The views and opinions expressed in the following story are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Mental Health Colorado.
Hailey shared her moving mental health story at the 2020 Tribute gala.
Take 3 minutes to listen to her story here or scroll to the bottom of this page.
By: Hailey Kreiling
“We made the decision to diagnose you with Anorexia Nervosa.”
A diagnosis can change lives, and once I was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa everything in my life shifted.
What led up to this diagnosis was a lifelong struggle for control over my life. Eating became the easiest thing for me to control; I could choose how many calories I put into my body, and the gratification of my emptiness washed away everything I once dreamed for myself. My eating disorder was a raft long before it began to drown me, and by the time I realized what was happening, I was deep within the belly of the beast.
When I was first diagnosed, I began doubting that the recovery process would work for me. For so long, I believed that maintaining a stick-like figure was the only thing that made me interesting. Nothing mattered without my eating disorder, including school, my social life, familial relationships, and at one point— life itself.
I kept finding myself stuck in a hole filled with my greatest fear, and my greatest comfort. As I began treatment, I realized that I didn’t know who I was and what I liked. For so long I had been the fake-happy, perfect teenager I dreamed of being. Anorexia took away everything I ever cared about, and it could’ve taken my life. I lost the experiences that most teenagers went through, and I allowed my eating disorder to take away my happiness.
Before I started high school, I received almost eight weeks of inpatient treatment, saw dozens of specialists, and embarked on the journey to recovery. I’ve gone to thousands of appointments, dozens of hospital visits, and had more mental breakdowns than I can remember. I never saw a light at the end of the seemingly endless tunnel— the darkness giving refuge the beast I created.
The first year after my diagnosis I was faced with various issues and complications. I found myself visiting the emergency room after passing out, or barely being able to walk through the halls because I hadn’t eaten. But that first year was also when I realized that I couldn’t keep pretending that I was perfectly healthy.
Once I began my second year of treatment, I found myself in a never ending cycle of unhealthy coping mechanisms, and bad friendships. I lost confidence in who I was without the eating disorder and I wondered if it would be easier to succumb to my illness.
I found myself contemplating the idea that I would never get over Anorexia– that no matter how hard I tried, it would always be apart of my life. Yet as my third year of treatment came around, I began to realize how much I had grown up in the previous years. I advocated for what I needed at school, and started allowing myself to loosen the grip on the control I thrived off of.
One day, I was asked who I was without Anorexia— and I found myself at a loss. I never looked at myself without the eating disorder, or who I could become without it. There was still a small voice in my mind that told me this life threatening disorder was the only thing that made me different. It was then that I realized, I’m not the only one who struggles with an eating disorder, that my story isn’t unique in the big picture. What makes me unique— is who I am without the eating disorder. I am a writer, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a student, and someone who has persevered through many hardships.
Anorexia Nervosa defined who I was, and has made me who I am today. But I’ve also learned that I am not my eating disorder and my diagnosis doesn’t define my future.
2020 Tribute Gala Spotlight Speaker – Hailey Kreiling
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