I look in the mirror daily, but one January night I saw myself clearly for the first time. The image reflecting back at me was reality. The bones that protruded from my tiny frame did not bring me comfort as they had in the past. I was a skeleton with no fat or muscle to cushion my weak body. My chicken legs with bulging knees somehow held me up. My eyes, sunken deep within my cheekbones, had dark, black circles surrounding them. Two intense eyes, the windows to my soul, peered at me - so dark, so scared, so lost. I stood in front of that mirror, still and silent at the knowledge of what I had become crashed down upon me. I was anorexic and could no longer hide behind my painful denial. Conquering the horrible fear I experienced that night later became my greatest hope.
Growing up as a perfectionist with a learning disability made me at times feel inadequate. I developed anorexia my freshman year. Suddenly I had found something I could control: losing weight. Not only did I lose weight, but I also lost my spirit and passion for life. Looking at myself honestly in the mirror, I discovered I was not the person I had meant, or wanted, to be. Facing my anorexia was the easy part. The journey to self-realization was the true struggle. The constant battle with insecurity and negative thoughts held me prisoner in a jail I had built. Endless nights of feeling confused led to days of fighting to release the person I knew was held captive within.
If I had written this essay two years ago, I would undoubtedly have chosen to write about my greatest fear. Today I can write about how my fears have been transformed into hopes through this experience. Although my grades during that time don't reflect my ability, I received a different kind of education. I gained self-knowledge and hope for my future. I learned what it is like to have pain. I learned what it is like to feel helpless, paralyzed and alone. I also learned about healing and inner peace. I not only know what it is like to struggle, but I also know what it is like to conquer. These lessons cannot be learned in books.
As a result of my experiences, I found a calling in a career in counseling or psychotherapy. I believe that my firsthand experiences will enable me to comfort and guide those who are struggling as I was. In the healing process, I have rediscovered my passion. I truly believe that I am ready for the challenges that lie ahead both as a student, and in life as a whole. -
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.