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Slaying the Demons One Horn at a Time

Most people believe the only reason or cause in the development of an eating disorder is because of body dysmorphia and/or weight bullying. This is simply false.

My eating disorder started out of a need to be in control.

I came forward at 14 years old and told my mom I had been raped. There was a moment of relief when I finally let it out, but it was short-lived. Soon, my life was nothing more than gossip, therapy, and appointments with our attorney.

I felt trapped.

Every single thing going on was outside of my control and there was absolutely zilch I could do to stop it. So, I controlled the only thing I could, food.

It started relatively small as all eating disorders do. A skipped meal here. An extra work out there but before I knew it, I was a full force anorexic.

I would work out for two hours after school; that, of course, was after a full day of no eating. I’d go home and workout until my mother finished dinner.

My mom believed that dinner was family time and made us sit together to eat. Now, some would think it would be difficult to hide an eating disorder that way but for those of us who’ve lived through one, we know it’s not.

I’d act as if I was eating the food. I would take small bites, chew it for a few seconds, and then act as if I was wiping my mouth, casually spitting the food into the napkin. The small amount I did swallow would be regurgitated later after everyone went to bed.

By the end of freshman year, I weighed a mere 89 pounds. I had bones protruding out and dark circles under my eyes. I even had extra hair on my body. I still didn’t think I had a problem.

I was in control AND I had a physical pain to go with my mental and emotional anguish. This wasn’t an issue to me, it was a solution.

I honestly didn’t think I had a problem. My mom didn’t seem like she thought it was one. She was proud of how small I was, a vast difference from her. Luckily my Aunt Donna noticed.

Aunt Donna isn’t your average aunt. She’s the farthest thing from average. She is all of 4 ft nothing, petite, and classy. She holds herself with dignity and pride. Regal. But make her mad and she unleashes a fierce and fiery attitude you’ve only read about in books. It’s like she has an internal dragon. I’ve always been fascinated by her.

Aunt Donna is very observant, and she knew the moment she saw me. She tried hard to tell my mother but my step-father convinced her that my aunt was just causing trouble. He hated her because she saw him for who he was; a manipulative, toxic human.

My step-father was part of the problem. Bill was a correctional officer at a prison and he treated me and my sister like inmates. He was emotionally and mentally abusive. He would come in our rooms, search our things and break things he knew meant a lot to us. He didn’t care and his cruelty just pushed me further into the abyss.

She refused to let him or anyone else deter her from getting me help.

I spent most of my free time with her and my cousin. It was where I felt the most love and freedom to just be Jess. We didn’t speak of the court date, the small-town gossip, or my therapy. I was just a teen in need of love.

She would make sure her house was stocked with my favourite foods and while she never, not once, forced me to eat, she’d encourage me to take little bites. She was never overbearing.

It was my Aunt Donna who helped me see I was in trouble but she never said it. She’s gifted in helping me realize things on my own. She’s like a magician. She asked questions until she got to the gist of why I had developed anorexia.

Once she knew the root, she planted the seeds to help me grow out of the soil. We’d talk about how I could be in control even when I wasn’t.

If my step-dad said I couldn’t go out, she’d tell me to respond with, “I didn’t really want to go, anyway.” I just thought I was being a rebellious teen at the time, but her intention all along was for me to take my power back. The power of control.

It didn’t happen overnight. Far from it. It took about two years for me to really consider myself in recovery. But it would have never happened without her. She loved me and she was dedicated and supportive.

Aunt Donna helped me to feel in control. She taught me my worth, and ultimately my purpose. She helped me to find myself and to love me.

I still struggle with my demons daily, but I know when they are raising their ugly horned heads. I can sense when it’s being triggered and enact my techniques for control.

The road to recovery is never easy. It’s never the same path as the person next to you. It’s unique just like you, but what you need to remember is you can reach the shore if you just keep swimming. Don’t give up. There will be setbacks, it’s inevitable but it doesn’t mean you’ve failed. It means you’re human.

Lean on your support system and if you don’t have one, congratulations- I’m now that system.  Reach out to me and I’ll help you.

It’s my mission and purpose to help you realize you are not alone. We can and will help each other slay the demons. One ugly horn at a time.

Jess Harris

You can follow Jess on Instagram and follow Jess on Facebook. You can also purchase her book.

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