Rotary Club of Pismo Beach / Five Cities
Stevie Sullivan, Second Place
Grade 11, High School Division
Mrs. Hoover, AGHS
Nine months ago I was diagnosed with anorexia and a moderate form of depression. ME, the girl who had it all—the grades, the friends, basically the life in general. How did I get going sideways? And why would I throw away a life that seemed so perfect? Those were the kinds of questions people were asking me—my parents, the therapists, my best friends and even my ex-boyfriend. At the time, even I didn’t know what I was doing or why I was doing it. I realize now that my “perfect” life had been turned upside down my sophomore year, and my eating disorder was a cry for help. Life threw me a curve ball, and at the time that was my only way to cope. Unfortunately, I hurt a lot of people along the way trying to save myself.
Most people who have eating disorders have something called an “anorexic self.” My new self was all the things that I chose not to be when I was healthy. She was critical, she was sarcastic, she was manipulative, and insensitive; but in a lot of ways she was my best friend and the only one who truly knew what I was going through. When she was running the show she’d say things like “Don’ eat the cheese, it’ll make you fat!” and “You don’t need that cookie girl, show some self control!” I was foolish enough to believe that she was looking out for me and my body. I thought she was there to help me get the attention I wanted from all the people in my life including whatever boy I may have been crushing on at the time. I thought that guys wanted “model skinny” girls for girlfriends but I couldn’t have been more wrong. At a conference last July, a specialist told me that when I hear my “critical-self voice” I need to stop and ask myself if what she’s saying is true. If my initial response is yes, “Can I be absolutely certain that it’s true?” Most of the time that answer is no…So I asked myself, would my friends still like me if I wasn’t thin? Well yeah; they liked me before, right? And after I eat a bowl of ice-cream am I fat? No, I look exactly the same as I did 5 bowls of ice-cream ago. For the first time I understood how my critical self thinks. When I started to focus on the truth and pay less attention to her, she stopped antagonizing me. Now I’m back in the driver’s seat, and my fate health wise is in my hands.
Was it fair to all concerned? No! I hurt my family just as much, or more, than I hurt myself. My Dad told me recently that it made him want to cry just looking at me last summer. I was wasting away before his eyes, and there was nothing he could do to stop it. Both my parents read book after book about eating disorders, they found me the best help in the area, my mom cooked for me three times a day everyday, and they pulled me out of school to make my recovery as easy on me as possible. I’m not proud of the way I acted, and I wish I could find a way to show them how sorry I am. At the time I felt like they were trying to ruin my life. Now, I look back and appreciate everything they’ve done for me. If there were such at thing as a “Parent of the Year Award,” they’d have it in the bag!
Having an eating disorder made things a lot harder with friends. For the first time in my life I felt out of place and uncomfortable in social situations. I didn’t know what to say or how to act because I didn’t feel like myself anymore. When I was sick, I wasn’t building good will or better friendships. If anything, my eating disorder destroyed some of the relationships I already had with the people I cared about most. I stayed home on the weekends, and I sat in a classroom at lunch. I felt misunderstood and alone. I’ve never been a competitive person, but I found myself comparing my body to the bodies of every other girl. I was determined to be the fittest, the toughest, and the best looking. Everything was about winning, but eventually I realized that I was so busy trying to be the best that I was missing out on all the fun. My true friends stuck it out with me, and those girls are very dear to my heart. I will cherish those friendships for the rest of my life, and so it turns out that I did build better friendships through it all.
Fortunately, I got a lot out of a really painful experience. Now that I’m healthy again, my mom and dad are two of my best friends, I spend my time doing the things that make me happy, and I enjoy food more than I ever have before. From the roughest times of my life came gifts greater than I ever could’ve dreamed of. I received the gift of wisdom, the gift of maturity, the gift of much needed love, the gift of gratitude and the greatest gift of all, a deeper understanding of myself and my purpose as a human being. So, was it beneficial to all concerned? In the long run yes, I think we all learned a lot from my journey; but I wouldn’t recommend taking the road I chose to inner peace.
One of the most important things I’ve learned, is that it’s my responsibility to show the rest of the world how I deserve to be treated. If I can’t be kind to myself, I can’t expect anyone else to be kind to me. A body is just an earth suit, and its sole purpose is to carry me from one experience to the next. My body does not define me, and the people who matter most will love me for who I am inside. I know I may have applied the 4-Way Test in an unconventional way, but it just goes to show that it really can be applied to any situation.