The other day my boyfriend and I were looking through my high school scrapbook.

As I was flipping through the pages, I caught myself feeling embarrassed for appearing to be three different people in my pictures due the disorders I was going through at the time (Anorexic Alyson, "Normal" Alyson, and Binge Eating Alyson).

For some reason, I felt the need to hide myself from him and skim past who I was.

With each picture we saw, I would tell him: "This was when I was anorexic" or "This was when I was a binge eater" as a way of explanation and apology before I would tell him the stories behind each picture.

But after this went on for a few minutes, he stopped me and said, "Alyson, you aren't defined by your disorders".

Isn't he the cutest? 

I sat there with the book in my hands, looking at the pictures in front of me.
He was right.
How had I forgotten that?

I'm defined by my disorders in the sense that they made me who I am today because they shaped a crucial time in my life. They're a part of me and always will be, but lately I've come to realize that they aren't my only story. They were who I was, but not who I am.

I am Alyson first, an eating disorder survivor second.

I think the hardest part of this is trying to see memories from that time of my life as separate from the disorders that coincided with them. In the moment, my disorders dictated every aspect of my life. They were always there in the forefront of my thoughts; I was always afraid, always angry, and always in pain. They influenced everything and nothing in my life was untouched by them. Relationships, thoughts, work, shopping, name it. When I look at my past, I see my disorders first because in the moment my disorders came first in every respect.

When I got my wisdom teeth out, I only ate sugar-free jello for two weeks because it's all I would let myself eat.

When I was playing my last season of soccer, I would binge before practice and purge in the park bathrooms.

When I was in San Francisco for choir tour, I cried in a stairwell while my friends went swimming because I hated my body so much.

Although I can't change the influence that my disorders had on my past, I want to change how they influence my future by changing how I remember my past. Rather than just categorizing my life events into Anorexia, Bulimia, or Binge Eating, I want to try to make a constant effort to see the memories behind the photographs before I see anything else.

Like when my friends brought me a Slurpee after I had my wisdom teeth taken out.

When I was the captain of my competition soccer team and we took second in our division.

When I had the best red bean doughnut of my life at a small bakery in Chinatown during choir tour and spent the whole trip hanging out with friends.

Just like I'm more than my disorders now, I was more than my disorders then.
The disorders may have stolen time from me, but they didn't steal my life.

One of my favorite quotes is: "Don't let a bad day make you feel like you have a bad life". But maybe in my case, I should change it to: "Don't let a few years of eating disorders make you feel like they were your life".

Because they weren't.


  1. Thanks for this, Aly. You inspire me. Ps, you guys are the cutest.