The two-story marketplace in Karen, just outside of Nairobi, Kenya, had a single bathroom. My family was visiting the beautiful country in June of 2018, following my graduation from Bishop Manogue Catholic High School in Reno, Nevada. After an idyllic morning spent visiting giraffes and baby elephants, I had to go. My thighs, damp from the humidity, relaxed onto the wooden toilet seat. I looked down at a red blot in my underwear and nearly cried out. My stomach fluttered with joy and relief. I exhaled deeply.
“Finally,” I thought. “I am healthy again.”
I had originally gotten my period at 13 when I was in eighth grade. After giddily informing my mom, I FaceTimed my grandma to share the exciting news.
“You’re a woman now!” she exclaimed.
But after my freshman year of high school I started to shed weight at an alarmingly rapid pace. My food intake dropped precipitously, and soon my mind was consumed with thoughts of calories, exercise, and the endless pursuit of making my body smaller.
“I’m getting healthier,” I told myself at the time.
My body begged to differ. My loss of menstruation should have alerted me that something was drastically wrong. But I refused to listen.
My period did not come back throughout high school. Even after I was admitted to the Center for Hope, a residential treatment center for eating disorder patients in Reno during the summer of 2016, and subsequently gained what I felt to be an uncomfortable amount of weight, my period did not return. This was immensely upsetting. I felt fat, was doubling up on my snacks, and eating complete meals. Still, my one glaring symptom, my amenorrhea, could not be corrected. My medically trained parents would never be able to believe I was fully healed until this
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