Koen Meershoek

How One Pivotal Moment Helped Me Take Control Of My Eating Disorder

It hit me like a freight train. Could it have been God giving me a sign?

Maybe, or maybe not. But it felt like a slap in the face. Or, in more pleasant terms, it was a little nudge on the shoulder. Who really knows? But I felt it, and I did something about it. I don't remember the last time I was ever so sure of something.

I don't intend for this to be the typical “poor me” narrative on how my destructive eating pattern and toxic self-image ruined my life. Because it didn't ruin my life. Rather, it changed my life; it changed me.

Regardless, that's unfortunately where the story began. On one ordinarily uneventful Monday night, after a day of what I thought was a "perfect" day of sticking to an unsustainable low-carb diet and a mere 1,000 calories, I binged. I did it for about the 167th time in a year. I'm not actually counting, but you get the point.

When I say binge, I don't mean I ate an extra few slices of pizza and some dessert. I ate everything in sight. I did this only once I was alone. I ate until the point of sickness, because nothing seemed to satisfied me.

Later, I went up to my room and practically locked myself there for the rest of the night so I wouldn't be tempted by food. It was as if I was a child who was being punished. I changed my clothes, turned off the lights and got into bed at 8 o'clock at night. I laid there in the dark with nothing but the faint illumination of my digital clock, and sulked. I sulked in that shame until I forced myself to fall asleep.

I know you're thinking that's some pretty pathetic sh*t. Well, it is. It was one of the worst night's sleep I'd had in a long time. It was one of those agonizing nights it seems like you've woken up every hour until the second you hit the snooze button.

I woke up the next morning feeling the exact same way I felt before I fell asleep: miserable. This wasn't the first occurrence of something like this, either. Constantly obsessing over the physical state of my body consumed my everyday life and my happiness. But what's insane is that I was doing it to myself. It was all self-inflicted. I was ripping myself apart because I felt like I wasn't good enough, or thin enough.

I would internalize the negative thoughts I had about myself before someone else had the time to think of them first. I guess it was my odd way of “protecting myself” from what others could think about me. It's hard to articulate what exactly I was feeling at that point in time. But the months and months of pain I was putting myself through was excruciating enough to call it a problem.

I wanted a new life and a new brain. I wanted something to get me out of this never-ending tunnel with no light at the end of it. I was throwing myself down a destructive, crippling path. It was all because I hated my body. In turn, I hated myself. I remember going out to restaurants with the people dearest to me, and being so distracted by my own thoughts about the food and my body that I found myself in another world. I was ignorantly unaware that my world was sitting right there in front of me.

When I woke up that next morning, I knew I needed a change. That was the last straw for me. I was done punishing myself. I have anxiety, that much is obvious. It surely didn't make the situation any easier for me. Anxiety has its way of making you feel like your world is coming to an end. You're forced to believe it because you can't escape your own mind.

I was creating this unhealthy correlation between how I looked, and who I was as a person. Because I felt that my body wasn't worthy, I felt as if I wasn't worthy of anything, either: life, friendship, love, but most of all, happiness. I was giving into this anxiety. I was letting it win and grab a hold of my life.

What I later came to realize, was that it wasn't food that wasn't satisfying me, it was my life that wasn't. I was feeding myself, literally and figuratively, with things that were not adding to my life (except for maybe the pounds). Anxiety was not the enemy here: I was. I used to think the saying, “you choose your own happiness,” was complete and utter bullsh*t. But it's so unbelievably true, especially for someone like me.

I am a young, healthy, beautiful 24-year-old woman (that still actually sounds a bit weird to admit to myself but, hey, I am trying this new positivity thing). I should be out living and celebrating this most precious period of my life, not shutting myself behind closed doors. I shouldn't be sneakily eating food behind people's backs for fear that they'll judge me. That's no way to live.

I want to go on vacation and not be afraid to "live a little" and enjoy it. I want to go to happy hour with my friends after a long day and order something other than water and spring mix. I want to go to holiday dinners and parties and embrace them instead of fearing I'll gain a few measly pounds. I feel like I'm under constant scrutiny. F*ck that.

But even more than all of those things, I no longer want to hide behind this rotting wall I've built between how I see myself and and what I have labeled as worthy. I am worthy of joy, confidence and unconditional self-love.

I once heard the saying, “You must cut out the things in life that are no longer serving you.” I thought waking up that day and quitting my destructive diet was what suddenly changed me, but, in actuality, it wasn't. It was that I chose to change my life.

Don't be afraid to jump the gun for a better you. I was afraid. It kept me from cherishing this wonderful life that I've been given. It took me a long time to realize that I was unintentionally hurting myself. But I wasn't feeling healthy mentally.

One of my most valued possessions is a card my grandmother left to me after she had passed away. The very last piece of advice she wanted to give to me was “Be good to yourself, and don't take any sh*t from anybody.” Maybe that was my sign all along.

So that's exactly what I chose, to be good to myself. I did this no matter what my red-eyed anxiety was telling me or what anybody else had to say about me. I always try to keep that little piece of advice in the back of my mind whenever the red-eyed demon tries rearing its head.

As I sit here writing this, I am still on the road to self-discovery. I'm not there yet, but I have made huge strides since that night. Yes, I still struggle -- daily. But it's making a conscious effort to fight my demon that helps me live each day the way I want to. It no longer steers me.

I now continuously strive to live my life with indefinite purpose. You can, too. It's all in what you choose.