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The Feminine Strong

In 2008, my sister was diagnosed with anorexia. My world shattered. One in ten people die from anorexia of those who get the eating disorder. I was beyond scared for her life. I cried many nights and most of the time I did not know where the tears came from or why exactly I was crying. I had nightmares about losing her. I already felt as though I had lost her. She was an entirely different person. E.D. (the Eating Disorder voice, as she called it) had taken over her body and turned her into someone I could no longer relate to. Just the year before we were inseparable, like one person. When E.D. took over I lost my role model, my big sister, and most importantly my best friend.

While she was recovering I tried to support her and be there for her, but for some reason I could not stand to be around her. I know several times I hurt her the way I acted, but inside I hated myself even more just for feeling this way. The turning point in our relationship came slow and gradual, as is the case with some miracles: they may not happen in one defining moment, but when you look back you realize that the most arduous years of your life are the miracles. Those years she was in recovery became the years I learned more about myself and the world around me. Anorexia is such a common addiction in American society because of the way women are portrayed in the media and the way women view themselves. I realized the psychological consequences of such a culture by seeing my sister fight the messages of advertising and gender-stereotyping: Women are not good enough the way they are; they are flawed and imperfect, and in order to become perfect, they must look and act a certain way that is appropriate to their role as a female. These messages have already destroyed many women.

When I was younger, I tried to rid myself of the typical girl image by being strong, hardheaded and tough. I wore t-shirts and jeans almost every day, and by doing so I thought I was showing that I wasn’t weak. But now that I understand how society oppresses girls and how devastating the effects can be, I embrace the fact that I can be feminine and still be strong.


nilima's picture

Dear rachel, i feel the pain

Dear rachel,

i feel the pain while reading your story! life is like this and one has to move on! but to make the future better, one has to learn from past and implement it in present! Your story is really heart touching! and i can see you have a strong voice to be heard, i feel sorry for your sister, but as i read i find, you were the best sister of her and you are the best!Life without sister is like life without best friends!

And yes i see the strong feminine :)

Rachel Symons's picture

Dear Nilima, Thank you! Your

Dear Nilima,
Thank you! Your words are encouraging and empowering. It is comforting to know others understand and hear your voice in the midst of all this chaos in the world, so thank you :)

nilima's picture



sallysmithr's picture

You are strong

I truly enjoyed reading your story and can relate to the struggle. I am in recovery for different addictions but they are all very similar in how they can take over your life an unfortunately can even destroy relationships. Addiction is hard on everyone. I hope your sister continues to recover and it always helps people like us to have the support that she has from you and I'm sure so many others.

Thank you so much for sharing!

Sally Smith

Rachel Symons's picture

Sally, Thank you so much for


Thank you so much for sharing your similar circumstance. If there's anything I learned from a hardship like an addiction, it's that it becomes the most empowering and mending journey for everyone involved. Relationships may be destroyed, but they build themselves back up again into an even stronger relationship. Personally, I found out more about myself in these last few years than I have in my entire life before this, and I know my sister has cultivated a much closer relationship with herself than ever before. As she moves through the later stages of recovery, I have never seen her more sure-footed in her new path towards her goals and dreams. Whether this is a similar experience for most addictions, I obviously cannot say, but I am truly inspired by anyone who can overcome a hardship such as my sister's and your own.


Frances Faulkner's picture

pushing the edges

Rachel --
I think you are right, that addiction can turn into an amazing journey for people, and I am glad your story went that way. When I think of the many people I have known across the years who have faced addiction head on (anorexia, drugs, alchohol) I marvel at their strength, insight, humor and drive to push to the edges of their abilities. On hard days, they often turn to their close friends and family for strength, so it is wonderful you are there for your sister, and that your sister is there for you.


Breese's picture

Rachel, Thank you for sharing

Thank you for sharing your story. It's a powerful message about the struggle women face in society to find the strength to be themselves, and be happy with themselves. And I know how distressing it is to watch your beloved sister battle an eating disorder, as mine is as well. I hope she is better now.


Rachel Symons's picture

Breese, It is always


It is always comforting to know someone else is going through the same things you are. I appreciate you sharing this with me and I hope your sister is getting better as well. My sister is very much healthy again and happier than she's ever been, so there is a beautiful ending to all of this even though it's not evident now.


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