If it wasn’t for my support system, my eating disorder would have devoured me. I had just started college, was so caught up in my quest for thinness, so desperate to succeed, to make my body as small as possible, that I couldn’t acknowledge that there might be a problem with the punishing methods I had resorted to. My body was screaming in protest – amenorrhea, thinning hair, ice-cold hands – but I refused to notice.
It was my mother who fought. Who refused to be complicit in my eating disorder. Who went out of her way to tell me that I deserved better than the orthorexia I was gripping onto. She sent me to doctors long before I lost weight, aware of what the medical field struggles to acknowledge: that eating disorders and weight loss often have nothing to do with one another.
My mom didn’t back down, no matter how much I pushed back. She was willing to be my enemy. She continued to push past my denial, trying a myriad of approaches to get through to me, until she finally succeeded. And then she supported me throughout my recovery, exhibiting enormous patience when this part of my journey proved to be unbearably nonlinear.
My mother, Nathalie, passed away suddenly last year. Relapse, restriction, it was all so tempting. But that night, all I could hear was her voice. Her dedication to freeing me from the cage of disordered eating was ferocious. She believed what I didn’t, that I could somehow do this.
Why did my mom fight so hard? Because she loved me. Because she spent her 20’s starving and over exercising and knew how difficult it was to let go of that voice, the one that tells you you’re not good enough, that obedience and control will somehow make you happy. She knew what I know now, that skinny doesn’t taste nearly as good as freedom.
I had an incredible support system. Then it was ripped from me. But I’m still here, fighting. I am not free yet. My cage has gotten bigger, but it’s still a cage. I try to be kind to myself, to celebrate my victories, while acknowledging that I have farther to go. Food used to occupy 90% of my thoughts, and society was happy for that to be the case. I was complying with the program, living in a body it deemed pleasing. Billion dollar industries want us to continue torturing ourselves, because they profit off our suffering. But there is so much more to life than food. So much more to us.
Find that person. The one who believes in you, who is willing to go into battle with you. They can be a family member, a friend, a therapist, a sponsor, a partner, anyone. Listen to them. Take in every word they have to impart, until the day comes when it’s their voice you hear in your head, overpowering the deafening sounds of your eating disorder. There’s someone out there who sees your potential. And one day, you’ll see it too.
DOMENICA FERAUD is a first-generation Ecuadorian writer and actor from New York City. Her play RINSE, REPEAT premiered at the Signature Theatre in 2019 and was a New York Times Critic’s Pick. RINSE, REPEAT sharply conveys the painful truth about a woman’s fight for her life in the face of an eating disorder, and explores the role her family plays in that fight. The play was published in 2021 and has been performed as far as Singapore, bringing more awareness to an illness society seems determined to continue ignoring. After the viral success of her essay, The Movie Star and Me, she is currently working on a collection unpacking the role that popular culture plays in our conditioning.