50: The Right Kind of Control

50: The Right Kind of Control

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Possible

The Right Kind of Control

It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.

~Edmund Hillary

By the end of my senior year of high school, I had it all. I was the ultimate well-rounded student. I excelled academically, participated on the swim team for three years, got in touch with my faith, and was ready to begin the next chapter of my life — college. I had received a major scholarship to the University of San Francisco — my dream come true. All of my hard work had paid off, and I couldn’t have been prouder or more excited!

And so, I began the countdown to leaving for college. I was packed two weeks in advance, ready to start my new adventure. Finally the big day came, and I moved into my dorm. I cried as my family left. I was homesick immediately. I tried to dismiss it. After all this was what I wanted.

The first month away from home was the loneliest, most devastating time of my life. Each night I cried myself to sleep. I was confused. This empty feeling was foreign to me, and not knowing what else to do, I threw myself into my studies and started working. I quickly found myself occupied with two jobs and studying when I wasn’t busy working.

Desperate to try and escape my depression, I forced myself to go to the gym. It helped me cope at first. I thought the better I looked and the more toned my body was, the happier I would be with my life.

Soon the exercise wasn’t enough. I began to restrict my food intake. Restricting helped me cope — at first. It gave me a euphoric high that I cannot explain. It gave me control. Finally I was in control of my life. Though I had no control over particular events that were happening in my life, I did have control over how my body could look. After my menstrual cycle stopped, I finally went to see a doctor.

When I heard my weight read aloud by the nurse, I became obsessed. All I could think about was the number. I had to lose more weight. I continued restricting, and I lost more.

When I finally went home for Thanksgiving break, my mom was concerned. I looked awful.

I gathered all of my courage and finally confessed to my mom that I was suffering from an eating disorder. I think at that moment we were both relieved. I needed help, and even though I had gotten a 4.0 GPA my first semester of college, I had no choice but to take a break the following semester.

Even though I have had to steer away from my “perfect plan” this has been the wisest, bravest, and best decision I have ever made. This week will mark three months that I have been in recovery from my anorexia. From digging into my past abuse, to challenging my biggest fear of gaining weight, and learning to love myself, I have overcome so much.

I never would have thought that I would battle an eating disorder. But looking back and reflecting upon all I have learned, I am grateful for this struggle. For the first time in my life, I am taking care of myself. Each day that I follow my meal plan, or eat a croissant (as I cry the entire time), or choose to journal instead of count calories and meticulously plan small meals for myself, I know that I am conquering my eating disorder, and I am one step closer to freeing myself.

I am in a lighter place. I can finally see the sunshine again, and my body and mind are so much healthier. I am discovering my passions, including my love of writing. I never imagined myself revealing my secret to the world, but I am so much more courageous than I ever have been before.

~Vaneza Paredes

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