By: Maya Chandy
There was a time when I would wake up each day and think, “you don’t deserve to eat.” I would tell myself that I could eat when I had a prettier face or better grades- until I accomplished certain goals, I had to be hungry.
I was absolutely miserable. I could not have friends because other people ate. Study snacks, dinners out, and coffee dates accompanied friends, and I was not allowed to indulge in these simple things. I would skip school at least once a week because I was too hungry to sit through class. I hated my family because they made it difficult to avoid meals or social outings which involved food. When my parents planned incredible vacations, I was angry because I would not be able to control what and when I ate, and even favorable opportunities presented threats since they had the potential to problematize my rigid schedule.
For a long time, it never occurred to me that I was unable to appreciate what I had or improve my circumstances because I chose to deprive myself. But, as I continuously downed cups of nyquil so I could sleep through the hunger, as I skipped exams, as I made my family increasingly worried, and as I continued to sabotage myself, I gradually began to realize that if I continued to maintain such a detrimental mentality, I would never be able to move forward.
I eventually understood that I desperately needed to make conscious effort to shift my perspective, so I wrote affirmations to tell myself each day:
Acceptance starts with you
Do not be ashamed of who you are
You deserve to be here
Choose to like yourself
Strive for progression not perfection
You can do it
Don’t compare yourself to others
You are not alone
Problems have solutions
I read these statements every day, and it wasn’t long before I genuinely believed what I told myself and, to my surprise, a lot changed for the better.
When I could finally eat without crippling guilt, I discovered that it was my mind-set not my brain or body that was dysfunctional. I was truly shocked when I was actually able to think! If I had known that food would allow me to write essays, to comprehend calculous, to simply remember information for more than five minutes, I may have started eating sooner.
I quickly realized that FOMO (fear of missing out) was very real, but, fortunately, I no longer had to miss out on day trips, restaurants, parties, desserts, new friendships, cooking, and so much more. I could finally appreciate the people in my life. I actually looked forward to eating dinner with my parents. I enjoyed running and playing tennis with family or taking late night walks with friends because I was no longer preoccupied with the calories I would burn: I was no longer submerged in a world of numbers, so, for the first time, I was present everywhere I went.
Essentially, recovery gave me freedom. The positive statements I told myself replaced the voice who had previously trapped me in a seemingly endless state of despondence. I never thought life would be more than something I had to tolerate. Before recovery, I did not realize that I could actually want to be alive.
About the Author: Maya resides in Santa Barbara, California. Maya is earning a degree in Anthropology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. As a Project HEAL National Ambassador, Maya is dedicated to offering support, guidance, and information to those dealing with eating disorders and hopes to help people with loved ones who are struggling express empathy and understanding. She is passionate about reading, journaling, and visiting new coffee shops. Maya’s favorite ice cream flavor is chocolate-chip-cookie-dough!