• Emily

My Sister Lost Her Life to an Eating Disorder

Updated: Oct 7, 2020

TW// eating disorders, loss of a loved one

I have a big sister, her name is Samantha. We are eleven years apart, but that didn’t stop us from being best friends. I went to all of her figure skating competitions when we were growing up, and she came to all of my softball games. When she couldn’t, she’d always find a way to make it up to me. She loved Milk Duds and Mambas, and those gummy peach rings. Whenever we’d get Slurpees, she’d get piña colada. I spent a lot of my time as a ten-year-old going over to her apartment during summer weekends. We’d watch movies, dance, play games and swim at the pool. Her dachshund, Snoopy, was our pride and joy.

She was always there to comfort me, especially through our parent’s messy divorce and other hard times I was experiencing at a young age. Every time I’d cry, she’d cry. She was a huge empath and never liked it when either of her little sisters were hurting. She loved both of us so much, she even got our names and birthdates tatted on both of her wrists. She was my light in a very dark tunnel. My escape to be an actual kid.

I could go on and on about Samantha and all of the accomplishments she made in her 22 years on Earth. She was an incredible figure skater and cheerleader. She was intelligent beyond belief, which rewarded her with becoming the valedictorian of her graduating class. She got away with breaking dress code in her school, but nobody paid any mind. She was Samantha, after all. She traveled to the Czech Republic in high school, where she made many friends while teaching English and sharing the joy of God with everyone. She never judged anyone, and looked for the good in everyone she encountered. She always approached everything with love and kindness. She had so many friends, with whom she shared so many smiles. That’s who my big sister was.

It’s important to me that I mentioned all of what I said about Samantha, first. Samantha is everything that I mentioned above: hardworking, loving, empathetic, kind, charismatic, and all around amazing. However, there was something beneath the surface that she didn’t want anyone to know about. Samantha had an eating disorder. More specifically, Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa.

We lost Samantha very suddenly back in October of 2010. Exactly two weeks before my eleventh birthday. To say my heart was shattered into a million pieces is an understatement. None of it made sense to me, and I felt extremely empty and lonely inside. It was hard for me to open up about my feelings as a kid, because I just felt numb and confused. Ten years later, I have finally started opening up about it. In fact, I’ve never told anyone this story. Not until, now.

Samantha was beautifully and imperfectly human, and she was struggling very deeply on the inside. She felt like her eating disorder was a secret she had to keep from everyone. While our family did know and used everything we had available to try and help her, she was ashamed and felt like she had to keep it buried away.

I wish I could go back in time and hug her, hold her, and tell her that she’s not alone and that I love her no matter what. I wish I could tell her that it wasn’t her responsibility to be strong for everyone else. That it’s okay for her to take care of herself and let people know she needed help. Vulnerability is a strength, not a weakness.

However, I was only a kid. I didn’t see her as her eating disorder, or even know what an eating disorder was, I saw her as Samantha. I wish I could go back to my childlike perspective, but with so many things unanswered, I started to do more research.

It breaks my heart all over again to see how stigmatized eating disorders still are to this day. If there was more education, awareness and conversation on eating disorders, I feel like my big sister could still be with us. I’ve let myself feel that pain and frustration. Truthfully, I haven’t been able to find the right words for ten years. However, I feel like it’s my time to raise awareness and tell Samantha’s story so that it can potentially help others who feel ashamed of their own mental illness, know that they are not alone.

Samantha might be gone, but I refuse to let her memory and story be forgotten. She fought HARD, and I mean hard, against her eating disorder for nearly a decade. She was incredibly strong, even when she felt weak. She was not her eating disorder, and she did not want to die. Society, media, and medical professionals failed her. But I will be the change for her, and for you reading this. She would want people to know that you are NEVER alone. Your mental illness, eating disorder, does not make you weak. There is a whole community behind you, who’s got your back, and will work hard to never let you down. I will work harder for people like my big sister, and work towards making this world a more inclusive, diverse, loving place for every human and every BODY.

Good enough, strong enough, smart enough, pretty enough. YOU are enough.

This is only the beginning. Body discrimination and mental health stigma ENDS with our generation.

"We are three sisters

Three sisters are we

I love each of you,

And I know you love me

We're not always together,

Life sometimes keeps us apart.

But we're never separated

We're in each other's heart.

Now I know we've had our troubles,

But we always get thru.

The real message is you love me,

And I also love you.

We have lots of good times

that we'll never forget

Sometimes we worry

And sometimes we fret

But if God ever gave me

Something special you see,

It might have been the blessing of,

Three sisters are we.

The Lord above has gave me lots

Of happiness and glee

But the most special thing He did was

Make us sisters, all three."

-Octavia Wilson

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