“The day I regret the most is the day I decided to stop eating,” are the words that have taught me all I need to know about eating disorders.

My sister and I were always very close. She was six years older than I was and was always a constant role model. I idolized her, and always wanted to act like she did, wear the clothes she wore, and do the things she did. She was simply stunning and full of energy and laughter. There was no reason for her to lose any weight, especially not the way she chose to do it.

I was in third grade when my sister started her freshman year of high school and developed an eating disorder. Being young and naïve, I wasn’t too sure what the norms of high school were and if this behavior was simply what people her age did. I had so many questions and no one to answer them.

Her anorexia not only affected her body and consumed her mind, but her actions and relationships as well. Eating disorders can quickly take over one’s life and change a person drastically, having a major impact on those who love them.

My family was very close growing up, always cutting down the Christmas tree together, picking pumpkins in the fall, and taking family trips up north. It wasn’t until my sister’s eating disorder developed that this started to change.

At only 8-years-old I began to notice the changes in her and how it affected my family. She continuously lost weight until she reached a skeletal appearance. My sister no longer communicated with my parents, participated in family events, or even wanted to be around us. She became a different person.

Though when it started it seemed like a phase, it continued to progress. There was nothing else she could focus on besides food and her appearance. I would come home from school to find she was either at a doctor’s appointment or being forced to eat by my parents. I became so accustomed to the fights and her changed personality that I forgot what it was like to have everything back to normal again.

My sister’s weight eventually fell well below 100 pounds and the clothes she wore were smaller than mine. I was confused, and for once I began looking at her as an example of what not to be.

In the hopes of protecting my innocence, my parents never fully explained to me what was happening to her, but it didn’t take much for me to find out. She would try to communicate with me and tell me things that went on in her life, but I was still too young to understand.

Time passed as her disorder fluctuated from bad to really bad. Having dealt with this for a year or so now, I had accepted how things were and figured they would never change. My sister’s communication with my family continued to decline until she removed herself almost entirely.

My parents were constantly there to offer her help but she continuously refused to accept. When I realized how different she had become, I missed her immensely; at this point I began to accept things for what they were.

While I often wished that this nightmare would end and everything would go back to how it was before, there were also times when I just wished my sister would cut herself off for good.

I grew tired of hearing her constant fighting with my parents, her non-stop talk about food, and the lack of love she showed towards my family. Although I knew this was just her mind messing with her, it was nearly impossible for me accept or understand how anyone could behave this way. I didn’t look up to her anymore, and most importantly, I didn’t want to be around her.

As if her eating disorder wasn’t enough already, her anorexia led to depression. Her thoughts were fogged with self-hatred and over analyzation of food. The eating disorder affected her whole lifestyle. She began to drink heavily and smoke. Her behavior was completely flipped around. As she would skip family events and fight with my mom and dad, all my parents would say to me is, “One day she’ll look back and be sorry.” I hoped they were right.

In the spring towards the end of her senior year of high school, her 4th year of dealing with anorexia, my sister finally started to eat again. Things seemed to be looking up.

She accepted help from doctors, involved herself more with my family, and even began to fix her relationship with my parents. I remember sitting down with her one day as she began talking about all that she’s been through, and she said something that shocked me. She explained to me that when she was at her all time low, her therapist told her if she did not make a change for herself, she wouldn’t live much longer.

Her eating habits continued to progress and she worked her way back to a healthier weight. Although my sister struggled for years after reaching the lowest point, she seemed to be much more willing to change herself for the better. We began to communicate more and her relationship with my parents strengthened. Things seemed to be getting back on track.

And here we are today. Almost 7 years later and my sister has overcome her eating disorder. She is happy and healthy and completely herself again.

While she will always have that piece of her for the rest of her life, I have never been so happy to have her back to her amazing, beautiful self. Although her relationships with family and friends slipped immensely during the difficult high school years, I have never been more proud of my sister and what she has accomplished.

She doesn’t have to say it for me to know, but overcoming her eating disorder is the best thing she has ever done for herself and our family.

The most important lesson this period taught me is to never give up on yourself or the ones you love, and to never lose sight of who you are. To my kind, smart, talented, and beautiful sister, I love you no matter what and have never been so proud to call someone my best friend.

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