My visit to Hell. And no, I won’t be returning.

By Marysa Cardwell

If ya’ll didn’t know already, Claudia and I are REAL people. We have struggles and we make mistakes, just like all of you. I feel like I can relate to so many of you with your struggles with eating. I really do.

Ever since I could remember, I have been ashamed of my body. I think I officially started dieting in 7th grade. Not knowing, as I know now, that diets do not work, I started a never ending struggle with dieting. It created an awful relationship with food and myself. The exact causes of eating disorders are not known. Often times, a person has a genetic predisposition to develop an eating disorder, which then can be further activated by environmental factors like dieting. Think of genetics being the bomb and dieting lighting that bomb. Well, I lit that bomb, and it blew up my life. Somewhere in the 10th grade, I developed an eating disorder that nearly destroyed me.

There were so many long nights when I wished I were dead but I was too scared to take my own life. On those occasions, I always made firmer commitments to myself that I would keep starving myself until it eventually killed me. I can’t even begin to imagine how much damage I did to my body during that time. Sure, my body is not perfect, but it has always done everything that I have asked it to do. Though I didn’t get it at the time, I realize now that I have been so blessed to have a functional body that is healthy and lets me live the life I want to live. Nevertheless, the starving, binging, and purging cycles continued until I was nearly done with my undergraduate degree. I hated myself so much throughout high school and college. I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror because I despised myself and my body. There was this constant, never ending monolog in my head about how stupid, and fat, and worthless I was.

I was finally able to get treatment and begin to heal during my senior year of college. Part of the difficulty during my recovery was that I didn’t fit the “mold” of an eating disorder. I was never underweight; I looked healthy. This made getting the right help difficult at times. I will be eternally grateful for those people in my life that helped me get better. A lot of people get through treatment and feel healed. For me, recovery is a daily commitment. I always feel like I am one diet away from being back where I was. Everyone experiences recovery differently. Recovery, like eating disorders themselves, occurs on a spectrum.

Since receiving treatment, I completed my undergraduate degree in psychology (with an emphasis in eating disorders) and my master’s degree in nutrition. I have spent most of life learning about and working with disordered eating, both in my life and with others. I have come so far. Today, I don’t hate my body, and my relationship with food is much better. I recognize now that my body is healthy and functional. It allows me to run and swim. It allowed me to become pregnant and give birth to two beautiful, healthy kids.

I am grateful for my experience because it has helped me become who I am today. Without my eating disorder, I am not sure I would be a dietitian today – that would be too bad because I absolutely LOVE what I do. I am also grateful for my ability and opportunity to work with all kinds of people. Because I have had this experience, I can relate to people on a very real level. I wonder sometimes if I don’t meet people’s expectations of what a dietitian should look like, but I’ve come to accept that we come in all shapes.

My life now is a constant journey for self-improvement and health. I accept my body as it is now, but can also work on being healthier for myself and my family. I feel being healthy is a continuous process for everyone. The difference between then and now is that I don’t hate myself. I want my kids to grow up with a mother who is healthy and comfortable with her body. I also hope to help people who are currently living in Hell. You can get through this! Let’s help you to get a one way ticket back. You don’t ever have to return back to that living nightmare. You can overcome your eating disorder and heal to become a whole person, a happy person. Help is all around you if you just ask.

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