Today’s blog features a guest writer who wishes to remain anonymous. Here is her story about dealing with an eating disorder.
I don’t know really where to start. Part of me is always confused about how to speak about my eating disorder history when for most of my life I did not even see it that way. Part of me also sees it as a “first world problem” and whenever I’d feel an incredible sadness regarding my looks and failures (that’s often how I’d connect those topics) I’d just let myself go through the awful days of secret crying and maybe a few days/weeks of bad mood without telling anyone what the nature of it really was. Just simply “bad times that I’ll get over and just move on with my life”.
Of course, it wasn’t about having only a bad mood. Most of the times I’m a highly functioning, depth seeking person, who does not want to focus on looks only. I’m aware that self-love is the key to create a balance in life, in self-progress. I’m aware of so many traps that we, as human beings fall very easily into. But that does not stop the weak part of my mind from being very puzzled, miserable, self-loathing, toxic, desperate at times.
It’s safe to say, an eating disorder is never just about looks. Most of the time I felt loved by my family and friends, but certain “family drama” for sure influenced my perspectives (like my parents splitting before I reached age 1), and added to many unpleasant memories regarding my looks. For example, my dad made a lot of comments about how good it is that I lost weight when I was 18. I think he hinted that he was worried about my health, but it still sounded incredibly judgmental.
Actually, I should say it started with my mum who was scared of – for health reasons as well – me gaining a lot of weight when I was a kid. And I understand that. Yet still, how I remember one specific summer when me, my mum, her friend and the friend’s two sons had holidays together at the seaside. It was great and fun, but I was constantly reminded by my mom how to avoid sugary and fatty foods cause it’s bad for me. I was around 9 (I think) and I had no idea what her problem was. The only feeling that stuck with me was that the sons of my mum’s friend are better than me, because they somehow deserve to eat whatever they want and I have to be limited to tastless youghurt and banana as a sweet treat. I demanded an explanation after few days of bubbling childish frustration and I got it – I have to be careful with fat in my body, because it’s harming me and since I had a heart surgery as a baby, I have to be even more mindful. Obviously, in hindsight, I’m glad my mom taught me so much about healthy eating and understanding chemistry within our bodies (she studied food technology and to this day is passionate about science). But that specific summer I remember getting very bitter over “my looks.”
Believe me, it didn’t end with my parents though. A lot of people in my close surroundings (my parent’s age or older) liked to comment on my looks, including my grandma’s sister and sometimes they were nice, sometimes brutally harsh, especially about me being chubby – I already start to feel upset just thinking of all this. Mainly because a lot of times I wished to be thin just so people could get off my back and stop harassing me with their opinions. Don’t get me wrong though – I liked discussing all sorts of topics, but my weight was not one of them and I have not asked for it. And that suppressed anger had slowly grown into a very unbalanced attitude towards myself.
The thing is, I loved food. I started loving sports and movement too (at age 11 I started playing volleyball in an amateur sports club; I was kayaking regularly with my mum; sometimes I was swimming) but I loved food and that did not work to my benefit. What’s more, the more I dreamed of being thin and not eating, the more I got myself to binge eat. I obsessively read blogs about anorexia, watched awfully skinny girls photos, read hundreds of stories of losing weight with a crazy envy. I tried starving myself, I tried using anti-cough pills with ephedrine (which is a stimulant) to motivate myself to excersise at home, I tried to throw up every time I binged… I tried many things…
I can recognize the similarities between my thinking and the classical eating disorder reasons like gaining control, feeling like losing weight could prevent me from getting the unwanted attention (at age 14 I didn’t want some elder creeps to be interested in my curves) + attention of people all ages around me, including a teacher at my school who said I shouldn’t be wearing the type of jeans I liked because it “doesn’t suit my body type”. FYI, I never heard from my other classmates who would also be considered “bigger” to have such experiences with our teachers which makes me wonder why was I so “blessed” with “advices” all the time. Basically, the fat started to equal failure. (Still is, but a lot of things changed in the meantime which helped me to stay reasonable and focus on health). I’ve learned that I can’t starve and I can’t throw up. I felt like a loser cause I can’t even have a “proper” eating disorder. I can’t have the one that would make me thin. No one would see, no one would expect anything unless I said something disturbing out loud. But even then, I was surrounded with girls and adult women
saying constantly “I need to lose some fat” so everyone was numb to my comments (to this day I believe the society I grew up with is incredibly, but not always willingly judgemental, so even when you’re slim, it’s polite to be humble aka criticize yourself so you don’t seem full of yourself; even if in reality you still like to show your body, you crave for attention, but you cannot complement yourself – ’cause you might sound like a diva). Imagine, I got to a point where I literally have wished I could have been anorectic cause maybe people would care. Maybe I could draw the attention to myself without using words and once I’d be so thin I’d be falling apart they could finally feel guilty about their comments and I could openly blame them. I fantasized about it a lot.
The thing is I lost a significant amount of weight few times in my life and every time it felt awesome. I got compliments all the time. You might think it sounds shallow, but believe me, the more I stopped caring about people’s feedback, the more compliments I’ve received. Of course it boosted my fragile ego, fed the narcissistic little ugly duckling in me. Every time, for a while it was amazing to experience the positive attention, the “love and affection”, the “ooh lala” in people’s reactions. Though I liked it, I also hated it, because I was wondering was I so worthless and disgusting being my “normal self”? And it created a huge amount of pressure. At the end of high school I got ill (to this day I have no idea what it was) and I could barely eat as my gums were constantly swollen and I had a fever every evening for like 2 weeks. When I came back to school 2 sizes smaller one of my favorite teachers asked me if I’m anorexic. I was shocked cause I didn’t see myself being slimmer (body dysmorphia at it’s best), I also was not prepared to have that question asked, and definitely not in front of other people from my class. I wish I could describe to you that tremendous happiness when I heard that question! The most messed up part of the day is me glowing with pride that I had finally made someone think I might be sick. Yet I never really considered myself sick up to age 25.
I don’t really want to get more into the details of how my weight was up and down, but it is a vicious circle of people’s comments. Luckily, it’s so much less important to me nowadays. I know how I can defend myself, I’m trying to be honest and polite in my explanation of why the topic should be no one’s concern but my own (and maybe my doctor’s if there are some actual health issues). Yet with all the support and wisdom I receive I just can’t get over that time of judgment, humiliation and anger from the past. Especially now that I’m struggling with gaining weight. For the past 2 years I have had so many weight struggles due to my change of metabolism, very irregular life rhythm, a lot of travelling and lack of focus.
I will openly say I’m a chronic dieter, but I feel lucky to finally have a mindset where I search for a healthy lifestyle that suits me and is not the absolute bullshit calorie count. I started to enjoy workouts which are easy to do wherever I go, instead of depending on sports that I love but cannot access so left me not having enough movement in my life. But most of all, I’m lucky ’cause I want to become healthy with my mindset and I hope to help others in the future. The hardest, longest and most challenging fight is always to love yourself as you are.