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Behind the Curtains of Anorexia and Anxiety: My Journey Towards Better Mental Health

“No one ever seemed to get it. It was never about being skinny. It was the sense of numbness, false sense of control, and comfort that kept me addicted to the high of this cycle. I was eventually hospitalized and then sent off to residential treatment.”

Hello! Who are you?

Hey! My name is Sophia Victoria, a young blogger, and entrepreneur doing life in Austin, Texas.

Although I currently live in Texas, I don’t know how long I’ll stay here. My family moves… a lot… to say the least.

I’m the youngest of 4 children, born and raised in Argentina, and I speak 2+ languages. My three older brothers were each born in different countries, so you can imagine how many places we’ve lived!

In my free time, when I’m not working or writing, I daydream about moving to Europe, specifically Amsterdam. Besides my constant daydreaming, I love learning about health and wellness, reading, weight-lifting, journaling, and jamming out to any British rap.

I would consider myself to be joyful. I could be crying, sad, and anxious but still joyful. I realized happiness is a fleeting state dependent on outside factors. I made a conscious effort to build a foundation of gratitude within myself. Focusing on gratitude helps me maintain a positive state of mind regardless of whatever difficulties I may be facing.

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What is your struggle and when did it start?

Well, I was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa and Anxiety Disorder in 2019.

My anxiety was definitely a late diagnosis. Ever since I was a kid, I remember living under a cloud of anxiety.

For example, when my family and I would go out to Buenos Aires (the capital of Argentina), I would often have full-blown panic attacks. I would lose my appetite entirely and often get sick from the overwhelming thoughts consuming my headspace.

My thoughts spiraled through the darkest possibilities: from potential kidnappings to someone stealing my parents’ phone. My heart would race, I would start feeling nauseous, and become hyper-aware of all of my surroundings.

A few years later, my family moved once again, triggering feelings of desperation, anxiety, and lack of control. English wasn’t my first language then, and leaving behind my childhood friends and familiar surroundings left me feeling hopeless.

The whole situation acted as a trigger for my anxiety. Nevertheless, I performed well in school, continuing my overachieving tendencies.

I could overachieve, strive, and succeed at school. But, no matter how hard I tried, I never seemed to fit in. I wasn’t like the stereotypical blonde, skinny, athletic, and social girls everyone seemed to love and accept. 

All these factors collided, creating a perfect storm. My insecurities and anxiety raged like never before, and before I knew it, I was diagnosed with Anorexia at the age of 12. 

It started with innocent intentions of becoming healthier, but in months, I had to be pulled out from school, dropped weight quickly, was scared of my favorite foods, and felt like a shell of a person. I could recognize my family was concerned and wanted to stop, but I felt a grip on me—I couldn’t stop. I was in too deep. 

Despite being aware that my heart was weakening, my electrolytes were imbalanced, and my organs were shutting down, I couldn’t find a way to stop. I was going in a downward spiral at extreme velocities.

And no one ever seemed to get it. It was never about being skinny. It was the sense of numbness, false sense of control, and comfort that kept me addicted to the high of this cycle.

I was eventually hospitalized and then sent off to residential treatment. I jumped through the hoops, ate the food, and restored some weight. However, Anorexia is a mental thing, not a physical one. So, on paper, I was recovered, but deep down, I was still struggling.

Once I was able to really work through the root cause of my anxiety and self-image, that is when things really started to shift.

How did this struggle make you feel at your worst moments?

It depends on when you’d ask me that question. My anxiety has always left me feeling misunderstood and like a loser. Thoughts like, ‘Why can everyone enjoy this moment, and I’m freaking out?’ or ‘Why can’t I just go talk to them?’ and ‘Why am I acting like this?’ were a constant chorus in my mind.

Anorexia harmoniously intertwined with my anxiety. It offered a deceptive sense of control that numbed me both physically and psychologically. The peak of my eating disorder was before I was officially diagnosed.

I wasn’t doing anything “wrong”; on the contrary, I was doing everything right. I was looking better and getting compliments and praise for my self-discipline. Yet at my lowest, I felt desperate and like a failure. I believed there was something inherently wrong with me.

What was supposed to make me better and help me fit in somehow morphed into yet another source of insecurity and instability. I remember thinking, ‘A baby can do better than me. I can’t even accomplish the basic task of eating properly.’ This was disheartening.

I was in denial of my eating disorder until it became painfully evident, something no one could ignore. My family was aware of it, and my teachers knew something was wrong, but I never told anyone out loud.

The few friends I had made asked me where I was. Halfway through the school year, I just disappeared. But the feelings of shame, self-loading, and embarrassment held a knife to my throat and kept me silent. I lied and told them I started home-schooling for convenience purposes.

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Was there a moment when you started to turn things around?

The one blessing that came from my Anorexia is that I also got diagnosed with Anxiety Disorder. These labels were relieving, but at the same time, frightening. I was relieved I finally knew what was happening, but also mortified that the labels determined who I was and how I was bound to live.

Two years after my diagnosis, I got this strong feeling of not wanting to be known as the anxious girl any longer. I decided that the label would be a guide for me to get better but not dictate who I was or who I would become.

That moment started turning things around. I started studying the science behind anxiety, eating disorders, habits, and treatments. Identifying the patterns, cycles, and habits I had created felt liberating.

The eating disorder was the trickiest thing to overcome because it was a symptom of my anxiety, and most treat it as the root cause due to the visible physical aspects.

I had let Anorexia become my identity, and it took me six years to actually recover. I went through 6+ nutritionists, five therapists, three psychiatrists, and two years of treatment until I realized nothing would make me recover. I had to choose it; I had to be sick of the grip it had on me and use it as fuel to fight.

Once I started hating Anorexia, I finally started accepting myself more.

What steps did you take to overcome your struggle?

1. Study your struggle

This was the #1 best tactic that helped me recover. Understanding what was going on in my head and body allowed me to gain objectivity in what I was going through. 

I realized when irrational food rules or body image distortions crept up; it was the disease talking, not my true self. Externalizing it made it easier to deal with and treat.

I remember studying anorexia, reading case studies, and stories. Every person’s case was different, but there were some key components that remained consistent. Seeing that made me feel normal in what I thought was my ‘abnormality’.

From my studies, I started discovering supportive things to implement in my day. For example, cold showers were a great method for me personally. When I would get urges to restrict or start overthinking, I would take a cold shower. It helped me intervene in these cycles and made me feel ten times better after I took them.

2. Be honest with yourself and others 

Opening up to my support system about how I was truly feeling unlocked numerous doors for me. Prior to this, I wasn’t receiving the necessary support because I hadn’t been communicating my struggles.

The more I shared, the less power the disorder had over me.

Even when I couldn’t bring myself to talk to anyone, I still found ways to express my feelings.

I would write things down, have conversations with God, send a text to someone, or even have internal dialogues about what I was experiencing.

It felt like coaching myself away from disordered patterns. The rational and educated part of me was conversing with my emotional and disordered side, so to speak.

Speaking the truth sheds light on things. It helps you gain clarity, understanding, and connect the dots.

3. Have a replacement for your behaviors

Before I could let go, I needed something to fill the void left by my eating disorder and anxiety.

They had become part of my identity and occupied much of my time. Rediscovering my passions, immersing myself in hobbies, and pursuing goals helped me find a purpose that extended beyond my disorder.

During my initial attempt at recovery, I experienced a relapse because I lacked other anchors in my life. Without something else to hold onto, I slipped back into old habits. 

From a rational perspective, this response is understandable. I hadn’t set myself up for success.

4. Write down a list

Writing down a list of everything my Anorexia and anxiety had taken from me: relationships, experiences, memories, and dreams. 

Whenever I needed strength to fight, I would look back at the list I had written, and it was instant fuel to keep fighting.

Have you shared any of this with people around you in real life?

At first, I couldn’t speak to anyone about it. I would completely shut down when confronted. My mind raced, but I couldn’t express my feelings or explain why I acted in specific ways. I literally couldn’t utter a word.

As time passed, I discovered that journaling, meditation, and processing my emotions allowed me to gradually open up to my mom about my thoughts and feelings. The key was giving myself time; I needed to make sense of everything internally before I could articulate it externally.

I didn’t feel comfortable talking to my dad or brother about it because I felt judged, misunderstood, and shamed. I never told a single one of my friends. I didn’t want them to see me as pathetic or weird. However, as I began to recover, my reality started to change.

Because it wasn’t so fresh, the whole thing felt easier to talk about. I wasn’t that 12-year-old, confused little girl anymore; I started to connect the dots and make sense of things. 

Now, I find empowerment in sharing my story, whether through blogging or open conversations.

I want to become the person I wish I would have had at 12 years old. 

As I started opening up, I realized how many individuals were navigating similar challenges. By sharing, I gave others around me permission to do the same. It’s like signaling a green light, creating a safe space, and encouraging vulnerability in others.

If you could give a single piece of advice to someone else that struggles, what would that be?

Your worth does not originate from extrinsic sources. 

Altering your body’s size, your social circle, a specific relationship, or even a particular job won’t provide lasting happiness or increase your deservingness of love.

Avoid falling into the trap that chasing an external ideal will satisfy the current internal conflict.

From your unique fingerprint to your distinctive voice, singular perspective, personal story, and mission— You have SO MUCH to offer!

Know that your disorder doesn’t define you. Just because you have struggled doesn’t mean you have to struggle for the rest of your life. Do the work, be consistent, and be patient. 

Let yourself be free. It’s worth the fight!

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, YouTube channels, or other resources for you?

  • The Science of Self-Learning: This book covers systems and processes for setting good goals, learning, and adequately teaching yourself new skills.
  • Public Opinion: A helpful book for understanding the psychology of influence and how psychology is used to influence your actions and behaviors. 
  • Period Repair Manual: This book breaks down everything you need to know to balance your hormones and restore your period after restrictive eating patterns.
  • The Magic of Thinking Big: The best book I’ve read on perspective, mindset, goals, and positive thinking.
  • Fitness Stuff For Normal People: A great podcast for debunking and supporting fitness topics, all backed by research and studies.
  • Healthy Eating & Eating Disorders: This podcast episode by Dr. Andrew Huberman helped me gain a new perspective on eating disorders and the actual physiological mechanisms going on.

Where can we go to learn more about you?

To learn and hear more about me, you can visit my website.

I started my blog to create reliable and helpful content related to health, wellness, lifestyle, and being the person I needed when I was 12.
I would love to hear from you! 🙂 Feel free to reach out via Email or Instagram DMs.

💡 By the way: If you want to start feeling better and more productive, I’ve condensed the information of 100’s of our articles into a 10-step mental health cheat sheet here. 👇

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Hugo Huijer AuthorLinkedIn Logo

Founder of Tracking Happiness, with over 100 interviews and a focus on practical advice, our content extends beyond happiness tracking. Hailing from the Netherlands, I’m a skateboarding enthusiast, marathon runner, and a dedicated data junkie, tracking my happiness for over a decade.

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