“I’m 17 years old and about to start an exciting and terrifying journey to become a veterinarian at Oregon State University. By looking at me, you wouldn’t know that I have struggled with an eating disorder or I struggle with depression on the inside. Super skinny people aren’t the only ones who have eating disorders. You can be 200 pounds and still be throwing up at night. Just because someone has a smile on their face doesn’t mean they’re happy.
“I can wake up feeling horrible about everything and still do my make-up, do my hair, put a smile on my face and go to school. We should take the time to actually ask how our friends are feeling; often, we’d find out they’re not doing so well.”
“When I was in fifth grade, my doctor told me to lose weight, and that is not what a 10-year-old should be hearing if they need to get healthier. My eating disorder was brewing from childhood, and by seventh grade I was throwing up after eating and trying to starve myself. It sounds strange, but it felt courageous to starve myself; it felt like I had triumphed over everyone.”
Listen to Jessica talk about the origins of her eating disorder.
“One day I came home from school, and my parents had spread out on the counter my laxatives, pills and my magazines with photos of skinny people – my “stash”. They said I was delusional and already had scheduled an appointment at a mental hospital. It made me feel like I was just crazy, and not a person any more. It scarred me for life.”
“When people with eating orders have those items taken away from them, they almost feel raped because it means so much to them. I needed to be the one to let those things go. People should do the research before they try to address an issue like mine; understand that you can’t understand how I’m feeling unless you’ve been through it. You can only comfort and help me through the recovery process.
Being called fat and other names led to me shying away from friends later in life. Isolation was a part of my eating disorder, and getting over it has been a big part of my recovery. I’d isolate to punish myself. But in high school, I made a new circle of friends, and it opened my eyes. I didn’t understand what friendship was before that. I didn’t see how much fun it is to go to the movies or just have dinner with your friends. I’m grateful I have them.”
Listen to Jessica’s advice to parents on how to address their children’s potential eating issues.
“An eating disorder is this battle in your head – one side is you and the other is the eating disorder. You have to sort out the source of every single thought you have. Am I buying that outfit because I actually like it, or am I buying it because I’ll feel skinnier in it? I am constantly having to figure that out, and it’s extremely frustrating. You’re striving to get better, but, at the same time, the other side of your brain is knocking you down.
It’s hard, but after two and a half years of therapy, it’s getting easier. I am very close to my therapist, who’s an eating disorder specialist. One day she told me there was this beautiful world I hadn’t experienced, where people cared about me and I could have everything I wanted out of life. But in order to have that, she said, I had to recover. That was something that stuck in my brain. That was a turning point.”
“My house is a zoo, and I thrive on that chaos. We have 8 horses, 12 chickens, 20 exotic birds, 10 cats, 13 dogs and more. I love how my cat doesn’t say anything when I talk to him; he’s this great listener who always calms me down when I pet him.
My family has gotten closer because of this. The day after they found out, my mom had seven books about eating disorders sent to the house, and she started doing research. And my dad sat on the floor with me, and told me how he knew where my head was at because he has depression too. We’re on the same medicine. Even though he didn’t understand the eating disorder, it made me happy to have him sitting there.”
Listen to Jessica explain how going through this has made her family closer.