By Katherine Ewald, V Form
Finding My Voice: Detaching from Anorexia
My sister Addie once shoved her sweat-infused, post-lacrosse tournament sock in my mouth just to shut me up. I can still taste that sock to this day. She didn’t do this because she was a jerk, rather because I was an extremely obnoxious child. Ever since starring in my first musical at my London preschool at the age of three (literally – I played the role of “Star of Bethlehem”), I have been a singer. Between voice lessons three times a week, chorus twice a week, an endless string of musicals, and my countertop Madison Square Garden-esqe renditions of whatever song was stuck in my head, my sisters never caught a break. Ergo, sweaty lacrosse sock in the piehole.
Most likely to get a much-needed break from the sound of my voice, my sisters eagerly headed to the east coast for high school. Since then, I’ve known that I wanted to do the same, and I did. Having had parents, sisters, and many an extended family member who attended prep school in New England, I expected a seamless transition to my new way of life. This was far from the case.
I was slightly nervous heading into boarding school, but doubly as excited. Addie and her twin, Jessie, graduated the spring before I enrolled, leaving me to fill two huge pairs of shoes. Fortunately for my sake, they also left behind my other sister, who was a junior at the time. Heading into my freshman year, I felt an immense amount of pressure to be the talented, brilliant, beautiful Ewald each of my sisters was. I subconsciously believed that I’d only been accepted to the school because of my family, when in reality I was probably overqualified.
The first few months of school were a whirlwind. I was a California girl experiencing her first New England fall – one filled with crunchy auburn leaves, crisp apples, and sub-55 degree temperatures. New friendships blossomed as leaves fell to the ground, and I was enthralled by the romance of my surroundings, from the bright red brick buildings to the hallowed halls of the chapel. There was nothing more poetic than watching sunlight flood through the stained glass windows of St. John’s while a senior bravely bared her soul to the whole school in the form of a chapel talk. There was no better feeling than laughing and snuggling with friends in the common room at check-in every night.
However, as my appreciation for the school around me increased, so did my feelings of self-doubt. This attitude persisted relentlessly throughout my freshman year, and in my mind my sisters’ accomplishments outshone my own. I was in constant fear of letting them down and tarnishing their legacies and thus held myself to impossible standards. This ever-growing lack of self-worth caused me to spiral into a whirlwind of mental health issues, the most prominent of which was anorexia.
I eventually became so sick that I had to leave the school, but that wasn’t the most traumatizing aspect of the experience. What was most troubling was what followed: silence. I did more than lose weight at that school; I lost my voice. I lost my biggest passion in life and gained a wicked companion within my mind.
The years that followed were the most tumultuous I’ve ever known. I screamed and I cried and I shied away from relationships that were important to me. For a long time, I loathed myself for being unable to function like a normal human being. I was utterly miserable, but no matter how hard I tried I was unable to be the person I so desperately wanted to be. What I have slowly come to realize is that that girl – the bony, cold, despondent girl with the dark circles under her eyes – was not me. The girl who pushed away anyone who tried to get close to her and wouldn’t let her parents touch her was a girl whose mind had been taken over by anorexia. Only recently have I started to let go of my guilt over my behavior during that time. And what’s funny is that as I increasingly detach my past self from anorexia, the remains of my disorder that still linger with me simultaneously fade away, into the darkness from whence they came.
Three years later, I am back at boarding school. I am surrounded by friends who inspire me daily, learning in an environment that pushes me both in and outside of the classroom. I sing every day, whether I’m in choir or at a cappella, messing around on the piano, getting in the feels with Vance Joy, or hyping myself up with Migos. Some of my best friends still attend Groton, and I will be there to watch the light flood down on them during their chapel talks, and I will shout “Go Well!” as they toss their boaters into the air on Prize Day. Most importantly, I will be there as me. Not the disordered shell of a girl I was three years ago, or the combative, outraged one I was during recovery. Rather, I’ll be the happy, bubbly girl who is head-over-heels in love with her bright, messy, sunshiney, loud life.
Katherine Ewald is a V Form boarding student from Tiburon, California. She lives in Pine/Oak as a Prefect, runs cross country, sings in the Royal Blues, and co-directs the school musical.