The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) will be released in May. Yahoo is featuring first-person stories from Americans who are diagnosed with some of the most common mental health disorders in the United States. Here's one story.
FIRST PERSON | I had always been the odd one out in my family. They were all overweight. I stayed thin. I contribute this to my strict vegetarian diet and my love of running, but whatever the reason, it led to many snarky comments that led to my anorexia.
At 16, I was constantly told to "enjoy being thin while it lasted" and was encouraged to count calories. Both family and friends seemed to think I would suddenly gain 100 pounds overnight due to genetics, and while many comments were meant to be helpful, the constant reminder that "thin" was better than "fat" started to take its toll on me.
Over time, my older sisters, who had always struggled to stay thin, would mock me endlessly. They often stared in disgust and made rude noises when I ate. Schoolmates cajoled me to date before I became "ugly like my family." Bullies stole my lunch money "to do me a favor." As the tormenting increased, so did my desire to stay thin. I started eliminating all junk food from my diet and began drinking only water. I dropped nearly 10 pounds in a week, and many commented on how great I looked.
I quickly got sucked into the whole "thin = better" mindset and became frustrated when I wasn't able to drop below 110 pounds. I started skipping meals and that quickly escalated to only eating once per day. I'd limit myself to only eating 300 calories, and then force myself to go for a run afterward. I honestly thought that if 110 pounds was good, 80 pounds must be even better. That's how extreme my anorexia was. When I was 19, my BMI was 14.4.
One thing most don't realize about anorexia is that curing the behavior is not as simple as "just eating a sandwich." Even though I was losing weight, I would look in the mirror and see this fat person staring back at me. You begin to dwell on imperfections and, in my case, it led to severe depression that only made the anorexia worse. Even worse were the intense feelings of guilt and disgust every time I would try to eat. I began to hate my body and couldn't stand being trapped in it. I tried to kill myself because I was so disgusted by the person I had become.
I was anorexic for six years and honestly thought I'd die before I got better. It was only when my little sister, only 5 at the time, told me she was scared of getting fat that I knew I had to change. I didn't want my baby sister going through the same struggles I did, so I decided to get help and learn how to be healthy again. It took two years and several relapses.
I began going to therapy several times a week here in Saraland, Ala., and I relearned how to eat. Getting help for an eating disorder is extremely complicated. Once you get wrapped up in the whole "food = bad" mindset, eating even a few bites can make you feel disgusting, guilty, depressed and angry. I went to therapy and learned how to cope with those feelings and, with hard work, they eventually went away. During that time I was on antidepressants, but once the guilt and depression from eating went away, I was able to stop taking them.
Relearning how to eat was equally hard, because I restricted my diet so much for so long. The idea of eating bread or other "empty calories" was torture to me. I started working with a nutritionist who planned all my meals at first, so all I had to focus on was eating. Between that and therapy, I was slowly able to start planning my own meals, then eventually eat without needing a meal plan at all.
I now weigh 110 pounds with a BMI of 18.9. I'm proud to say that I beat this disorder and am never going back.
- Diet & Weight Loss