I was always a good kid, I almost always listened to my mother and I always listened to my mother when it was about something important.

Except one time.

The truth is, you probably know someone who is going through this, or has in the past. This is not just my story to tell, and my mom and I have both put our heart and soul (and tears) into this post.

“Please. Eat something.” – My mom, 2011

The time it mattered most, was the time I decided to disregard every piece of advice my mother gave me. I knew I was killing her with just as much force and speed as I was killing myself, but I just couldn’t stop.

I remember every vivid detail of the night my strong, unshakable, unswayable rock of a mother broke. All over an argument about a pickle, a piece of cauliflower, some baby carrots and a bowl of hummus. Where in exchange for under 50 calories, I could have spared her the heartbreak. Nothing ever broke my mom, you could drag her through the flames of hell and she would still put on the bravest face for me and say so reassuringly, “I’m fine, sweetie.” But this night was different and thinking about it now, breaks my heart the same way hers broke that night. The way your heart breaks when someone you love with every ounce of your being is hurting, and you can’t help them.

She and I spoke while this post was being written, and she had this to say about it, “Yes, this disease broke me, but it didn’t take you. And I believe that if you hadn’t known the limit of what my strength was, you might not have been as aware of when yours had to take over. It was terrifying.” This is important to note, as I can’t stress enough how much of a team effort my recovery was. I could not have done it without her, and she could not have saved me alone. I will forever be grateful for her support, and I will always be apologetic for what I put her through.

I wish I could say that that night changed everything, and I woke up the next morning fully recovered – but that’s not the reality of it. It almost never is. This went on for years. I was in and out of treatment, recovering and relapsing at the same rate the moon wanes and waxes. Throughout it all, there was nothing anyone else could do. I did not need to be loved more than or as a child, and no one did anything wrong to lead me to this path. I just got sick. I was 17, about to move away from the only constant in my life, coping the best I could with every goodbye I could imagine. Goodbye to high school and that entire chapter of my life, to my hometown, to the boy who I thought I would love forever. Goodbye to my friends who had grown to be like family, and goodbye to my mom who I still hate not seeing every day. I had always believed I was good at coping, I could always put on a smile and bury my pain deep within my soul. Until the day this painfully fermented into the most haunting monster that wasn’t going to stop until it had taken everything I had. The disease ravaged through every aspect of my life, burning through my successes and passions like a forest fire. Slowly, but quickly at the same time, I sat alone crying watching myself destroy bits and pieces of who I was until the point where I felt like a shell wandering aimlessly through this world trying to discover who I was again.

My story does have a happy ending, and I am one of the lucky ones. I got help and I survived and I am fully recovered. Without treatment, 1 in 5 sufferers will die from eating disorders and even with treatment, 3% will not survive. Eating disorders are the leading cause of death related to mental health illness, and yet it goes unnoticed so many times.

If you are struggling, please remember you don’t have to be a certain weight to be sick. Just because people don’t seem to notice how much weight you lost, doesn’t mean you’re not sick enough. Recovery is not easy. I read somewhere recently that, “Recovery is not a choice you make once, it’s a choice you make every day for the rest of your life.” This is so incredibly true, but trust me, it’s worth it. Reach out for help, because if anything happens to you, I promise – it will break someone’s heart.

Author: Savanna
Instagram: @kinijalele