“I realized I needed to speak more publicly about having an eating disorder.”
― Adam Pope, 34, Minneapolis, MN
At the height of my eating disorder, I was exercising twice a day for two hours, eating a bare bones diet, taking a bottle of weight loss pills a week, not sleeping and struggling in school. My friends and family pushed me to get help.
Starting therapy made me recognize what was going on and how poorly I was treating my body. I would tell my therapist, " I'm going to try and eat two meals today. I'll have a hard-boiled egg and a piece of toast." My therapist would say that’s not enough, that I needed to try again. After a couple of weeks of that, she suggested I try in-patient treatment. I was in college, so I contacted my professors and said, "I'm going to need some time off." I was incredibly embarrassed. I didn't want to go to my instructors and say, "I have an eating disorder. I need time off from class."
I spent two months in-patient, then another month in partial hospitalization and outpatient after that. I was feeling better. I went back to college and moved in with my girlfriend. But two years later, I began slipping again. I don't know what triggered it, but I’d been going to the gym somewhat frequently, eating less and losing weight again over several months. I realized I couldn’t handle it alone, so I went back in in-patient treatment. I told myself it was a step forward, and these hiccups are part of the recovery process.
During treatment, we’d do outings once a week – go to a buffet, sit down in a restaurant, stop for coffee. One day, we were on the bus going to grab coffee and a snack. On the way there, one of the teenage girls in front of me says, "What's the plan?" The other one says, "I'm thinking we could say a ski accident or heart problem or dancing." They were brainstorming excuses to explain to people why they were in a wheelchair and why they had a nurse with them. It hit me like a ton of bricks: That's how I felt about talking to my instructors a couple of years before.
From that point on, if somebody asked me why I was in the hospital, I told them the truth: that I had an eating disorder. I realized I needed to speak more publicly about having an eating disorder so these girls wouldn't feel like they had to make up stories. Today, I see my therapist every other month to check in, and have a good relationship with exercise. I bike to work, and it’s like self-care for me. I pass a gorgeous lake, listen to music, and think about how good it feels to be out in the open air. I've also been working with the National Eating Disorder Association for quite a few years. I speak at colleges and schools, saying, “It’s common. You probably know someone with an eating disorder. Get help. It's nothing to be ashamed of.”