As an American expat growing up in Singapore, my life was filled with various opportunities and experiences. Early on in my journey, I experienced joy, hope, and an expectant future, but unbeknownst to me, a silent darkness crept into my story.
My twin brother lost himself during his freshman year of high school. His experience significantly impacted me as I watched him deteriorate as he experimented with drugs and alcohol. Over time he became extremely depressed and began cutting himself and engaged in other harmful activities. I observed helplessly as my happy family began to unravel into a pit of anger and despair. As months past, with no signs of improvement, my family decided to send my brother back to the States to seek treatment. My mother went with him fearing that he would take his own life. As a junior in high school, I was a young girl with no direction and felt completely and utterly alone and abandoned.
At the time I was a perfectionist and, as someone who upheld an impossible standard for herself, I believed that I needed to be “okay”. Because of this, I internalized my pain and believed that if I buried it, I could manage it. This, however, wasn’t the case. Suffering in silence, I began to lose weight. Soon I realized that the more weight I lost, the more that the individuals around me took notice. My classmates, family, friends, and teachers would say, “Corinne have you lost weight? You look good!” As I looked in the mirror, I began to notice my deflating stomach, my slim face and narrowing thighs. With this, I began to believe that I had a talent for losing weight.
The year soon came to a close and my brother and mother came back from the United States. My brother had completely changed and returned full of life. He had found the will to live again; however, as one child came back healthy and strong, the other was broken.
I had become a different person when my brother was away. I had become angry, irritable and was consumed with the thought of losing weight. At the time, I was a Christian and began to question my faith as I wondered what I had done to deserve this pain.
In the beginning of my senior year, I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa and was advised not to attend college and focus on recovery. I remember being crushed by this as I was admitted into my dream school. After many discussions, my parents agreed to let me attend school as long as I saw a nutritionist and a psychologist twice a week. I agreed, but silently plotted a way to get out of treatment. I was in denial and told myself that there was nothing wrong with me or the voice inside my head that told me I couldn’t trust anyone except my eating disorder.
During my freshman year of college, I continued to lose weight. At 79 pounds I began to lose focus and energy. I also started to feel helpless as my grades decreased and depression started to consume my life. The voices inside my head never ceased telling me that I wasn’t good enough, that I was fat, and that everyone hated me. To silence these voices, and because my body was shutting down, I would sleep over 14 hours a day. My life had taken a turn for the worst and, once again, I felt completely alone.
On September 11th, 2011, I sat in my dorm room alone, admitted that I had a problem and gained the courage to ask for help. For the first time in three years, I fell to the floor and prayed. I knew I could not continue living in this way and struggled with suicidal ideation. I asked for a sign and God gave me one. Not two minutes after I concluded my prayer, I heard a knock at my door. As I opened the door, my best friend stood before me with a concerned look on her face asking, “Corinne, are you okay? I got a strange feeling and came down to check on you.” At that moment I knew I needed to change my life, and I did.
Ever since that day, I have found the will to live again and strive for recovery. It hasn’t been easy but overcoming this adversity has been the ultimate blessing. Through my pain, numerous new doors have opened that I never foresaw. I published a book, Where the Monster Weights, that highlighting my experiences with anorexia and recovery. This book has been used in amazing ways as it was previously picked up for a feature film and has given me a platform to speak publicly at different seminars and hospitals as well as the opportunity to meet with sufferers’ one on one.
My experiences with anorexia and recovery also led me to seek out a career that allows me to help others who are struggling with mental illness. In this way, I was admitted into Chapman University’s Marriage and Family Therapy Master’s program in 2016. I recently graduated this May and obtained a job as a Marriage and Family Therapist Associate at a Private Practice working under Dr. Vived Gonzalez at Solutions Counseling and Family Therapy.
My recovery from anorexia has given me a unique perspective into living life with an eating disorder and recovery. As an anorexia survivor, I believe that it is my duty to serve and give back to my community as I have found a passion to tell my story. I believe speaking about my experiences can make a difference in the lives of people who are suffering by letting them know that they are not alone.
By using my voice, and my love for writing, I hope to not only shatter the stigma of mental illness but I also strive to encourage other men and women to seek out recovery. Life is a journey with its ups and downs. And although we often go through darkness, the darkness can be the catalyst that sparks a single flame that can illuminate a room. I can only hope and pray that I can be a small light to help others strive for recovery.