About six years ago, I was diagnosed with an eating disorder at the age of 17. My weight loss was evident, and my eating habits raised concern from my family.
Although eating disorders make one feel like they’re in control of their weight and body image – it’s actually the other way around. I may have seemed like I had all the willpower necessary to control my food intake, but the truth is I was just an empty vessel being controlled by the lies that my worth was tied to my weight.
Having depression alongside my eating disorder meant that I rapidly became suicidal through the months. There were some nights I stayed up thinking of ways to kill myself. On others, with the rest of my family sound asleep, I would stand alone in the toilet hating every inch of what I saw in the mirror.
The truth is, I was just an empty vessel being controlled by the lies that my worth was tied to my weight.
Prescription pills kept my depression at bay, numbing my emotions until the sadness felt like nothing. Happiness felt like nothing. Being alive was frustrating and just so … Exhausting. Self-abuse was all I deserved for the unworthiness.
Some time into my first year in polytechnic, I reached my breaking point. I left class midway to head to the washroom, where I had a meltdown. A friend who knew what had been happening in my life found me and had me sent to the A&E. I was transferred to the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) that same night.
Being in the IMH felt like another world to me, one completely cut off from the outside. There were surveillance cameras everywhere and my days were planned out by the hour. But I was thankful for the care of the team of doctors and nurses who were monitoring my condition.
I could tell that they bothered listening to what I had to say, and were very meticulous with my treatment. It was only after a few days that they finally agreed to discharge me, after rounds of persuasion that I was no longer a suicide risk.
However, when I returned home, I have to admit that I continued to self-harm. The journey towards mental wellness has been a work-in-progress, day-to-day effort. But something did change the day I chose to give life a second chance, which is why I’m still at it today.
Part of my return to mental wellness was returning to church and joining my mother in the kindergarten ministry she serves in. I was never one who loved kids, but it was through these young lives and their innocent, child-like faith that I realise how I was more than how I looked.
To these children, it didn’t matter if I was fat or skinny, attractive or unattractive – they loved me for me. I think God must have sent me to this place to show me this. That He too, loved me for me.
That same year, I signed up for my first mission trip to Cambodia, and yes, my life completely changed after. I’ve been going back regularly ever since.
Later on, in university, I joined the Track and Field team, and this really helped in the recovery of my body-image. I learnt about the importance of loving myself, and through this sport, how to focus on what my body can do rather than what it looks like.
It was through these new ministries and activities that I rebuilt my faith and found healing in the least likely places. I never thought I’d find meaning outside of my comfort zone, but that’s where He was. That’s where the broken bridge between us was made new once again.
To those who also struggle in these areas, I think it’s an important first step to acknowledge you can’t get through anything by your own strength. For professional help, Singapore General Hospital has a specialised clinic for Eating Disorder patients and you can get the referral there via any public clinic.
Personally, don’t be afraid to reach out to those whom you’re close to. Having a strong support system is crucial as you embark on the journey of recovery. Lastly, always seek in the Lord for strength, courage and healing – you’re never alone!
Looking back, I know I have been so blessed. God truly never gave up on me, even when I wanted to give up on life altogether. He surrounded me with angels in the form of loving family and friends, who showed me that He had not abandoned me, and that He really had a plan for my life.
Waking up with happiness and contentment was the life I never thought I’d have. But it is evident that His love has made the impossible possible. Just look at me now – He’s painted the colours back into my life.
The author’s name has been changed for confidentiality.