This I Believe: I Believe in the After
On a cloudless, sunny day, the overlapping sounds of footsteps fill the air as my peers race to be the first ones at the bleachers for recess. Nearly drowning in my coat, the sleeves hanging off my arms, my hands curled inside searching for feeling in my fingers, I make my way to the track, alone. Mindlessly, I swipe left to the exercise screen on my watch and reach for the running option. My veiny, near-numb legs simply follow the orders of my mind, mile after mile, day after day, until the bell rings.
After school, my mom says she wants to take me somewhere. Mind racing, I hope it is not a restaurant. We arrive at a fluorescent, green house towering over its neighbors. A kind face greets me at the door, asking me to come inside. My legs shiver as they press against the chair she asks me to sit in. The outside of the house does not match the inside. The room is filled with the type of air that suffocates – invading me, filling me with panic. My sunken, tired eyes scan the beige walls plastered with posters. My eyes are frozen on a singular word. “Disorder.” I’m disordered? Confused, I muster my energy to study the next wall. “Over 300 million Americans suffer from an eating disorder.” I’m a statistic.
As a 12-year-old, I let a disorder take over my life. From packing empty lunch boxes to doing crunches every night before bed to constantly calculating how many calories I had consumed that day, I was completely captivated by the idea of making myself small. I was stuck in a cycle, a battle between my body and my mind. I was spiraling until I walked into that green house. Confronted with reality, I decided I had to choose recovery. I had to choose life. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but given the choice to go back and make that decision again, I would choose recovery every single time. So, before I left the green house for the very last time, I examined the walls again. “Research suggests that about 46% of anorexia patients fully recover.” I was right. I am a statistic.
It’s a warm, sunny day, but this time everything is different. I am 17, and a new ice cream shop opened uptown. I am excited to go with my best friend. No longer does the thought of food instill panic. No longer am I pulling open my phone to calculate how many calories I have left. No longer am I controlled by a number on a scale. My eating disorder does not define my entire life because it was only a small portion. There is a life after struggle for everyone, no matter what. I know there is because I’m living it. I believe in the after.
This I Believe Illinois is NPR Illinois' annual essay program for Illinois high school seniors. An expression of where their minds are as they prepare to enter the adult world. This I Believe was started by radio journalist Edward R. Murrow in 1951 to allow anyone able to distil the guiding principles by which they lived. Special thank you to our sponsors: The Rotary Club of Springfield Sunrise, State Journal-Register, BLH Computers, KEB, and Marine Bank.