I feel like the topics that are the most taboo, are the ones that need to be discussed the most. For me, it took me a very long time to be comfortable in telling my story, and even now I sometimes find myself fearing that my friends will find out about struggles I faced in the past. It’s not that I’m embarrassed of who I am, but explaining that time never seems to make sense when I try to put it into words. I want to write this for girls who are still stuck in this horrible mindset and illness, I want you to understand that you can get better. But you have to do it for yourself. Let’s start from the beginning…
I was raised in a house where weight and food was something discussed often. My mom was a vegetarian who only ate organic and she really wanted us, my sister and I, to eat the same way. She was just trying to instill healthy eating habits but it was clear to everyone around her that she had an obsession. Any time I ate something unhealthy around her I felt horrible about myself. I was nine years old and feeling guilty for eating a cookie in front of my own mother. On the other hand, my dad was all about fast food and constantly battling with his weight. My parents are divorced, so going from house to house, my eating habits were completely different. I would be with my dad and eat fast food for two days straight, then go back to my mom’s house and lie to her about it. Eating disorders run in my family. All females in my immediate family have suffered, so I guess it was just inevitable.
I was always a pretty cute kid in my eyes, until I hit about 6th grade. I know everyone goes through an awkward phase but even now when I look back on my appearance, I cringe. I was very chubby, had braces, and don’t even get me started about my clothes. I think it was in middle school I realized I could lose weight and feel better about myself if I stopped eating. It wasn’t a constant thing, everything starts out small. I remember when school weigh ins came around I wouldn’t eat the day before or the day of. I thought that actually made a difference, so as I got older, I started to do it more often.
I honestly do not know the turning point of my eating habits but it felt like I got sick over night. I just remember waking up one day and thinking, “I’m not eating today”. And that was that. Every time something bad would happen, I would just assume it was because I was fat. I would refuse to eat dinner with my mom. There was one week where I ate dinner one time and maybe lunch twice. The crazy part was, my mom knew what I was doing and she didn’t stop me. She would tell me to eat or roll her eyes when I refused but she didn’t seem like she actually cared, so I kept going until people cared.
I don’t think I noticed I was actually losing weight until the beginning of my sophomore year when cheerleading started. I put on my old uniform and it was completely hanging off my body. I showed my mom, and she just stared at me in horror. I couldn’t walk without my joints popping with every step and my hair was beginning to fall out. Girls at school would snicker behind my back at lunch when I didn’t eat, and boys just thought I was weird. I became a master at fooling people around me by hiding food in my pockets, in my socks, and I even used to smear food in my hair just so it was off my plate. It wasn’t about not wanting to eat, I physically could not bring myself to do it.
This went on for years, and no one helped me. I woke up every day waiting for my mom or my sister or really anyone to tell me I needed to stop. I was dying, and I felt like no one cared. But one day I realized, if no one if going to step up, maybe I need to do it for myself. I started eating dinners, and stopped using laxatives. I took my health into my own hands. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do, and honestly I still cry when I eat big meals, I still skip dinner sometimes, and I constantly wish I was thinner. But now I know what it is like to be at that rock bottom, and I know that I never need to go back. I’m almost 20 years old, I don’t need to look like I’m 16.
Just keep in mind, recovery comes in waves. I did well for months but this summer was really hard for me. I was away from my friends and back in the environment that drove me to have these issues in the first place. I was trying to be strong but it got to the point that I started to tear up when my mom asked me to finish my glass of orange juice. This will always be a struggle.
As hard as it is to share these details with strangers, I am not blind to the fact there are girls out there at their rock bottom right now. Just know that you can get better, even if you have to take the first step alone. Maybe it will take you a month to snap out of it, or maybe you will be like me and it will take years. All progress is okay.