Endless Dawn

8:01 P.M.
The crisp autumn day begins to fade into a spectacular sunset. The west shines brilliantly bathed
in scarlet and peachy tones, whereas the east shows the beginnings of the indigo night creeping
in. The air temperature cools considerably, and the voices and sounds of the day give out to the
noises of the darkness-crickets, frogs, coyote howls.
I’m never quite sure where my story with my eating disorder begins, kind of like you’re never
really sure where a sunset begins. Maybe it was when a family member mentioned to me that
every time I eat a fry, I might as well be strapping it to my thighs. Maybe it was when most of my gymnastics teammates decided they wouldn’t eat breakfast, or when they would cellophane-wrap their stomachs and thighs like Christmas packages. Or maybe it was when my teammates would pinch their fat and proclaim “I’m so fat!” when in fact they were skinnier than me. The
genesis of my disordered thoughts doesn’t matter-what matters more is that I listened to them
when they came.
When the darkness of mental illness first crept its way into my life, I welcomed it as a friend.
The quiet whispers seemed reasonable and helpful when they told me I could try harder and that
I would just look so good if I only lost five pounds. The cute color-coded app I downloaded that
told me the caloric value of everything I ate was so fun and innocent. Until it wasn’t. I realized
quickly that my emotions became attached to whether or not I stayed under my caloric goal for
the day. After a couple of prayers and some gentle nudgings by the Spirit, I deleted the calorie
counting app that had come to rule me, but that isn’t the end of my eating disorder story. You
see, eating disorders are like a jealous girlfriend, always seeking attention and revenge, and mine
patiently awaited its chance to strike again.

9:24 P.M.
The darkness has seeped into the sky, like ink dripping onto a wet page. The last bits of sunshine
soar their last farewells into the heavens, then come to rest in the Earth until dawn. Stars begin
to appear, and a quiet stillness spreads across the land.
June 24th, 2016. That was the day I moved from Spokane, Washington all the way over to the
other side of the state in Sammamish, a little suburb 20 miles east of Seattle. Friends, boys, my
beloved gymnastics club, my coaches, my team, my house, my school, my existence was ripped
out from under me like a band aid over a still healing wound. My world shook that day, hard
enough to knock that little box full of body negativity and eating disorder habits off the dusty
shelf of my brain and leave it smashed on the floor. I still remember how it looked when it hit the
floor- it created the darkest, blackest, most ensnaring void I had ever seen.
The whisperings of my eating disorder voice, ED (short for eating disorder), were back with a
vengeance. Her voice, with its soft, enticing tone and convincing words, drowned out any
promptings of the Spirit I had been feeling. ED was cunning. She knew if she told me outright
lies that clashed with the gospel truths I had known and believed my whole life, I would reject
her. So instead she told me lies wrapped in pretty pink boxes with big beautiful bows. She told
me God would love me more if I was skinnier. She told me that I was proving my strength to
Heavenly Father by not eating. She warped and clouded my view of my own body so drastically
that I couldn’t see the good or light in myself anymore-all I saw were too big thighs. Muffin tops.
The chub under my chin. Flaws. Imperfections. Darkness.

10:57 P.M.
The darkness intensifies. Hollow blackness fills the air, punctuated only by pinpricks of stars
sputtering their dead light. The moon is a crescent, faintly glowing, providing a faint glimmer of
One half cup of rolled oats microwaved in water- 150 calories. A pinch of cinnamon has barely
any caloric value, but I’d type it in as 5 calories in my head anyways just for good measure. A
Greek yogurt, with the fruit syrup at the bottom taken out because it was so unhealthy-120
calories. 4 medium strawberries- 25 calories. Exactly 300 calories in total. I ate this breakfast day
in and day out for the summer of 2016. It was comforting, not only because a bowl of oatmeal
was inherently so, but because it was so low in caloric value and so filling at the same time.
Every day at lunch when school started, I would pack an apple, a frozen Greek yogurt, a string
cheese, a turkey and swiss wrap on a tortilla, and a protein bar. 735 calories in total. I’d only be
barely over 1000 calories after lunch, with only one meal to make up for the 1400 other calories I
was supposed to be consuming for my active lifestyle. Every afternoon instead of a snack, I’d
count and recount the day’s numbers- I had the caloric values memorized, and my mind was
becoming quite extraordinary at mental addition.
For dinner, I was a nightmare to my mother. She so thoughtfully and lovingly prepared meals,
and I selfishly would eat tiny portions or wouldn’t eat if what she’d made if it was deemed “too
unhealthy” by ED. There was many a night where instead of dessert with my family, I would sit
in my room alone with ED, crying tears and tasting the saltiness as my dessert.
I watched the number go down on the scale with relish. Each time it did, ED would convince me
that I hadn’t actually lost weight, I had just weighed myself with less clothes this time, or with wet hair last time. I hadn’t. The darkness was so thick and heavy that I couldn’t even recognize reality. Numbers, my one true and constant friend, didn’t even seem real to me anymore. The
only pinpricks of light I could discern were the brief moments in church where I was reminded
that I am more than just the sum of a number or the calories I’d consumed that day, I am a
daughter of a King. This small source of light provided much needed relief from the storm
brewing inside me.

12:00 A.M.
Deafening silence. The night creatures seem to have gone to bed themselves. The stars dim under
clouds, refusing to shine their meek light upon the Earth and its inhabitants. The moon and its
light have all but faded behind the midnight rain clouds rolling in. The night is tangible, pushing,
pressing against all who dare to venture into it. Rain droplets start to fall from the heavens, like
tears cascading down a face.
I remember when I hit my all-time low, the midnight of my eating disorder journey. It was
October 6th, 2016. My family has a tradition of “booing” people in October- a fun little game we
would play on our neighbors. We would bake a bunch of treats (some usually fall related, like
pumpkin cookies) and sort them onto plates, then ding dong ditch a few families in our
neighborhood, instructing them to make treats and do the same thing for families of their choice.
We were in the midst of baking all of the treats required, and after sorting them all onto plates,
we had tons of extra goodies for our own family. One trigger for my eating disorder has always
been baked goods, and I remember I had been particularly restrictive that day with my eating.
Once I started eating, I could not stop eating. There was some sort of insatiable hunger inside me, gnawing at my insides, screaming to be fed. I scarfed down an entire loaf of pumpkin bread, 20 pumpkin cookies, and handfuls of Halloween candy. I feasted on despair and darkness.
When I finally was able to stop myself, I retreated into my room and sat in horror of what I had
done. I felt so alone and out of control, and the voices in my head roared in anger and belittled
me for my binge. I remember the pain the most from that night. Excruciating pain in my
stomach. Crippling mental and emotional pain. I remember laying motionlessly in my bed for
hours, clawing at my body, wanting an escape from the hell that was my life. I could no longer
feel the steady pulsing of light, hope and peace from the Spirit, I only felt the chaos, anger and
loathing from Satan. The only sort of emotion I could express was a deep, all-consuming despair
that leaked from my eyes steadily onto my pillowcase. I’m sure my Father cried with me that
night as I laid there wondering if I wanted to live anymore.

2:39 A.M.
The night’s precipitation has passed, along with the clouds that brought it. The moon softly
glimmers, somehow slightly brighter and fuller than it was hours earlier. The North star flickers
in the sky, surrounded by a brilliant display of miniscule holes of light poked in the night’s inky
I asked for help that night. In the depths of the waves of confusion and pain that Satan was
drowning me in, God eventually sent me a lighthouse, a beacon of hope-my therapist. She sat
and listened patiently as I poured the black, ugly contents of my mind out, and in turn she filled
it with sweet, simple gospel truths and coping strategies. One by one, my strangling thoughts of
inadequacy, my hatred of my thighs and my fear of carbohydrates were soothed by the healing balm of self-love. I started counting the days I didn’t hate my body. I started with once a week, then twice, then I’d stumble back to zero again. They say progress isn’t a straight line, it has
some dips and valleys to go along with the peaks. I don’t think that description even comes close
to the recovery process of an eating disorder. I would take one or two steps forward, then I would
fall flat on my face and be left picking the gravel out of my chin for weeks. Each time I fell, my
therapist was there to lift me back up and dispel the doubts I had succumbed to.
In addition, my therapist helped me reconnect with my Savior, the one and only soul that truly
understands the evil that filled my mind and the blindfold that was placed over my eyes in those
months. I was still fighting a silent but real battle, but I could see the stars again. I could feel that
there was something more to my life, a deep and burning purpose- I was the daughter of the
Supreme Creator of the universe. He cannot make mistakes, and thus I am not a mistake and will
never be a mistake. I could feel that I wasn’t alone. I was never alone. That black October night,
I suddenly remembered feeling the hands of angels on my back as I sat and prayed earnestly to
my Father, begging Him to relieve my pain. Those angels were always there, and they are still
with me. My Savior never once left my side, even when I was so blinded by my disorder that I
couldn’t feel His presence. He wept when I wept. He felt and understood the painstaking process
it was to recognize and reject the thoughts that I had clung to as truth only months before.
Recovery was and has been the most challenging journey I’ve ever been on, but I am able to
keep taking steps and making progress because of my faith. The light source of my lighthouse in
the storm wasn’t actually my therapist, for she was merely reflecting a different source of light.
My lighthouse was my Savior.

5:46 A.M.

Somewhere nearby, birds begin their first chirps of the new dawn, bringing hope and
cheerfulness to the deep blue sky. Tendrils of pink and yellow softly penetrate the black and blue
night canvas. The world awaits with bated breath the magnificent rebirth of the life-giver, the
sun. All is still. Nothing reflects the tumult of the stormy night except for the dewdrops
precariously perched on blades of grass.
Recovery is not a one day, one week, one month or even a one year process, it is a lifetime
process. The light I was reintroduced to and so hungrily drank up began to fill my soul, but it
was interrupted often by attacks from my disorder. I still sometimes succumbed to the insistent
voices dragging me downwards, but I could bounce back faster and had trained my eyes to the
ultimate source of light and peace in this world- the Son of God. Just like every living creature
on this Earth knows and awaits dawn and the bringing forth of new light and hope, I would wait
on my Savior and rely on him for the hope, peace and forgiveness His Atonement brought. I
found hope in life again. I found passion in my new sport of diving. I found joy in new friends,
and found fulfillment in my church callings. There is no eraser for black ink, yet somehow the
blackness and the ugly scars that my disorder had stained my soul with began to give way to
bright bursts of color and light through the sacrifice of my elder brother. Somehow, His blood
washes out even the most stubborn of stains.

7:33 A.M.
The dawn paints the sky in dazzling pastels, while a chorus of birds sweetly sing their morning
hymns. The deep blue of the night retreats solemnly into the west, while the sun rising steadfastly
in the east shines hope into the new day.

I still am not how I used to be before my disorder. I still look in the mirror and struggle to see the
beauty of what God created when He made me. I still sometimes struggle to put on a swimsuit
for diving practice, even though I love diving more than most things in this world. I still fight the
constant stream of numbers that bombards my head with every bite I eat. I don’t think those little
fragments of the night will ever leave me. However, I am at a point where I can also sense the
beauty in this life through the gospel. Christ reminds me with each new day of my divine worth
and of the love He and my Father in Heaven have for me, no matter what. I remember a quote I
found on Pinterest by an unknown author and I wrote it down to put on my wall- “I hope one day
Your human body Is not a jail cell, Instead it’s a sunny 2pm garden with daisies Thriving
because of Self love.” Every time I see a garden with flowers in full bloom, I remind myself of
the garden of love that I am cultivating within, and am nourishing with gospel truths and the light
of the Son.
I still am not how I used to be before my disorder. But I have grown to accept and love that. My
recovery is an endless dawn- stuck artfully between two warring worlds, but at peace with the
fact that the direction I am moving towards is that with more light.

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