Disclaimer: This post contains content about eating disorders that may be harmful or traumatizing to some readers. Written by an anonymous community member.
11 years old. I’m at the doctor’s office, the nurse has done the usual poking and prodding, and when the pediatrician returns, she looks at my mother, empathy dripping from her eyes, and says, “Well, she’s not technically overweight.”
13 years old. PE class locker room. Another girl stares at me in my uniform with envy, she proclaims to the class that she wished she had beautiful curves like I did. To emphasize her point, she lays her hand on my hip, instead of being met with a Kardashian-esque waistline, her hand sinks into the soft skin of my hips. The girl pulls her hand away like I’ve burned her, she looks down and issues the class a faint “Oh. Nevermind.”
14 years old. I’m in the basement of my best friend. Upstairs in the kitchen lies a box overflowing with powdery pastries courtesy of her mother. I felt pride in my decision to decline the treat, there is a certain glow about the girls who say no to dessert. Later, it comes to our attention that all of them have been eaten. My friend’s brother looks at me with a smirk on his face and says, “Well it was obviously her. Mystery solved.” I laughed along but remembered to do a few extra crunches that night.
18 years old. I’ve developed a few new catchphrases. “Oh I’m not hungry right now, thank you though!”, “Actually I ate before I came.”, and, my personal favorite, “Thank you so much, but I’m actually allergic.” Everything I look at is seen through the clouded lens of growing up alongside an eating disorder. When I’m invited to spend time with my friends, I wonder how I can avoid a meal, maybe if I suggest a movie, I can suggest popcorn for dinner. Since we’re sitting together we might as well share the popcorn, I’ll even pay! Now I’ll hold the bucket in my lap and occasionally reach in, pulling out a clenched fist with nothing in it but the shards of my blissfully ignorant youth.
Over the years I became a master of all of the tricks. If you are in my position, you are hunched over your computer waiting with bated breath for me to give you all of the secrets, how did I go undetected, how did I avoid eating, these sure are the million-dollar questions. The truth is, I didn’t. Not really. I mean sure, I listened to Sara Kays and Bon Iver enough to be considered a category 5 red flag, but at the end of the day, it wasn’t me. When you suffer from something like an eating disorder, or depression, or anxiety, you become a mere shadow of your former self. I was simply a marionette and my disorder my puppeteer. I had no control over my mind or body, I wasn’t making the calls. My switchboard operator fell asleep and I floated aimlessly through space, hoping autopilot would see me to the ground with only a few cuts and bruises along the way.
The hardest part is that while you’re there, it doesn’t even feel like a problem. The hollow growls of my stomach felt like a victory. Feeling the rush of cool water trickle down the well and fill you up was an unparalleled euphoria that I couldn’t resist. I was winning. I was shrinking. I was dying.
Queue the second act redemption arc:
It seems I miscalculated one minor detail. When you spend every waking moment with someone, they’re going to catch onto your antics at some point. Initially, the thought of being discovered is the purest form of failure. All that work to become invisible and I’ve shredded it all with a single misstep. However, as time goes on, I can assure you, the death of your best-kept secret only means the rebirth of the rest of your life. Suddenly, meal times were becoming less scary. My friends distracted me with conversation, keeping us busy while we let our predator instincts take over in Qdoba. I was met with endearing text messages: “Good morning, please try to eat something today”, “Hello! You are worth more than any number!”, and “I am proud of you. You are strong, and you are doing incredible.”
You are strong, and you are doing incredible.
No part of this experience has been easy. There are some days that I still struggle, but before I shut down any further, I stop and reflect a moment. Bodies are different, we’re composed of the same nuts and bolts, but the end result is unique and beautiful. What makes you worthwhile isn’t your jean size, it’s your humor, your intelligence, your interests, those random little things that for no good reason infuriate you. You are who you are for a reason, and who you are is perfect, just as it is, was, and will be forever.