Meet Emma Benz, a senior at Mount Notre Dame High School. We are so proud of her for sharing her #Iam1N5 story…
In junior high, I struggled with some eating disorder behaviors, but after my doctor expressed her concern, they were quickly corrected. I resumed normal eating habits for a few years, but by my sophomore year of high school, I was fully immersed in my eating disorder. Five days after I turned seventeen, my mom took me to the local Children’s Hospital, where I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa and advised to be admitted. Had it been my decision, I would have walked out of that hospital and never looked back. Fortunately, I was still a minor and had very limited say in the matter; my mom signed a consent for treatment form and I was admitted inpatient. This actually came as a shock to me; for months, I had been telling myself that I was fine, that I didn’t have an eating disorder.
I remember sitting in my hospital bed one afternoon, plotting my relapse. I told myself that I’d play the part and do what I needed to get out of the hospital. I’d do what was necessary to get my parents and doctors off my back. I’d gain the weight for now, but as soon as I turned eighteen, I’d be free to do as I pleased. I planned to lose all the weight I’d gained and go back to ‘living my life’ as I had been. I’ve been eighteen for six months and I have absolutely no intention of relapsing.
What changed? How did I go from planning my relapse to avoiding it at all cost? I woke up. It took me a while, probably six or seven months after I was discharged from the hospital, but I woke up. I was tired of struggling, tired of seeing doctors, tired of being told what to eat. Quasi-recovery wasn’t an option for me anymore. I decided to take on real recovery. I started utilizing the time that I had with my therapist. I joined a Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) group to learn new coping skills, because clearly starvation was not an effective coping skill. I finally started cooperating with my physician and dietician after months of minimal compliance. Appointments that once felt like a inconvenient wastes of time started to become useful tools in my recovery.
For a long time, recovery was an uphill battle. I don’t know where I’d be today, had it not been for my mom. I like to refer to her as the ‘Bad Cop’ in my recovery; she kept me in line. I remember one day, I didn’t leave school on time. A few minutes after I finally pulled out of the parking lot, my mom called. She was furious, convinced that I was trying to avoid the after-school-snack that was waiting for me at home. In reality, there was a meeting after school that I had forgotten to mention, but her assumption was reasonable. My mom’s constant supervision drove me nuts most of the time and did cause quite a few arguments, but it was also the cornerstone of my recovery. I am forever grateful to my mom for being strong for me when I couldn’t be strong myself.
When I was sick, I was numb to the good, the bad, the indifferent. On the hardest days, it would be easy to slip back into old habits. To go numb again because it’s easier than feeling. But that’s not what life is about, and it’s not the life that I’m going to live. For anyone struggling with an eating disorder, there is hope. There is a way to live again. Give recovery a chance; it might just change your life.