National Eating Disorders Association

Stories of Hope

By Sara Ferris

It was fifty years ago that I began my recovery from anorexia. I had struggled with anorexia for a year. It all started because I somehow thought in my 13 year old mind that if I were just "perfect" all would be right with the world. I realize now that perfection is not something any of us should aim for, but all those decades ago, I thought it was. I was a relatively new transfer student at a college prep private school. It was competitive, and the standards were high. So, I thought I better raise my academic expectations. Only "A's" would be acceptable I thought. While I'm at it, I felt I better overhaul my appearance. The models on magazine covers were the ideal, so I better at least try to be as thin as they were. I needed to behave perfectly too, and have the best manners at all times. Impossibly, rigid goals in all aspects of my life was what I aimed for. I thought those were wonderful goals. Little did I know, they weren't, and I almost lost my life because of it. After months of eating in a horribly restricted way, exercising excessively, and pushing myself to attain very high scholastic standards, I was beginning to visibly waste away. So much so, that when I was taken to a physician, she told me I was very ill. I was only thirteen, how could that be? Where could I turn for help? Fifty years ago, there were very few specialists in eating disorders, and so many things were swept under the rug in those days: depression, alcoholism, anxiety, anorexia. They were talked about in hushed tones and with an air of shame. Thankfully those days are gone. Fortunately, for me two people in my life, came to my rescue: my middle school principal and my history/pe teacher. They could tell by just looking at me, I was in bad condition and needed help. Remember this was time when few, if anybody, knew what to do to help. But, thankfully they did. Mrs. Darou, my principal took me out to eat dinner with her husband and three children. I knew I had to eat in her presence, and I did. And before too long, I enjoyed it. She took me out to eat numerous times and we laughed and had fun. I felt so comfortable with them. Then, she asked me to take a vacation from school. Now, how often does a principal do that? Mine did. And you know, I went to a sunny beach with my parents for two weeks and it helped immensely. No school pressures, just pure relaxation. No mention of the anorexia allowed. I was beginning to like this more relaxing lifestyle, devoid of my high standards of self imposed pressure. Miss Dix, my history/pe teacher encouraged me to find a sport I enjoyed and consider joining a team sport. I wasn't sure I was up to the task talent wise, but the fact she thought I could succeed gave me a much needed boost of confidence. These two remarkable educators taught me to look at life through a wider lens. They broadened my horizons and taught me that life is meant to be embraced for all its imperfections. They got through to me because they took the time to listen, to encourage, to support, to understand, and be present. I give them all the credit for getting me on the road to recovery. They helped me understand what a healthy balanced life is all about. You're not going to feel even remotely well if you don't nourish your body adequately with healthy meals, rest, and relaxation. They showed me a better way to be. I slowly started to eat full meals again. I had so little fuel for my body and mind to run on, and now I was able to change that. Healing was in full swing by summer time, but it took about a year, before I knew I was in a much healthier place. All because two amazing people were in my path. As I approach my 64th birthday in just a few short months, I want to send a message to all my anorexic brothers and sisters out there who are still struggling. I want you to have what I have had these past 50 years since I healed from anorexia. I want you to follow your career dreams, find the love of your life, travel, experience all that life has to offer. I want you to treasure all the simple, amazing, extraordinary things that comprise this marvelous gift of life. Life is not a linear experience, it has its ups and downs. It's not perfect. It's not meant to be, and neither are we. For you see, we learn from our imperfections, our mistakes, our humanness. One of the greatest lessons I've learned is to accept and love yourself. When you're anorexic, the disease is in charge. You're not. You deserve better. Know there are people in your life who love you and care about you, and want you well. Know it's a sign of courage and great strength to ask for help. There are wonderful specialists today in the field of eating disorders. We're not meant to heal alone. I know what you're going through. I've been there. I do remember. But I promise you this, if you keep your heart and mind open to recovery, you will never, ever regret it. Reach out for help. It's there. I wish you all my love and support . Recovery is freedom. It really is. You deserve this great gift. Back to top