I didn't deserve to be there.
It had been six months since I was diagnosed with anorexia and I found myself at the main entrance of an inpatient treatment facility. I was nervous, apprehensive, but above all, confused. My mother stood next to me, asking the right questions and trying not to suddenly burst into tears. My eyes scanned the room as I met some of the other patients, and that was when the confusion became clear. I didn't deserve to be there.
I wasn't emaciated. I wasn't connected to a feeding tube. I had never been to a hospital.
I was a fraud. My issues were not the same as the other women. I had never been physically or sexually abused. I never lost an immediate family member or partner. I was a phony, a little girl hiding behind a dark mask.
In that moment it became real. I did not even feel as if my anorexia were good enough. I was a mess of bones and flesh, devoid of a soul, devoid of passions. The illness that practically destroyed me continued to feed me lines, telling me I was not even good enough to get better, to receive help.
I was full of butterflies. I was fed lies. But I was not nourished.
As I reflect back on my journey toward recovery, the idea of "deserving" was a prominent theme. My mindset was both perfectionistic and riddled with guilt for taking up space.
With time, I discovered the seeds of motivation. I hungered for life, but I began to feel a new sense of non-deserving. I questioned whether I deserved to live. It was as if another soul had inhabited my body and locked my essence in a thorny cage at the back of my mind. I struggled to break free. I struggled to regain my body, mind, and soul as the eating disorder expanded and fed off of my withdrawal from the world.
I did not deserve treatment. I was not sick enough. I did not deserve recovery. I was a mess of a terrible human being.
Now, as a strong, recovered woman I have learned that no one deserves one day with an eating disorder. When I was in the depths of anorexia, I constantly calculated and compared. I have since learned that there is no calculation on pain. Perhaps I did not experience the same loss as some of my peers. Perhaps I did not feel as if I had truly earned the title of "anorexic." But in reality, I was suffering. And I was in pain. One does not simply flirt with a mental illness, one struggles. And so regardless of my lowest weight or the fact that I never fainted from malnourishment, I was sick. And I did not deserve that. No one deserves to suffer like that.
This being said, recovery was a process. I needed to fully accept that I deserved a happy, full life and even then one cannot just snap her fingers and recover. It took time, and energy. I was thrown through a loop every time someone commented about my appearance or mistakenly commented on eating disorders as the "white girl's problem" or a "choice," among other hurtful misconceptions. But I kept pushing because I knew that I did not deserve to have a voice in my head or the demons of my past dictate my fulfillment in life.
I did not deserve the hardship of anorexia. I did not deserve the cruel, ignorant comments of people who viewed anorexia as a phase or cry for attention. But I did deserve recovery. I did deserve the possibility of a fruitful future with sadness and joy, cake during celebrations and hot chocolate in the winter.
I deserve life.
If you're struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.