My eating disorder started my senior year of high school. The first time I purged was on a warm night in early spring. I had just eaten dinner with my parents and they were taking their nightly walk. I don’t remember what I had just eaten, but I do remember this strange, debilitating feeling of overwhelm in my life, like I was about to burst and I had to let all of my emotions out somehow.

I was about to graduate in a few months. My family couldn’t afford the college I really wanted to go to, so I was probably going to a school I didn’t particularly like. I was in an uncomfortable relationship with a guy I knew was in love with my best friend. I was doing really well in a sport that I hated, and I was deciding on whether I should do that sport in college. I was just really scared, although I couldn’t possibly admit it to myself. I had a great childhood, I was comfortable, happy, had great friends, and I couldn’t comprehend that I was going to leave that life in just a few short months.

Throughout all of this, I was the “happiest” girl at my school. People would constantly comment on how I always had a smile on my face, and gawked at my ability to keep my shit together while being so happy and kind. When you’re the girl who does well in everything with a smile on her face, no one really asks how you’re doing or if anything is wrong. So, while fooling everyone else, I ended up convincing myself that I was fine.

Anyway, this may be why I wound up kneeling on the floor of my bathroom shoving my index and middle finger down my throat as the music from my iPhone fading out the sounds of my gags and spitting. My gag reflex was impressively strong, so by the time I finally got something up, my eyes were watering to the point of having tears roll down my face. My fingers wreaked of a weird saliva smell that you wouldn’t recognize unless you’ve stuck your fingers down your throat. Knowing that my parents would be home any minute, I flushed the toilet, washed my hands, and quickly brushed my teeth. I walked out of the bathroom in a daze and went to lie on my bed with a cloud of confusion hanging over me. I didn’t really know what I had just done or why, but I did know that as I laid on my unmade bed, the last rays of sunshine beaming through my window and warming my body, I felt a sense of relief I hadn’t felt in months.

I would feel this same relief hundreds of times over the next few years, as I fell into the grips of an eating disorder that grew stronger every time I purged, restricted, or exercised until my body collapsed. Unfortunately, the relief was short-lived, and the eating disorder only served to pack all of my emotions and problems further down inside of me until I couldn’t even access them if I wanted to. I became a robot, still smiling on the outside but nearly dead inside.

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