Valeria's Story

The light at the end of the tunnel doesn’t appear without a push in order to arrive at the end


As a 13 year old girl struggling with an eating disorder, the word “anorexia” has always resembled a scary monster hiding under children’s beds and has pervaded my thoughts constantly.

It all began with an urge to change my body image, in any way possible. A few years previous, my older sister was picked on for her body, bringing her to a desperate mindset of weight loss. In addition, many of her friends were going through the same thing as her and brought her a deep knowledge of the tricks in order to succeed with her goal. Watching my sister seperate herself from all her favourite foods enhanced the feeling of worry over my family, especially as she is a type 1 diabetic who’s health is prioritized and requires attention. Luckily, she soon realized her recovery was key for her health and worked really hard on her self esteem. The irony of her case of anorexia was that I remember perfectly speaking with her and saying “I’m so glad you are finally okay. I know it has been hard but don’t worry, it will never be in our lives again as I have learned the consequences of so.” Little did I know that in the future, my thinking would change completely.

A year later, I suffered an accident at a pool and broke five cervical vertebrae’s. I was immensely fortunate and blessed that nothing worse occurred as I was one millimeter away from being paralyzed. The doctor told me, “you are one in a million. I have never seen such luck before.” The accident required 10 days of hospitalization, a whole summer with a rigid neck brace, a year of therapy and two years of no exercise. My 5th grade graduation was interrupted by my accident and my most of my last few weeks of elementary were missed. After the accident passed, I had gained some weight as food had always been my passion and I never did any exercise. I received comments about my body and my self esteem was soon obstructed. My own eyes were disappointed each time they looked into the mirror. After my year of physical therapy, I began to introduce exercise again.

Before I knew it, the coronavirus pandemic appeared. My family and country was forced to go into complete lock down for three months without leaving our houses. The only excuse to go out was to buy the groceries or walk our dogs. Living in my apartment with my family was hard, with barely anything to do. The excess of time inside brought me the opportunity for overthinking and self-critisizing. I began to follow weight loss guides and did many daily workout videos. I stopped eating the necessary carbohydrates for the amount of exercise I did, leading to weakness. As the summer neared by, we were finally able to go outside, which was when I began to run. I went on daily runs. After months passed, the distance I ran increased. I gained an obsession with checking my weight and finally began noticing a decrease in my weight. Throughout the months after going into school, my obsession tripled. Many of my meals were skipped, my food intake was limited, the food I ate was specific, I began to drink a lot of green tea, I went ballistic if any of my runs were skipped, I barely went out with friends or left my room and had no desire to socialize. My parents started to realize something was going on and tried their best to feed me, yet they didn’t find out that most of my food intake was forced out one way or the other. Eating was the most stressful hour of my day as I knew that purging would always came next. After all this was occurring, I started to visibly look very unwell. I was always dizzy, tired, greatly irritable and hated everybody, wanting to leave and run away. Deep down, I was scared for myself and knew I needed help or would not end well. Everything went by like a blur. My mom took me to a nutritionist, where they told my mom she had to call the mental health center immediately and start my treatment for Anorexia Nervosa as quick as possible. I had my first appointment and to say I dreaded it would be an understatement. My only source of control was my body and it was taken away from me, which I didn’t understand why until I was recovering. Rules and limitations were set upon me. The doctors began to list all the rules, “no going to the bathroom after eating, no exercise, bedroom and bathroom doors should be open, meals should be with someone else at all times, doctors appointments are required every week and weight checks, along with a strict food plan to follow which include many fear foods.” I felt as if I was in a prison or like a baby with no freedom. The only thing I desired was to separate myself from my parents and family, wishing to go to a boarding school or to leave home. Everything I did was surveilled and my mental health state kept getting worse. No matter what the doctors said, I didn’t care. I followed their rules for the first few weeks but went back to my original acts shortly after. Everyone thought I was not smart enough to continue but I always found a ways. The doctors were puzzled when I continued to lose weight and thought it was my “metabolism” after beginning to eat but I knew the real reason. Everything I did was not enough. I could not keep up with my eating disorder anymore and it was taking over me. I did not know all the consequences it came with until later. My teeth had deteriorated and when I got my blood drawn, I almost fainted. I knew I had to bring everything to a stop. My grades started to lower, which was a real deal breaker for me since I had always been an A and above student but I couldn’t concentrate other than on the topic of food. My perspective slowly shifted. The real change in myself didn’t happen because of what my doctors said, but when I personally realized I had to do something about myself if I wanted to get better. As much as anyone helped me, nothing was successful until I actually wanted to produce a change in myself.

Once I figured out that it was up to me to work towards a better state, I worked as hard as possible. I will not say it was easy, because it was definitely not, but it took persistence. I tried my best to finish my meals. Some days were harder than others and I did not completely finish them but I did my best, which is enough. During my journey to recovery, I experienced occasions where I began to eat and could not stop, which is completely okay and normal. I just learned to breathe and knew that many others have gone through the same as me. When that occurs it means that your body is seeking more food and nutrients to keep functioning. It should not be compensated for. I am still in recovery and always have constant doctors appointments to make sure I am on the right track. Just because I am working on my eating disorder, it doesn’t mean my low self esteem has disappeared, just that I will continue to work on it and learn to love my body. I have missed many hours of school and time to be with my friends which I deeply regret. On the bright side, this experience has only been a short stop of my life and I still have the rest of the trip to go. I have learned to be grateful of my school, my menstruation, my family who has been there for me even when I was at my lowest, my friends, the opportunity to be alive, the doctors and people who have guided me throughout my recovery, my teachers who have been so understanding and everyone else who has helped me. I know that in the past months I have not been easy to handle but am glad I am slowly returning to my old self.

I now realize what everyone had been telling me.  Eating all the foods I had always loved to eat do not cause weight gain. Everything depends on a balance. Life is meant to enjoy, experience new things and to adventure. Food is key in our lives and is part of what causes humans to function, along with water. I have become happier and more relaxed without the need to control everything that goes into my mouth. I know it is a long process and it was really hard to get to the point I am now, but it is a process worth fighting for. I am turning 14 soon and know that there is still a long way to go for me but I am willing to work for it. As Karen Casey said, “One part at a time, one day at a time, we can accomplish any goal we set for ourselves.” Recovery takes time but its possible and I want everyone fighting to overcome eating disorders to know that they can do it.