I thought I was happy with who I became, but the repercussions didn’t agree.
I grew up in a small town located in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the school I attended was K-12 and all of us were located in one building. The entirety of my graduating class was 20 people, each of which I had known and grown up with since 2nd grade. The downfall to this lifestyle was how cruel my fellow peers could be if you weren’t considered “beautiful”.
In my first year of high school, I was slightly overweight for my height. Unfortunately, having this physical appearance made me a target for harassment and bullying. My peers didn’t hold back their insults when it came to reminding me almost daily how I was considered incredibly unattractive.
A memory that remains vivid to this day was when one of the guys in my class knocked me to the ground in the parking lot behind the school when it was raining. I landed in the mud, covered head to toe with brown sludge. He proceeded to laugh hysterically with his three other friends who accompanied him, yelling,
“Oh look! We get to see her true colors, a pig! Oink, Oink!”
At that moment, I felt something crack inside my mind. Any ounce of self-respect and confidence I had started to fall away. I went home sobbing that night, remembering the feeling of utter defeat weighing heavy on my body.
I remember desperately wanting to change the way I appeared in the eyes of others. That very same night, as I laid in bed watching YouTube videos, I discovered someone talking about caloric intake, and how lowering it could help you lose weight.
I think that’s where the starting point was. As the days rolled by, I learned more and more about how I could count the calories I consumed in my day-to-day and how I could lessen them. For the following months, that’s exactly what I did. Little by little, I slowly began to drop my intake, until it became 500 calories a day. For moments where I felt hunger pains, I would chug gallons of water as a substitute. I started to quickly see the results I longed for, in the matter of a year, I managed to drop almost 50 pounds.
Then, for my first day of my senior year, I walked into the school; the feeling of anticipation enveloping my chest, I had no idea how they were going to react. To my utter surprise, the acceptance and appraisal were almost overwhelming. Suddenly everyone started to be kind to me, treating me with a form of respect I had never known before.
It’s because you lost so much weight.
I suddenly found a voice in my mind that day. From then on, it would whisper harsh, degrading insults every time I felt a hunger pain, or suddenly had an urge to go over the caloric intake schedule I had set for myself. In fact, it wanted me to push it even further; only consuming 500 calories every other day, that way I could stay at the appearance that everybody appreciated.
The guys suddenly wanted my attention, the girls wanted to spend time with me, I felt like I was finally happy. I didn’t know at the time that the happiness I felt was manipulation, a form of insurance so that I wouldn’t see just how shattered my mind really was.
Acknowledging The Broken Pieces
At first, I refused to talk to her; I thought the sessions were pointless and that I wasn’t going to change who I was for a woman who didn’t even know me. After all, the opinions of my new “friends” were the ones that really mattered. It was hard though, after only a few sessions I couldn’t help myself from engaging with her, she was just so conversational.
It started off casual, talking about our days and what was new. Then slowly, she started to ask what I had eaten during our conversation of the day. I would lie, just like I did everyone else. After all, I had a handle on it, so I didn’t see the need to talk about it.
She saw right through the lie.
One afternoon, she ordered food for the both of us, Subway. She had inquired about the sub style I used to eat from my mother, and as a result, a foot-long helping of meatballs and melted cheese laid before me. I felt the hunger pains, knowing that all I had consumed before our session was a measly granola bar.
No one likes a pig.
It was there, right on schedule. My little reminder, so I politely declined the sandwich, accepting that I could go without.
“It’s wrong, you know.”
I remember feeling shocked, she looked at me as if she knew what was going on inside my shattered mind. I didn’t know what to say, it was like a lump formed in my throat that wouldn’t let words flow out. All it took was that one sentence for tears to well up in my eyes, to feel as though I could finally let out all of the things I wanted to say.
I poured all of the negative, hateful feelings that were inside me onto her, and I confided in her the residing voice that remained evidently loud within my mind. I didn’t realize how much having her in my life would help with my self-imaging, but it definitely makes a difference when you have the right therapist.
Putting The Pieces Back Together
Finally, the voice was given a name, Anorexia Nervosa. Once I understood its name, I began to work with my therapist to see how it was wrong. My eating disorder (ED) had become a part of who I was, it made me feel beautiful, but in all the wrong ways.
My “friends” who only came to accept me after my unhealthy weight loss were part of the manipulation, unknowingly helping my ED strengthen its hold over me. However, through extensive health and treatment as part of my regime created by my therapist, I was able to slowly get control over who I was again.
It’s not as if my ED is suddenly “cured”, it still remains in the back of my mind to this day. The difference being I was able to discover my self-worth and build confidence in who I was again with the help of others. I found true, honest friends who came to appreciate me for who I am, and even someone who loves me unconditionally.
I feel that once I’m old, I’ll look back on this scenario of my life with contentment. It will be a moment of empowerment, of overcoming an impossible obstacle despite how hard the journey of recovery was. My question for you is, will you feel the same once you’re old? Will you look back on an obstacle such as this one with contentment, or regret?
If you or someone you know is suffering from a situation similar to mine, please reach out to a qualified professional. They can help guide you to the path of recovery, and their helping hands will be a comfort you may have never known before.