The First Bite is the Hardest

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by Lizzie Janniello

This is all very new, so please bear with me. As I sit here writing my first ever blog post, I can’t help but think about the past few years; how much I’ve struggled, how much I’ve overcome, and how much I’ve grown.

You see, I’ve been struggling with an eating disorder and depression for most of my life, roughly sixteen years. This isn’t something I’ve ever talked openly about, except to my boyfriend and a few close friends. I’ve never felt comfortable sharing my struggles with the world, but I recently decided that I want to share my story, even if it helps just one person on their path to recovery.

I want you to know that I’ve been there, I understand, and that, most importantly, recovery is possible.

Almost one year ago, I entered intensive treatment for my eating disorder for the first time. I had previously been hospitalized for depression and self-harm, but that is a story for another post. In regards to my eating disorder, I spent nearly fifteen years silently struggling.

In the beginning, I didn’t really know what an eating disorder was, but I knew that I did not have a normal relationship with food. I remember the first time I heard the term “eating disorder”; I was in the fifth grade. I remember thinking “I don’t know what an eating disorder is, but I think I have it.” Even though deep down I knew I had a problem, I just couldn’t admit it to myself or to others. I lived in denial for many years.

plate-526603_1920In college I was finally able to admit to my boyfriend, and then to a trusted professor, that I had an “ED” (I still can’t say it out loud- the “a” word, that is). I spent the past few years thinking that recovery might be possible for some people, like Liana and Kristina, but not for me.

 

 

 

I thought that I would be a chronic case; that I will always struggle; and that I will never know recovery. There were a few months here and there where I saw glimpses of recovery, but it quickly slipped away each time I relapsed. And one year ago, I gave up on trying. I went to appointment after appointment, only to be told by my healthcare provider that “you’re okay” or “the lab work is coming back normal, so you must be fine”.

Sitting in their offices, at the weight of a middle schooler, I was repeatedly told that I was not sick enough to need help. And you know what, I listened to them.

They’re the medical professionals, right? This only reinforced everything my eating disorder voice was telling me- that I was fine. But trust me, if you think you are struggling from an eating disorder, you are not fine.

Unfortunately, eating disorders are an incredibly misunderstood mental illness. We are judged by our size, not by our thoughts and behaviors. If we don’t look “sick enough”, it is incredibly hard to get treatment. And, if we are the lucky ones who, even at our weakest moments, somehow manage to fight for treatment, we are often kicked out too soon.

This is why I am incredibly grateful for Project HEAL. On my 24th birthday, just four months ago, I was awarded a treatment grant to cover one-year of outpatient treatment. This meant that I could see specialists who understand and treat eating disorders. This meant, maybe, just maybe, I had a chance at full recovery.

And trust me, if I have a chance at full recovery, then so do you. And please don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

My mantra for meals lately has been “the first bite is the hardest”. I used to stare at my food hoping that if maybe I just looked at it long enough, it would just disappear. That if I just kept the conversation going and moved my food around my plate, no one would notice. I was never that lucky. I know that if I want recovery, I have to face every meal. I have to eat every meal. And trust me, it’s not easy. Every day is a struggle. But you know what? I’m doing it. And so can you.

So go ahead, the first bite is always the hardest.


 

About the author:Untitled

Lizzie Janniello studied psychology at Hillsdale College, a small liberal arts school in Michigan. She currently works as a research assistant in Washington, D.C. She is in recovery and hopes to one-day use her experiences to help those struggling with eating disorders. She will post once a month, so if you have any topics you are interested in hearing about, please comment below! Lots of love, and please be strong. You’ve got this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “The First Bite is the Hardest

  1. Lizzie, thank you so much for your courage and willingness to share. I have absolutely no doubt that there will be so much good fruit to come out of your act of bravery and confidence. I, too, have struggled with an eating disorder for the better part of my 24 years (11 years). Within the last three months I have just begun to taste true the first true experiences of freedom, and so I rejoice with you as you celebrate your victories and how far you’ve come. You have such incredible power inside of you. And I will certainly pray for you as you continue to take one step after another down this recovery road.

    The last thing I want to say is that as hard and shame-inducing as it may be, saying the “a” word might just be the key to unlocking another precious door to freedom for you. I can relate, so much, to not being able to speak the word out loud, or even type it. The thought of someone knowing or associating anorexia with my name was mortifying and unthinkable. I thought it would be admitting weakness and unveil all of my shame. But I ended up writing an essay, admitting my struggle and using the words, and it truly was a pivotal moment in my recovery. It didn’t do something magical. The road that followed was still painful and terrifying. But there is power in our words. When we find the strength to speak out about the things that have had power over us – that we’ve kept hidden out of shame – we take a step towards taking back that power. We shine light into and onto the darkness so that it can’t hide. When we speak it’s name, we capture it so it can’t keep running wild. Your sickness is not shameful. You are not shameful. You are not weak. You are incredibly strong, and you are in charge, not your ED! You get to speak to it, not the other way around. I pray that soon you’ll find the words you need to speak, and that you’ll feel empowered. You’re incredible, girl.

    I am so proud of you, and I know that you will see complete recovery. I think you are amazing, and I will pray for you, Sister. You are worth all the healing in the world!

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