Overcoming an eating disorder that caused McKenna a lifetime of pain

The weight of a chemical imbalance in my brain and that of the harsh comments from unaware teenagers was enough to perfectly position me for a downward spiral in my life. In eighth grade, I was too young to believe I was suffering from a mental illness, but that was exactly what was consuming me. This major depression helped fuel the eating disorder that was soon to visit me in high school. The two mingled constantly, enticing self-destruction, deprivation, and morbid thoughts to join. These claimed to be the ingredients in the coveted recipe for perfection that was everything I was striving for in life. 

I never imagined a darkness so detrimental to my well-being could live so vicariously inside of me. It laid in remission until the year I turned thirteen, and was thrown into the position of a victim. I always knew that being bullied was a thing that happened but I never once imagined that it would happen to me. I was still a child, not yet having my period or even my first kiss. That hockey team was the beginning of what I could describe as my journey towards rock bottom. I never imagined how many awful things could be spat at me as I slowly descended towards an all-time low. These kids on my hockey team didn’t understand what they were cultivating inside of me. Even five years later, after I have had to fight relentless self-doubt and belittlement, I realize that many of those teammates still don’t know what they did to me, what demon they released. My childish faith in the world around me dissipated as the terms “fat” and “ugly” fell around me, littering the floor. I wonder to this day if they had just been indifferent, not even kind, just not brutal, to the shy girl if I would be a completely different person writing this today. Regardless, I forgive them, because if these boys (and one other girl) hadn’t shown me their own hideous demons, I wouldn’t have been able to build the strength to overcome my own demons. I wish nothing but peace for them all, because we all deserve peace.

Soon enough, all aspects of my world seemingly collapsed around me, each tumble slowly killing me with a too early onset of depression. The only thing that proceeded to offer me solace was a mental disorder I had yet to consider. Delving into my eating disorder was like a comfort no one or anything else could give me, a comfort I desperately needed after nights spent awake completing homework assignments to attain perfect grades, destined to be the sparkling image of perfection I had never been before. Chubby cheeks hollowed out along with any self-confidence I had beforehand, letting way to protruding bones and hours spent at the gym, which soon enough became normal to me. They became the only way I could maintain control in my life, a self-asserted punishment I thought I deserved for feeling so sad, so often. I remember counting calories mercilessly, hiding this part of me from everyone. It became my own personal secret, a dark one which I held in such high reverence. 

But there was a light that shined, and continues to shine, regardless of the darkness that may protrude it. That light, Buddhism, has always been within me, battling my inner demons since the day they emerged. If I had not discovered this spiritual path, I cannot fully say that I would be alive and here today. I am and always will be eternally grateful for Buddha’s presence in my life, and my faith nurtured through Buddhism is something my inner demons will never be able to take away.

Relapse after relapse later, I am proud to share that I am a year and a half clean from much of that toxicity. I have had to remain resilient through everything, even the most recent events. My senior year of high school presented me with one of the hardest experiences of my life. What was presented as the “beginning of the end” of four awful high school years turned into one of the most difficult years yet. I dated the wrong boy and as a punishment some girls thought it would be worthwhile to attempt and ruin me. From being pushed in the school’s hallways and constantly harassed over social media, to the threats, the comments on my photos and the tweets about me, the strength I worked so long to build remained intact. Nothing and no one is worthy enough to break my backbone. I wish only peace on those girls, but I am not afraid to show all who tried to hurt me that I am here in California, taking up as much space as I please, indulging myself in the beauty of the world around me and all the beauty that kindness can bring into this world. I am no longer submitting myself to being a wallflower, but am instead flourishing as a first-year student at the University of San Diego. The thoughts still haunt me, and they may remain forever; but I am now fearless and I look past them, into this present moment. Simultaneously I look towards the future, towards my much deserved happiness.

I am here today as a reminder to all struggling that recovery is possible, even if it appears that all odds are against you. You are worthy of recovery and you are worthy of happiness. You are worthy of all good things in this world. But most of all, you are worthy of taking control of your situation because you, you are in control. You have a purpose on this planet and committing yourself to overcoming your mental illness is the first, most beneficial step you can take in order to leave your legacy. Trust me, you are very worthy of leaving a legacy. And I’m looking forward to see what your legacy will be.