I’m Dayna Deters, a daughter, friend, wife, mother, business owner, and a recovered anorexic.

I wanted to give you an insight on eating disorders through my own life experiences and journey. An eating disorder does not discriminate, this illness doesn’t just happen to a certain population, and is the leading cause of death in all mental illnesses.

When I just turned 20 years old, my parents asked me to come home from college so they could tell me that my mom was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer that had spread to one of her lymph nodes. Thankfully the cancer was caught and treated early and she is a 21-year survivor. When she was diagnosed initially, however, we were fearful of the unknown.

My life started changing its trajectory like the speed of a rocket. Each day, I lived in fear over my lack of control. This fear took a major toll on my health and my mental well-being.

You see, I couldn’t change what was going on with my mom, I couldn’t control any of it. But I could control my life, and my body, so I started working out obsessively and became a cardio junkie.

I took the steps to make myself healthier so my path wouldn’t be the same and “catch cancer.” Little did I know at 20 years old, a newbie to knowing anyone with cancer: you can’t “catch cancer.”

I started making rules for myself, that know one even knew. This was a big secret, a secret that knew one knew for a long time. I started making rules for myself, these rules were these: 1. Workout 6-hour workouts no less. 2. Eat between 200-500 calories a day. 3. Do not eat protein, fats and only eat things that are sugar free, low calorie, and green veggies. 4. Eat alone. 5. Weigh yourself daily.

I was obsessed with counting calories and keeping everything in check. The obsession in the numbers grew, and I knew EVERY calorie in every food.

In my own mind I thought I was in control and was healthy. But, in reality I was starving my body, working out too much, and the thoughts of hatred toward my body grew. The noise in my head was gaining strength, the thoughts were negative and brought me down further. This disease is not about how thin you can get, it is the thoughts that will take you down. It’s not about the food, it is about the thoughts that come with this disease. Food is what keeps us alive, but food is an enemy to a person with an eating disorder.

I think the question is why would anyone starve themselves, harm ourselves or harm people around them. The answer is simple, it is not a choice, it is a coping mechanism, a safety blanket. This coping mechanism comes with rules, to think you have control when you clearly don’t. A couple of years went by with this same cycle of working out and barely eating. My body started falling apart. I was getting injured from my workouts, losing clumps of hair on my head, and gaining fine thin hair on my face. I had lost the color in my face and the drive in my life. I was fatigued, kept myself isolated, and my relationship with my family and friends tanked.

Some days I wanted to leave this earth because living here was too hard. But I never could physically hurt myself, had many thoughts about it but couldn’t do it. No one understood what was going on and neither did I.

I had a moment of knowing I needed help, I couldn’t do this on my own. With many years of therapy, I knew I needed to let go of the negative chatter in my mind, and let go of my comfort zone. With a stronger mindset, I could break free from the nightmare I was living in. To finally recover from anorexia, I knew I needed to remove the rules, I needed to work self-love, turn each negative thought into a positive one. Each day of doing this I got stronger mentally, and accepted help from my family, friends, and physicians… without them I wouldn’t be here today.

If you are reading this and need to hear this, believe me when I say this: YOU are worth it, YOU are enough, and YOU are worth the life you live…Life is too short to play by the rules.