For clarity's sake, this is the story of how I came to know Ned.

I was normal in high school. Well, as normal as any sixteen year old really can be. 

I remember when my hips had the first surge of expansion. Suddenly a skirt I had worn two weeks ago was tight across my butt. Wait a second, suddenly I had a butt. Panic first took hold, and then a certain amount of pride. After all, I had nothing in the chest region, so a butt was a nice kind of supplement. 

I remember in my Junior and Senior year I wanted to lose some weight. After all I was weighing in at a whopping 145 for my 5 foot, ten inch frame. What was a girl to do? (Let me just say right now that the healthy weight range for someone of my height is between 139 and 174 pounds). I casually dated the South Beach diet and got down to 140 pounds, but I couldn't break that 140 mark. I'd worry about it for a minute, but then I'd be off on the next adventure. In all honesty, it wasn't really surprising that I'd gained some weight, after all I'd pretty much given up sports for the first time in my life. So the daily regimen of swimming or softball, or rather the lack thereof was just taking it's toll. The point is...while I would have passing thoughts of losing weight, it wasn't really a concern. I was still thin.

I headed off to my first year of Juilliard. And every morning began with an intense 50 minute cardio class. Freshman fifteen? Ha, I would probably lose fifteen pounds! So imagine my surprise when I got on the scale at Halloween and got the spook of a lifetime: 162 pounds. Huh. And yet, I didn't feel I looked as though I'd gained seventeen pounds. I was still relatively happy. But nevertheless action had to be taken. If only I could get back to that 130 pounds from sophomore year. I know, I know 30 pounds when I thought I still looked okay? Ridiculous! But then again movies like Bridget Jones' Diary made 140 pounds out to be unacceptable. The question then became, how do I lose weight? I had notta clue. So thin and content had I been that I didn't even know what a calorie was. 

Going home for Christmas break was when Ned first showed his face in all his glory. I remember standing in front of my mirror. I looked at myself, thought I looked fine, and identified that as the problem. All my life I had been thin, so I still saw myself, identified myself as a thin person. Take a careful look, I told myself, what you see now is not thin. This is fat. 

There it was. I stood in front of a mirror and literally changed how I saw myself--I changed what I saw. And to this day I have no idea whether or not what I see in the mirror is a true reflection or not.

When I returned to school I attempted to lose weight by cutting out snacks. Unfortunately this also meant I cut out socializing. Going out posed to much of a temptation because more often than not it centered around food and drink. But I ate at meal time. And oh did I eat. I didn't know that peanut butter consumed in large quantities is bad. And I thought granola with chocolate chips was a much better alternative than chocolate chip cookies. But I exercised too. I walked in the park in the morning or did the elliptical for thirty minutes. So when I left my first year I had lost about eight of those added pounds. 

And then entered weight watchers. Points values for foods. Suddenly I knew the value of a calorie, and the true impact of all that peanut butter. It abolished my guessing game and that, in itself, was a tremendous weight lifted. It was easy, so easy. 30 minutes each day walking on the treadmill. 20 points a day. And one meal each week where I ate whatever I wanted. I lost 16 pounds and got down to 139 right as the summer ended. Maybe that was the problem. I didn't have the same surroundings and support system in which to learn to maintain the weight loss. Instead I was thrown back into school. 

Now don't get me wrong. I felt great. I didn't feel too thin. And I absolutely loved the way I looked. What I did not like was the constant attention. The probing remarks. "What happened to the other half of you," someone asked. "Oh you're just cold because you don't have any fat on your body," another girl remarked. And many, many, many people asked if I was healthy. And truth be told, I had never felt healthier. I was eating healthy foods. Really healthy foods. And then a boy I had dated the previous year said he couldn't even look at me because I looked so different. And my first year movement teacher (the one who conducted the cardio class and who knew I had body issues) told me not to worry because Moni (the second year movement teacher) would make me fat.

I'm not sure when the first one occurred, but it didn't take long. A binge. A short period in which I would eat an overwhelming amount of food. Then I would feel such guilt that I would climb into bed and fall asleep so that I didn't have to feel anything. I remembered all of them, at the beginning. And then it leveled off to Tuesdays and Fridays. Tuesdays and Fridays Ned would arrive and sink me under the surface. 

Sometime after (or before Christmas) I don't even remember anymore, I went to the school doctor and with an eating disorder pamphlet in hand, told her that I could answer yes to every question on the back. "No, no, you don't have an eating disorder," she said, as she lead me to a free school therapist. He didn't think I had one either. 

Going home for spring break it had become clear to my parents that something was wrong. At this point I was extremely depressed and had stopped going out all together. So I was sent to a new general practitioner. I told her of my plight. "You don't have an eating disorder," she said "You're just depressed, anxious." And she sent me to a life coach. 

Amidst all the denial Ned grew stronger and stronger. He showed up more often, for longer periods of time. And I gained back more weight than I had ever lost. 

Here's the important thing to take away from this, you know you're body. If you think something is wrong, or know in your bones that a diagnosis is wrong, keep fighting.

Sitting across from a friend, at the beginning of my fourth year, he asked me what was wrong. After some probing I proceeded to tell him and he in turn suggested a therapist connected to NYU who was specialized in dealing with artists and in dealing with eating disorders.

I met with her. And she listened to me. Really listened. And she believed me. And the first crack in Ned's impenetrable armor was born. 

I had reached out to teachers, school officials, doctors, therapists, friends, and after two years someone finally got the diagnosis right. 

It was a start, but it certainly wasn't the end. My mom came up three times during my fourth year to stay with me--to help me--to get me on track. And I would feel myself getting better, only to succumb all over again.

You see, Ned influenced ever decision of my day. What I would wear when I got up, what I would eat, whether I would exercise, whether or not I was strong enough to endure the day's class, what I would buy at the store. He was a tremendous drain on funds. The amount of money on waisted foods, ill-fated diets, talismans I bought in stores that I thought would serve as a symbol of my new resolve. He literally consumed me, leaving behind a shell of a person. I disappeared, went into hiding.

Meeting Dr. Bob was a big step in the right direction. He was the most knowledgeable person I had met. He knew exactly what it was and he talked about it in scientific terms. I have loathed science all my life, but these terms make it seem like something outside myself. Something that could be controlled. 

Part of the eating disorder is something called thought-action fusion. What this is, is the inability of the brain to distinguish between the actual thought and the subsequent action. I would have the thought of a binge and be absolutely helpless to then resist it. I would try, but it was as if something much larger than myself would drive me to carry it out. That's why docto's say, have the thought and then try to wait five minutes before you begin the binge. Next time see if you can go ten minutes. Then fifteen. By increasing the time intervals you are actually strengthening your brain and the brain's ability to distinguish the thoughts and the actions. The other thing Tom said is that while most people suffer from disordered eating, an eating disorder differs in that the person registers a lack of food as actual pain, and thus feels the need to eat to compensate for that. 

How did I develop an eating disorder? Well, probably a whole slew of things in my life and characteristics of my personality led to it. The catalyst, most probably, was the 20 point diet from weight watchers. 20 points is the equivalent of 1,000 calories, which is not enough for anyone, anywhere. I was literally starving myself. And the first time the body has this experience, it loves it. It starts producing endorphins like crazy, as if you're on a drug. But there is only so long the body can keep this up before it rebels and demands that foods be taken in. For fear of ever starving again, it demands huge amounts of food and the result is a binge. 

I'm not binge free. And I may struggle with it for the rest of my life. And yet, I have a sneaking suspicion that I won't--a hopeful suspicion if you will. Everyday I wake to find more of myself.

Writing down what I eat (with absolutely no judgement), allowing myself to eat what I want, when I want it, and exercising have helped me tremendously. Taking the emphasis off of losing weight--instead creating a lifestyle that I will want to live each day for the rest of my life has been key to any success I have had. However, the road to recovery is paved with pitfalls. Step backwards are in fact a necessary part of the process, so I'm chugging along. Sometimes forward, sometimes back, sometimes I don't even know where, but I'm moving. 

If anyone has any questions for me or wants to share their own story you are welcome to request my email in the comments section and I will be more than happy to get in touch with you. Your stories provide me with insight and power and are thus extremely welcome. Thanks to everyone for their support.

{I've changed my Doctor's name because all the information that he gives me and that I then pass on is presented through my own skewed lens, so I can't promise that its completely correct; I do not want to attribute things to him for which he could get in some trouble; and plus I haven't asked him if I can write about him}