Before you read this – there’s some pretty heavy subject matter that follows. If you have or have had an eating disorder, you may find this blog post triggering and I would suggest you skip this one!
My growth has not been a linear path.
I looked at this photo the other day and remembered exactly how I felt at the time. I felt like I still had an eating disorder, despite looking fine. I felt like all my friends from school didn’t like me any more and I had to be a different person to attract new friends. I felt like I had to constantly change my hair colour to keep up with the pressure I put on myself to be attractive. I felt like I had to suck in my stomach on the beach. I felt like I had to skip meals and feel hungry in order to be smaller.
Looking back it’s so sad to think that incidents and things that were going on around me perpetuated all these ideas I had about myself. I thought I was unattractive and this was supported by the fact that I’d never had a boyfriend. I thought I was bigger than all of the girls around me and this was supported by the fact that I wore a size eight while they were all in size sixes. I had seen 49kg on the scales not so long ago, so now that I saw 62kg, that confirmed it.
I remember some particularly nasty comments that I received between the ages of 17 and 18. I hadn’t been very well for quite some time and like many people who experience eating disorders, my face became quite puffy during recovery, it’s quite common actually. My face is pretty full at the best of times and I have really prominent cheekbones but the sudden weight gain to my face made me so very self-conscious.
I remember getting called chipmunk or squirrel a lot.
If I was as bold and assertive as I am now, I would have loved to respond with strength, “my face looks like this because I make myself purge every other day. I do it because I’m deeply sad and I don’t know how to cope”. Then stand there and see how that made them feel. Instead, I convinced myself that I was unlovable and accepted that I was never going to be the pretty girl. I took all of the insults and to be honest, I cared far too much about what other people thought of me, so it dragged me down.
I remember fearing that my metabolism was broken. After spending a good chunk of my time eating 400-600 calories a day, during the recovery process my body put on a lot of weight very quickly. It’s actually edema or water weight but I just saw it as fat gain. I associated it with a loss of control and started exercising addictively to make up for the feeling of helplessness.
I remember going out a lot, drinking a lot of alcohol and masking my unhappiness by partying until the wee hours of the morning.
The thing is, most of the thoughts that I thought were reality, weren’t.
I can remember all of these things but none of it defines me.
I know that girl but I don’t share her burden. I’ve overcome 95% of the things she struggled with.
The most important part of this entire story is that it has made me a stronger, fully-aware and feeling human. I’ve moved on, gained strength, learnt countless lessons. I am the evolved, super-saiyan version of the girl on the left in the photo.
The most important part of this entire story is that I look back, remember and acknowledge the things I used to think about myself. I have the strength now to see the struggle while knowing it doesn’t have the power to affect me ever again.
Look back at your own struggle. Acknowledge the pain then focus on the many lessons you’ve learnt, the many ways you’ve developed and credit yourself for what an amazing thing you’ve done to overcome it. Don’t let it define you though.
“What a liberation to realise ‘the voice in my head’ is not who I am. Who am I then? The one who sees that” – Eckhart Tolle