After my parents got divorced in 2008 I became severely depressed. As time went on, the depression worsened and worsened and soon it was out of control. I vividly remember being 10 years old and writing suicide notes, planning my death, etc. The mental breakdowns and panic attacks that I faced for years were the scariest things. It was like I had no self control whatsoever. Like the voice in my head owned and operated me. With depression came unexplainable anxiety — unexplainable because I literally cannot express how severe it came to be. I would stay up all night every night in a state of panic and fear. Years passed and I was a freshman in high school. Still sad, still anxiety driven, but not as bad because I finally gave in to letting my mom take me to go get medicine to treat my illnesses. However, in February of 2015 a new voice took over — that of anorexia. I lost 23 pounds within two months. I’m not even sure how it started. It just did. I would starve because the voice told me to. If I ate, I was not worthy of eating. At least that’s what anorexia said. Losing weight became my hobby and my talent. I figured it was “the only thing I was good at”. But seriously, no matter how low that number on the scale got, anorexia’s voice only got louder and louder: “Lose MORE, you need to lose MORE.” It was a seemingly never-ending cycle. I actually held this new “hobby” of mine as a secret and hid it very well from my parents and friends. But that could only go so far, because soon people started noticing. I was cheerleading at the time and my teammates would always ask if I was sick. Then, parents of my friends noticed too. It was time to tell my parents and so I did. I don’t even remember telling them but apparently I did. Months and months went by. They didn’t understand and I honestly cannot blame them. So many people who haven’t had an eating disorder think “just eat and move on” and that just isn’t how it works… an eating disorder is not a choice. Eventually, though, my parents realized the state of my deteriorating health. I had lost my period (and still don’t have it, nearly two years later), I bruised at the slightest touch, I would become so cold (in FLORIDA!) that my fingernails would turn blue and my skin yellow, I had premature ventricular contractions every minute, I was heavily lethargic, my hair was falling out, I was diagnosed with osteopenia, and so on and so on and so on. So, this past summer of 2016 I spent in an intensive outpatient facility. Worst. Summer. Of. My. Life. I hated it there. Every second, I hated it. I won’t go into detail but I will say that outpatient was not the right method FOR ME (different for other people). Needless to say, it didn’t help whatsoever and finally at the end of September, my parents realized this and took me out. Now I go in for weigh-ins at a clinic ever three weeks or so and I am self-recovering. And THAT is what works for me. Since I have been taken out of outpatient I have gained nearly 14 pounds. 14!! And even more important is that I am learning to LIVE. Not just for myself, but for Jesus Christ. For you. For everyone, to be a light and a voice. I’m at a healthy weight now and I am only waiting for the return of my period. I am determined to live strong. I am not anorexia. I am not depression. I am not anxiety. I am Ashlyn and I am LIVING.