In honor of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week I want to talk more about my personal struggles with this motherfucker of a disease.
I’ve always felt uneasy in my body, like my body was somehow wrong. I can’t really remember a time before this was the case. I could sit here and pretend like I don’t know where those feelings came from, but I do. They came from a society that was/is weight obsessed. They came from growing up in a home where my family wasn’t immune to these societal pressures. They came from years and years of watching underweight women portrayed on my television screen and in my magazines. They came from a truly fucked up societal ideal of what a body can and can’t be. When I think of the earliest memory I have of feeling “fat” (fat is not a feeling, it is a descriptive word that society has conditioned us to believe has a negative connotation, when in actuality it is not a bad thing—I know this now, but then I did not) I am brought back to my 8 year old self on picture day in the 3rd grade. Yes, you heard me. 8 years old. My mom had dressed me in a hideous red collared shirt with a monkey on it (still mad mom, hope you’re reading this), and I remember HATING this shirt. Partly because it really was just ugly, but mostly because I felt “fat” in it. I felt uncomfortable, it clung to me in ways that I didn’t like, I felt like it showed my belly rolls, and I knew from my Tiger Beat magazine that this was NOT okay. I remember standing in line, waiting for my turn, waiting to have my picture taken, and wishing I was anywhere but there. Again, I was 8.
From that moment on I obsessed about my body. It didn’t turn into disordered eating for a long time, but I now know the seed was planted during this time, I was already tending to my future disordered behaviors. As time went on and I continued growing, in age and body size, the feeling of uncomfortableness in my body grew. With every pound added so did another level of hatred (for myself). And let me tell you, when this starts at the age of 8, you have a lot of pounds to go. Years passed, my hatred festered, and then I was 13. I was 13 and googling how to have an eating disorder. I was 13 and educating myself on the world of ED’s. I was 13 and visiting pro-ana and pro-mia sites. I took this information in and I hated myself even more for not being able to control my eating in the way I felt like other girls my age could. I hated myself for not being a size 0 like all of my friends, I hated myself for having the body of a competitive soccer player and I hated myself for not doing anything about it. At 13.
Time continued on and all of a sudden I was entering my first year of high school. This was when I was introduced to the feeling of being drunk. I loved it. I felt free for the first time. When I was drunk I didn’t care about what my body looked like, I didn’t care that I preferred to kiss girls over boys, I didn’t care about anything except my next drink. I can remember the first night I got drunk, the moment I realized this could be my safe space, my happy place, but then my safe and happy place quickly turned into a horrifying night, but instead of giving up the booze then, I decided to continue to try and reach that happy place again, where I felt free in my body, and with that more and more terrible nights occurred. And of course, with all of this drinking, my body continued to grow and the hatred grew with it.
And then I was 16 and I can remember crying in my bedroom in the mornings before school, every item of clothing I owned scattered around the floor because it seemed everything made me look too big, and putting my sweats back on and crawling back into bed pretending I was sick so I didn’t have to go. And this is when all of the hatred bubbled over, this was when all of the research I had been doing since the age of 13 became my reality, this was when shit hit the fan. For the first time. It was Christmas break of my junior year of high school, I knew spring break was right around the corner, I knew the girls I was going with and I knew I was nowhere near their size. I decided it was the right time, it was the right time to develop my eating disorder. Yes, I actually decided this. I allowed the bitchy voice in my head, the voice that had been growing since the age of 8, to encompass my entire being. I allowed it to force me to run 5 miles a day and eat an alarmingly small amount of calories per day. I allowed it to weigh me a minimum of 3 times a day. I allowed it to teach me how to purge. I allowed it to control me. And I lost the weight, I did, but you see that’s the trick, because it wasn’t enough. It’s never enough. And it will never be enough. But then something weird happened. I arrived at spring break, the smallest I had ever been, and something else took over. Alcohol.
Alcohol took over, and it took precedent from that moment on until I got sober almost 2 years ago. Now this is not to say I wasn’t still struggling, I was, but my body changed again. I couldn’t keep the weight off with the high amount of calories I was consuming through my alcohol consumption. So it wasn’t as noticeable to the outside world, it was easier to hide my behaviors. And my behaviors did die down, the voice wasn’t as loud anymore, I mean, how could it be? I was drunk. But then I got sober, and the weight started falling off. All of a sudden I wasn’t bloated anymore, and the number on the scale started decreasing rapidly. I remember the day I got out of the hospital, my 3rdday sober, on the way home, thinking: “If I don’t get this under control the ED will come back, I know it will.” And I allowed it to. But my question is: How could I not? How could I not when everyone in my life associated my weight with my recovery? How could I not when my strength of getting sober was so tied into what the size of my body was? How could I not when a complement on my sobriety always immediately followed a complement on my weight loss? And this is society. And this is where this shit really starts pissing me off. Because I do not believe the people who were doing this had malicious intent, actually I know they did not, these people loved me, a lot, but they weren’t and aren’t immune to societies’ tactics. They aren’t immune to the messaging we have all been fed since birth. They truly saw my weight loss as a celebratory event. And this saddens me. It saddens me that society is so conditioned to behave this way. It saddens me that this is our normal; that weight commentary is just a basic part of everyday life.
And it saddens me for the 8 year old girl who decided her body was wrong on that day so long ago. And I wish I could travel back in time and hug that girl, just for a second.