The first time I tried to purge I was 7 years old.
When I was eight years old I weighed myself everyday for a month while trying to lose 10 pounds.
I wasn’t even overweight. I was active and lean- supposedly healthy and happy, right?
I had this crazy relationship with food and didn’t know how to talk about it. By the time I was twelve I was 30 pounds overweight. At age thirteen I joined Weight Watchers with my mom and older sister. I lost the weight. It was my first sense of control.
In high school, I played varsity hockey while battling undiagnosed depression and anxiety. I went through waves of restriction, exercise extremes, and purges. I hid under uniform sweatshirts and the universal thought that all people with eating disorders were supposed to be “scary skinny”.
College wasn’t so easy. Turns out eating disorders catch up with you eventually. Nursing school curriculum and division three hockey put me over the edge. Add a co-dependent friendship and you have the making of a disaster. I was working out five hours a day, three at hockey and two on my own, and purged the one meal I ate. I was fainting in the shower, sleeping in class, crying all the time, and fighting with my friends. Finally, with the help of my hockey team, friends, professors, amazing boyfriend, and family- I went to inpatient treatment over the summer and got better.
Now six years after treatment, I still see my therapist and dietitian monthly. I still use symptoms occasionally. I still feel like food has control over me on a semi-consistent basis. I feel defeated more often than I’d like; but I realize than I’m human, I have emotions and I’m stronger because of what I’ve been through. I have amazing support around me.
Eating disorders are becoming all too common. They are a lifelong disease with many peaks and valleys. They come in all shapes and sizes (I’ve been sizes 6-20 in my adult life, using ED symptoms at each stage). Just recently I have started becoming okay with the shape of my body, understanding I get one body in this life and I need to treat it well.
I feel like I have my best years ahead of me. I know there will be bumps in the road, but I am ready to face them. I hope for a day I no longer have triggering thoughts about food, but if that day never comes, I feel like my experiences and tools will keep me strong in the toughest of times.
I am empowered by so many men and women in this world who suffer from this disease. As a nurse and woman who suffers from an eating disorder I feel empowered to lead the fight to shed awareness of eating disorders. As we speak about our eating disorders, hopefully together we can prevent one soul from going through this tumultuous disease.
- Katie Hirsch