Nicolette’s Point of View

 A Letter to Ana

Dear Ana,

​My name is Nicolette- you don’t know me very well, but I’ve seen you many times and feel like I know you very well. You see, you know my little sister, Olivia. Oh, you know her, the bubbly, energetic, passionate girl you’ve been stalking for the past…too many years. Somehow you’ve never affected me directly and I’m still not totally sure how you choose your victims. You see, Olivia and I aren’t that different. Sure, she may be a bit louder, chattier, and more adventurous than me (but let’s just keep that between us). However, you have indirectly impacted my life and I’ll always remember the wake you leave behind.

​Olivia and I are three years apart (some people think we’re twins but we both know who has the better brows…me). My parents gave me the best gift a girl could ever ask for, a little sister! Olivia was born to be my personal BFF. Obviously, we had our squabbles, broken Polly Pockets, an arm or a nose occasionally falls off an American Girl Doll, but just your typical sister stuff. For a while, that was all we had to worry about. But that was before you moved in, Ana. That was before you changed everything.

​I still remember the day. We had just moved to our new neighborhood in the cookie-cutter Geneva, IL. We could tell through driving around “the circle” we were going to be living in a neighborhood full of fun and active kids. While I was excited about the possibilities of new friends, maybe even a new ~*crush*~ (in my own defense I was twelve or thirteen and reading waaaay too many Seventeen magazines), I remember lil’ Olivia making the comment “Wow! We’re going to become sticks!”, meaning, we’re going to be playing outside all the time and exercising so we’ll become super skinny! Probably not the first thought someone going into 3rd grade should have…I should know because I am now a third-grade teacher and all those kids care about are Taki’s, Roblux and Five Nights at Freddies, and taking down Donald Trump…but that’s neither here nor there.

​I digress. To me in that moment, bells went off in my head. I remember from reading all those Seventeen Magazine articles about the warning signs of an eating disorder. I often think back to that moment and wonder if I had done something differently in that moment, maybe things would’ve been different. Maybe, if I had said something I wouldn’t have spent lying awake at night while in college wondering if my sister was harming herself, or contemplating harming herself. Even though you don’t know me personally, Ana, I know you and I know what you can do. I remember my stomach being in knots as I listen to my mom crying over the phone, running out of ideas to help my best friend. The amount of stress that puts on a person is inconceivable. A thousand “what ifs” constantly running through my mind. The person you changed my sister into was constantly on my mind. My own relationships suffered from the stress. You changed me, Ana. Maybe you don’t always see the collateral damage outside of your victims, but it’s there. You are more powerful than you know. I could go on telling you about the thoughts that were going through my head, and at times still do, but I don’t want to give you the gratification that without even trying, you almost had another victim.

​Olivia asked me to write something for her NEDA project about how EDs affect the people on the outside. I’ll be honest, I didn’t want to do it at first. I didn’t want to admit that you influenced me because putting all my thoughts and memories that I’ve tried to forget will only make you more real. I’ve realized through my sister, that girl you tried to take down, that this is exactly what you, Ana, need to hear. Yes, there are some nights and periods of my life that I hate thinking back on. Seeing my BFF struggle and hate herself is gut-wrenching. Thinking about those times makes my stomach turn into knots again and my heart start to race. So, take this as a goodbye. We might bump into each other again, either when you try to take my sister away again or one of my “kids” (which I currently have 48 and counting btw, occupational hazards). But through my strong sister and watching the warrior she has become; I’ve learned how to beat you and work through you. I hope I never see you again, but I know I will. You’re clingy and needy and seem to never disappear. We all know that one person who is just always “around’. No one likes that person, Ana, and we can only hope that one day you will be defeated for good. But, until now I’m going to enjoy the occasional glass (or two)…(or three)…(ok the whole bottle) of the cheapest red wine we can find with my sister. And you’re not invited.

 Sincerely,

Nicolette

 PS- You can’t sit with us.

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Bridget’s Story

“Anorexia is one disease I was certain I’d never suffer from. Growing up, I ate whatever I wanted, worked out and had a healthy relationship with food. I even remember making immature remarks with my best friend in high school about a girl who clearly suffered from bulimia, not understanding how serious the disease was. “How the hell could you not eat, and how could you do that to your body?” I wondered. I was sure that girl with the eating disorder would NEVER be me.

In the fall of 2012, I began college. Constant school stress, high levels of anxiety (which I’ve since been diagnosed with) and no longer having my support group from home took its toll on me. At first I lost my appetite because I was simply too stressed to eat. Slowly, it became intentional. Anorexia creeped its way into my life until it controlled me completely. I worked out 2-3 times per day. I obsessively counted calories, challenging myself to consume as little as possible on any given day. I weighed myself twice, sometimes 3 times a day, getting a secret high every time the number on the scale dropped lower.
I was extremely sick, but on the outside I appeared fine. Friends and family commented on how skinny I looked, but I told them I simply was working out and eating well. I had a 4.0, had joined a sorority and made plenty of friends. But nobody knew how sick I truly was. I convinced myself I was fine and that I didn’t need help. It wasn’t until my older sister reached out to my best friend from home in November that I was confronted about having a problem.
I lied. I got angry, and I pretended like she was crazy for thinking anything was wrong. But slowly, the walls that I had built up to convince myself I was OK came tumbling down. I had no energy, my immune system was a wreck, and I became so depressed I was sleeping at least 10 hours a night. It wasn’t any way I wanted to continue living.
So, I started the long process of recovery. I tried multiple therapists (none helped me personally, but that isn’t to say therapy can’t help others). But as my college years continued and I battled ED tendencies on and off, I started to find connections to why I couldn’t eat. It all came back to anxiety and having control to attempt to limit my anxiety. I craved control of my life so badly that I chose the one thing I knew I could always control: my food intake.
When I had a relapse my senior year of college, I finally saw a doctor. I was so ashamed, but I told him the truth. And he helped me. He didn’t judge me or think I was exaggerating. He listened and decided anxiety medication was the best step forward. A year later, I’m on a daily anxiety/depression medicine that has worked wonders. I have no urges to go back to my old ED habits, and I am the happiest I have ever been. I still have progress to make, though. I have yet to return to running and working out, but that is my next step (and one that I fully know I am capable of doing).
Recovery is a long process, but one that is worth the pain it takes to get there. I’m no longer bitter or angry at my disease because it showed me I am strong enough to overcome any obstacle life throws my way. To anyone suffering, do not hesitate to seek help. And to anyone who knows someone suffering, I encourage you to speak up. It saved my life, and it could save someone else.”
-Bridget Brady, 23, Chicago