**Content warning: some stories may mention eating disorder thoughts, behaviors, or symptoms. Please use your discretion when reading and speak with your therapist or support system when needed.
Erica Barreiro is currently in her sophomore year of college at Kent State University studying Nursing. She loves to read, go hiking, and spend time with her family. Most of all, she likes helping people anytime she can!
I am sixteen and sad. My dad takes me to get my first debit card and I just received my driver license. It is summer, the days are warm and long, and sunshine should be in my veins, however I am numb. I am sixteen and I took a sandwich to my bedroom to put it deep beneath my trash. I am sixteen and I have lost count of the days where food used to be a priority. I am sixteen when I found a more destructive way to try and solve my pain. Maybe I was trying to put the sunshine into my veins… I was sixteen when my dad found out, when I cried and screamed, “I can’t eat, I burned myself”. I was sixteen when he sat me down “to figure it out.” I was sixteen when he made me three scrambled eggs to remind myself food is of essence. I was sixteen when he told me to “be strong,” to “face my problems head on,” and most of all to “move on.” “Don’t worry your mother, she works a lot.” I was sixteen when my eating disorder most likely started.
I am nineteen and alone. I have family and friends who smile and love, they provide enough warmth to heat my soul, but I am nineteen and in my head, I am deserted. I am nineteen when I decided I wasn’t good enough, wasn’t thin enough, wasn’t perfect enough. I am nineteen when I train myself, like a warrior sacrificing all in the name of the “greater good.” I am nineteen when I lose myself and I am not talking about the weight. I am nineteen when I attend sophomore year. Stress and anxiety are my friends but I understand that there will be an end. “Stick to a regiment,” “don’t waste it all.” I am nineteen when I decided to martyr myself in the name of “health.”
I am nineteen when I suddenly fall in love with math. “How many calories are in that?” I am nineteen when I fell in love with the art of repetition. “Restrict, lift, cardio, repeat.” I am nineteen when I found pleasure again in the pain I cause to myself. When I needed a way to display what was going on inside my head. I am nineteen and I have lost not only weight but my right to escape. My dreams no longer come because a body with no fuel does not deserve a peaceful serenity. I am nineteen when I vowed to get better, to sacrifice my sins at the altar. I am nineteen when I eat food again. “But how soon till I can stop again?” I am nineteen and only lasted a month in recovery. I paid my dues and surrendered it all but sure do the mighty fall.
I am nineteen when I spend most of my time by the toilet. I am nineteen when I eat like I’m “normal” but then throw it up. I am nineteen when I spend more time at OA, therapy, and doctor offices than I do with friends. I am nineteen when my grades started to go, when the happiness faded and the motivation got up and walked away. I am nineteen when I wake up and hear the ringing in my ears, steady my head from the spins, stretch out my cramped muscles and sloth over to my mirror. I am nineteen years old when I stare at an anatomy project more than myself. I examine the dark bags I display, my hair that is slowly thinning out, I count the ribs I desperately crave to see, and I form a broken smile because “this is exactly where I wanted to be.” I am nineteen when I finally admitted I have an eating disorder. And I realize I am only nineteen…
I am going to be 20 in a few months. I will be 20 years old when I attend treatment in May of 2019. I will be 20 years old when I decide to reclaim myself and get my life back. My story is deep and it is intense but it speaks truth. I will be 20 years old and I know treatment will be one of the hardest things I ever do but I want to be 21 one day. I want to grow and live life without the monsters whispering in my head. So, I will be 20 years old and I’m finally going to take a step. A step towards recovery, a step towards finding the real me again. I will be 20 years old and although I am young, you need to know I have walked the road that you are on. I have been in your shoes. You are exactly as you should be, you are more powerful than your eating disorder. Get treatment even if your brain tells you not to, reach out for help even if you feel like you are a burden, and most of all, never stop fighting. Eating disorders are powerful but you are stronger!