by Julia Summers
In early October of 2017, I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa. I have battled against my eating disorder since I was a freshman in high school, but it became dangerous in my senior year of high school. Throughout the past three years, my anorexia and the image I have of myself and my body is how I searched for my identity. Rather than judging myself by my heart or the kind of person I am, I based my value and worth on how thin I could be. A vicious cycle of self-starvation and pain is how I lived my life for three years. Actions to save my life were not taken until I could no longer physically live with my disorder.
Against my will at the time, my parents made the difficult decision to admit me to a treatment center in Arizona. Naturally, I was terrified and angry. I was unwilling to recognize that I had a problem with eating and with food. The restricting and self-loathing was second nature to me and I was unable to see what everyone else clearly could.
October 14, 2017 was the day my heart shattered to pieces. I arrived in the blazing heat of Wickenburg, Arizona and was admitted to Remuda Ranch, a treatment facility for women with eating disorders. I cried and yelled and felt pain like no other as my parents were driven off the campus. I questioned how God could abandon me, and how my parents could see my pain and allow me to suffer by staying alone in Arizona. I begged them to take me home, to not leave me. I still clearly remember how distorted and disturbed my thinking was those first several days. I cursed God and I told my own father that I hated him. I told the one man in my life that would do absolutely anything to save my life that I despised him for what he did. My eating disorder had become my identity. My brain was no longer my own. For so long, my voice could not be heard.
At the ranch, there are three houses that patients move through. I started in the first house, which was the critical care unit. I was to live in this house, named Ocotillo, until I was more physically stable than when I arrived. At Ocotillo, I was culture shocked to say the very least. The basic freedoms and lifestyle I had been living in were completely stripped from me. Simple, daily routines that I normally would not think twice about soon became a privilege. Standing up, walking from one room to another, or even using the restroom whenever I wanted was something that was out of reach for me. Although I can see now that all the limitations and rules put in place were for the good of my recovery, I was angry, confused and hurt at the time. It took weeks to finally accept that I needed help.
It was not until I moved into the second house, Mariposa, that I started to make strong efforts to recover. I began to recognize my mind as separate from my eating disorder, and discover who I was without my anorexia and my self-destructive thoughts. This was one of the most daunting elements of my recovery, and is still something I struggle with now. I remind myself daily that my eating disorder does not rule my life. It does not have the right to dictate my emotions or decide whether or not I put up a fight against it.
The choice to live is up to me, and after the first few weeks in Arizona, I decided my life was worth living. I learned that my identity is not found in the way my body looks or a number on the scale. It is found in God alone. He is the only one who has my name written on his palm, and who is guiding me through every storm. He will never leave me, no matter how lonely or abandoned I may feel.
I was not alone in Arizona, and I am not alone now. He has always been by my side, and he always will be.
Julia Summers, 18, is a senior at The Dunham School. Born and raised in Baton Rouge, she plans to attend Louisiana State University in August. Writing is one of Julia’s passions, a way for her to express herself. She also enjoys being outdoors and experience God’s creation through nature.