Ignore the fact that I am standing with a unicorn. The most perfect unicorn that ever lived.
I’ve done posts like this before, but I’m feeling the need for a little catharsis.
Please bear with me, I apologize.
I got more compliments when I looked like this than I ever have in my life. I stood at the same height I do now (I’m 4’10” and a half), and I weighed about 115 pounds. I was also throwing up everything I ate. I was sick and confused and really lost.
I have been bulimic since I was in the sixth grade. I was always a slightly overweight child. In fact, there’s one specific time in which I remember my dad and my nana talking in my kitchen about “how big I was getting.” I was six years old, and I’m sure they thought that I couldn’t hear them. I heard every word, and I don’t know if I’m reading too much into it now, but six year old me remembered that moment. So did sixteen year old me.
Middle school is relatively easy for overweight kids if they are also funny. I was lucky enough to be blessed with a stellar sense of humor, so the fact that I was overweight didn’t really matter. It came with the territory. I was the funny fat kid. The comedic relief. It definitely isn’t a role that I shunned altogether. I kind of embraced it and ran with it. After all, there wasn’t much else to use as a defense mechanism.
The first time I made myself sick was while I was shopping with my family. It was right after I tried on a pair of shorts at American Eagle and (surprise, surprise) they didn’t fit. I was frustrated, and my mom wasn’t being especially helpful (probably because she was frustrated that I was frustrated). I went into the bathroom in Greenbriar mall, and I stuck my finger down my throat. I don’t even really know where that impetus came from, probably something I had seen on tv. It was weirdly comforting to know that I could exert some amount of control over my situation. I couldn’t make those stupid shorts at American Eagle fit me, but I could definitely rid my body of anything that would get in the way of making them fit.
My body didn’t change much from about sixth grade until eleventh grade. I was throwing up multiple times a day, but my body wasn’t changing at all. I was still the funny fat kid, but I felt like I had more control over things. Bulimia became a coping mechanism. I was depressed because I was still fat and I was grumpy because I was dramatically altering my bodily processes on a daily basis.
I don’t know what it was about Junior year that made things click, but suddenly, my body just said “alright, let’s give it a try.” I dropped about sixty to seventy pounds the summer before my Junior year. I wasn’t really exercising. I wasn’t trying to diet. I was, however, throwing up every single thing I put in my body (yes, even water). I got down to about a size 6 (which by no means looks emaciated), so no one was really too concerned. They just thought I was being healthier, because everyone knows you can’t be fat and healthy (for those of you who didn’t pick that up, it’s sarcasm).
The compliments I got on the first day of school were many. Students, teachers, faculty, my parents, my parents friends all showered me with “wow” and “you look awesome.” Even then, part of me just wanted to tell them, “I’m sick.”
Long story short, my mother found out that I was sick during my Senior year, and she took me to a counselor. The counselor told me things I already knew: I’m type A, I am a control freak, the eating disorder was a symptom, and I wanted to exert a sense of control over myself. She really didn’t tell me anything that I didn’t know already.
My bulimia stopped for awhile during college. I legitimately tried so so hard to be well, for my parents, who had invested so much time and money into making sure that I was safe and well. I relapsed a few times. I think relapse is almost inevitable in a college environment.
I am much better now that I was. Sometimes it’s still so hard to shake the eating disorder that was the determining factor in my life for seven years. I am more well than I have been in a long time. People don’t comment on how skinny or pretty I look anymore. Why would they? When there are so few overweight role models in society, its hard to equate anything but skinny with beautiful.
I guess the whole point of this post is just to let people know how much power words have. I remember the words of my grandma to my dad in my kitchen when I was six years old. I remember every single thing anyone ever said to me about my weight in elementary, middle, high school and even college. They mark me and shape me, but they also broke me for a short time.
I want people to know that they’re not alone, and there is such a thing as recovery. I don’t know if I have found full recovery yet, but I’m working my way there. I am trying to make recovery an active part of my life goals and ambitions.
I think this post also needs to exist in order to let people know that eating disorders are okay to talk about. Silence is so deafening. There is nothing wrong with letting conversations about disordered eating migrate into more popular discourse. We spend so long trying to analyze eating disorders without stopping to ask people how they feel personally. So many people jump to the conclusion that EDs are about body image issues. To some extent, they are. However, they’re also about anxiety and control. Mine is/was more about control and asserting power at a time in which I felt powerless (more on that later). Someone elses reasoning may be different.
If there’s anything this entire experience has taught me, it’s that I am just as beautiful and valuable and worthwhile this way:
as I am this way: