National Eating Disorders Association

Stories of Hope

Triumphing Through Adversity
By Debbi S.

In the latter half of my 8th grade year, I was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa. My battle with an eating disorder continued until my freshman year of high school up until my winter break, in which my parents had to take extreme measures to prevent me from being hospitalized. I was placed into a residential treatment center for eating disorders and missed four months of high school. It was the hardest thing I've ever gone through. In the facility, I was also diagnosed with depression since I was in such shock over being out of school. However, as my therapist noted-- "If you have the power to overcome this, everything else in life will be simple. You will have the power to do anything." Thus began my long road to recovery and the beginning of the hardest battle of my life; a battle I had to win, or else I would have my own tombstone before even managing to finish my first year of high school. The hardest part was accepting how my recovery would not happen overnight, since I was not accustomed to failing at accomplishing something right away. I soon realized that the only way to defeat the one thing that was, quite literally, eating away at me, was to fight it with all the strength and courage that I had. After four months of hardships and progress, I was finally released from the center. Yet, as much as I thought I wanted to leave, my last day at the center proved to be something of bittersweet happiness. My “goodbye group” will always be etched in my memory as something significant, for it taught me to accept myself once and for all. Tears streamed down my cheeks as the therapists, staff members and other girls touched my heart when they told me how far I had come, and how I was guaranteed to be a prize to the world as long as I believed in myself and allowed my talents and passions to shine. It may seem ironic that what began as a seemingly impossible nightmare to wake up from ended up being the one lesson that taught me the true value of life. Experiencing a new “life” for four months showed me how lucky I was to have a loving family and the most caring, patient friends who supported me during the hardest time of my life. The most rewarding part about triumphing through adversity was the way in which it made me love everyone and everything in my life with so much more appreciation. I'm not saying I would ever redo what happened or what I went through, though. Perhaps if I didn't have that experience, I wouldn't be as strong-willed or enthusiastic about life as I am today. I'm so grateful for all the love and support I received from everyone-- it truly showed me how lucky I was. There was even a mock funeral staged for me at the facility to prove how many people I'd be hurting if I let my disorder consume me entirely. Physically and psychologically, I was torn apart by this-- however, I fought with all of my strength in order to recover and get back to school. Though I wish it didn’t take something so severe to make me realize how I really was “perfect” enough, I am grateful for the long, difficult and eye-opening change that ultimately saved my life. Life happens, and this is one of my personal battles that shaped me into a more independent woman. Perhaps a life-changing experience really was all I needed to find in my heart that I am beautiful just the way I am. I ended up graduating high school with highest honors as a National Honors Society inductee and California Scholarship Federation life member. I received my B.A. in Communication from UC Santa Barbara in three years and will always cherish my college memories. I currently work for Walt Disney Parks & Resorts and will follow my dreams of living and traveling abroad when I move to New Zealand later this year to work in the birthplace of Middle-Earth (next to travel, Lord of the Rings is the one thing I love most). You can follow my adventures and passion for life through my travel blog: Back to top