubborn baby fat that was not letting go, and often had insecurities about it. Even as active as doing tennis, dance, and karate simultaneously, I still had that shyness of my body. During my sophomore year of high school, I had reached a point where I was overweight and was told "hm, maybe you should lose some weight". At that point, I took it as constructive as the loss of pounds would improve my game and position on the high school tennis team. Over that semester and into the summer, I dropped 20 pounds which conditioning, running, and eating more healthfully all helped with that. By the end, of the school year, I looked in the mirror and was so proud of myself; but I looked and noticed areas I can improve on -- and that's when I became obsessed. You name it, I tried it - excessive exercising, calorie counting, calorie deficits, etc. Within a year, I was down to 114 lbs. I remember my mom looking at me in shock, telling me I look emaciated, tired - but I was looking at me and saying to myself "Gosh, I am FINALLY skinny." At the time, this was 2008-2009, a period of time where being skinny and slim was almost favored, and as a guy, I felt pressured to fit in with the rest - have the muscles, the gusto, all of that. I became so precise on everything I did, but with it being my senior year of high school, joyous outside factors covered any pain -- graduation, going to college, being an actual senior.

Over the summer, these obsessions subsided as I worked at a summer camp and didn't have time to think about it. But did I work out a lot? Of course, I would be shirtless half of the day by the pool. I wanted to look good. Upon entering my freshman year of college, I was so swept up in the experience, the feeling of everything being so new, that my old habits fell to the waste side. Parties, new friends, classes, "finding" myself - that was my focus. But slowly, the freshman 15 was piling on and I could see it. and the minute I stepped on the scale and saw a higher number, I panicked. I rushed to the nearest pharmacy, grabbed diet pills, and started using them regularly. At first, I followed the instructions and ate while taking them. Over a month, I noticed small changes but nothing major, meanwhile, I was going out more, eating more, and yes, drinking more. I was frustrated as ever - "Why can't I be fit like the guys while also having this fun lifestyle?"; that thought went into my head all the time. That's when it became bad; I started abusing taking the pills, not eating while using them, and also drinking excess water - all of which will freak your body out and it won't do anything. But did I know this? No. Did I care? Probably not. I wanted fast results. I wanted to be skinny. I was not eating. I was anorexic.

One night while at the study hall, I was preparing for an exam the following week, and took the diet pills and a 5o oz bottle of water. I barely ate the whole day, maybe an apple and a salad beforehand, but it was on an empty stomach. I took them and tried to focus and then after a little while, I couldn't focus, and felt dizzy. I went back to my dorm and on the way there, it almost felt like I ingested 5 shots of tequila - I was so disoriented and felt like I was swaying while walking. I eventually made it and got up to the lounge by my room but then, I blacked out. I remember bits and pieces, and what I do remember is being picked up by my roommate, getting into a car, and then, later on, waking up in the hospital. Both of my parents were beside me and I was hooked to an IV. The doctor came in, and it's still fuzzy, but he put it that my body was reacting to when someone experiencing Methamphetamine abuse. He said, if I waited any longer, I would've died. That fucking shook me. In front of my parents, those words were said. I knew then that something needed to change.

Over the next year, I moved out of my dorm and back home, took fewer classes, and saw a nutritionist. I needed to breathe. At the same time, I was finding myself - so much so, that I came out as gay. Often members of the LGBTQIA community reflect that once you come out, it's a new beginning and a new light. That statement couldn't be more true to me. I felt like this was my chance to start over and live my authentic truth. I used the health practices that I learned and incorporated them into my new phase of life. Even in the hardest moments, I did not want to go back to that dark place. Having the support from my friends, eventually my family, and even meeting someone - I felt like people actually liked me for me. I felt honest. I felt like I was being Michael and not a shell of him. Over the years, things got better and I really learned to love myself for who I am and for my body.

Of course, I had hard moments throughout my early to mid-twenties - ending an abusive relationship, switching careers, moving - it was a lot! By my late twenties, I was starting to realize that ok, yes you're not 23 anymore and stick-skinny, but who cares. I was growing up, and realizing that people care about a personality vs what you look like and that my personality spoke for itself. I was finding my voice. Even during the pandemic, yeah I gained a few pounds, but with that, I really found what I wanted in life: to be healthy, to be active, and to be happy. So if I want a slice of pizza, well damn I'm going to have it. Through this pandemic, I've found that being active is something that comes naturally to me and something I really love. I almost feel like I've evolved into that 19 year old who was making healthy choices for the first time. I now, in February 2021, can say that I love my body. Do I have my "areas"? Yes, and everyone does. You do what you can. Approaching 30 in May, I've almost come to this sense of balance that I've wanted for a long time. It's starting to finally show, a sense of relief. It actually can be possible.

Me writing this is not only cathartic, but I hope it gets to someone who may be experiencing something similar. In your teens and early twenties, you're taking everything in like a sponge and are hyper-sensitive to how people see you. I didn't have a person to say " Screw them -- you are beautiful, your body is worth it, and you are worth it." I am here to be that voice for young adults - I am here for you. Screw the stigmas, the biases, all of that. If 2020 told us anything, it said that our voices matter, and vulnerability matters. You can be whoever you want and do not have to fit into a box that you think you should fit in. Embrace your body. Embrace you, because you are beautiful. Every body deserves a seat at the table. Open up and be heard - your story matters, and if you need it, we're here to help (and hug, safely).

(Female, 25)

Let’s talk about it. I feel that depression isn’t understood to most people these days, and it’s something that should be taken a little more seriously.

You can’t see it hidden behind a smile. You can’t feel it when that person is crying. Their life could look picture perfect on social media, but you can’t see behind the scenes. Everyone has their story, but let’s talk about mine.

I’m 25 years old and have been suffering from severe depression since I was 9. It’s complicated you could say. I’ve been in and out of therapy for years, and the most important tip from me is, talk. Talking to someone REALLY helps.

I’ve felt alone majority of my life even if I was surrounded by others. I grew up without a mother which I can admit it did affect me negatively. My dad was also an alcoholic for most of my childhood. My dad and I were always close, but it wasn’t always the best. He wasn’t one to talk when it came to emotions or mental health. I was always shut out when any emotion would come out of me. I didn’t have what most of my friends had, a close family. I always envied that. I didn’t understand what “sad” was when I was young because hey, I was young. I just accepted it.

High school was a drag, I’ll make it short. I moved high schools in 10th grade and that went downhill. I switched schools again 11th grade AND moved out of my dads when I was 16. It was a struggle but I felt better in a new environment and had better grades in a new school. I’ve been really mature and Independent from a young age.

Fast forward to to college, I took away that emptiness and loneliness by drinking and smoking weed a lot, obviously that made it worse, but I always kept a fake smile on my face so no one asked questions. (bad choice) I’d cry myself to sleep most nights, or the smallest thing that could go wrong, as small as a glass breaking and I’d completely cry about it for hours. I started out great when it came to grades, then found out I couldn’t afford to stay away at college, so I flunked. I gave up.

I dropped out of University and went to community to be back at home. I found myself turning to guys to fill that empty space in me, again, bad decision. I was in a really dark space when I was 20 years old, so dark I almost took my own life away. I just can’t ever believe I would even attempt to do that. Such a selfish act to do. I left my boyfriend at that time and focused on school and working. Things were a little better, started going to therapy daily and exercising, but I still felt that empty space in me.

Fast forward to now, I live with my boyfriend of 5 years, and it’s miserable. I always ask myself “why did I stay when he cheated the first time? Why am I still with him after he hit me?” I always blamed myself for putting myself in this situation. Blaming myself for other people’s actions ALL of the time. I still do to this day. But now I know in my heart I’m not the one to blame. And it took me YEARS to finally feel this.

Have you ever just cried and cried so much that you can’t cry anymore? It’s a daily for me. But now I’m older, more wise, found close friends I can go to for anything. I have goals, ambition and strive to succeed - but I always get distracted by my boyfriend. He’s very toxic, puts me down very often, and it just sucks the life out of me. He isn’t worth it. Nobody is worth it if they are toxic to you. I want a better life for myself and my dog. I will do whatever it takes to do so because I know I’m worthy now.

I don’t wanna bore you with my little short life story, but I know so many other people can relate. Depression is HARD. I cried just last night, but I’m getting there day by day. There is light at the end of the tunnel, and that light is just the beginning. It’s a huge step to get better. Get out of the house, exercise, get a Starbucks. Do whatever you can to get away from whatever negative environment you’re in. Clear your head and read self help books, it REALLY helps. Tell yourself in the mirror that you are worth it and you are beautiful. We’ve been given one life, don’t waste it from your emotions taking over. Find help and get the help you need. And my biggest advice of all, DONT dwell on things. Easier said than done I know, trust me. But it’ll just waste your days and beat you down even more from things that already happened or things you fear will happen.

You’re not alone in this, you never will be. If I could meet every single person in this world who is struggling with any mental health issues, I’d just hold them and tell them YOU GOT THIS. YOU ARE NOT ALONE, YOU ARE SO LOVED. Check on your friends, check on your loved ones. Because you can never know what they’re dealing with on the inside. 🤍

(Female, 23)

I’ve struggled with an eating disorder and body dysmorphia since I was around 8-9 years old. One thing I know for sure is that it will never “go away” or “be cured” fully. But I also know that there are things I can do to take care of myself and keep those bad thoughts tame. It’s been a long journey and it definitely is a rollercoaster ride of getting better and worse, but the older I’ve gotten and the more tools I’ve acquired has made it so that the lows aren’t necessarily as low as they used to be, and the highs can be much higher. I think what I’d most like to share is something I learned in therapy that quite honestly saved me, and I hope it can help others too. When I was a teenager I learned about intuitive eating. There’s two main ideas I want to address with this. Basically, intuitive eating means these 4 simple rules: 1. Eat when you’re hungry 2. Eat what you’re hungry for 3. Stop eating when you’re full 4. Don’t eat what you’re not hungry for. This has helped me avoid...

Over eating and under eating. It has also helped me change my relationship with food. Food is not supposed to be a chore, a burden, or coupled with anxiety in any way. We eat to keep our bodies healthy. If I am hungry for fries, I eat fries. If I’m not hungry for a salad, I don’t force myself to eat one. While I eat I listen to my bodies signals lovingly, so that I know when I’m full. This has made eating something enjoyable, which I’ve never experienced before. The other small thing I’d like to address is “fullness.” If fullness was a scale of 1-5, 1 being starving and 5 being so full you could burst, you should usually aim to eat until a 3 or a 4. If it’s a special meal that you really enjoy, it’s okay to eat to 5 too. This has helped me, too, when it comes to listening to my bodies signals.

I like sharing this because it has truly transformed my unhealthy relationship with food into something filled with love and care. Though of course I have bad days/bad periods and struggle with adhering to this, having it at my foundation has truly saved me. I know that therapy and other treatments can be inaccessible to far too many people, I urge anyone who CAN get help to take that step. It’s scary but you will have tools equipped that you’d never have had otherwise

Katie Dara (Female, 21)

Having an eating disorder has forever changed my life and me as a person. First, I want to say I would never wish the battle upon my worst enemy. Second, that it made me the strong women I am today. To fight an eating disorder is to constantly battle demons inside your head and doing everything in your power to stop them. You never feel thin enough, you always want to see how long you can last without food, you do not want to put on a pound. Truth is, every body is a a beautiful body. If we don’t nourish ourselves, our body can and will shut down on us. So please, love yourself no matter what size you are, a number on the scale doesn’t determine your worth.


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