Being young and feeling young are two entirely different concepts, and feeling young is something I’ve not yet experienced. My mom has always joked about my “old soul” being a result of my reincarnation; my past self must have been through quite a bit because it seems as though I was born with an everlasting dark cloud hovering over me.
Because of my lack of youthfulness, it never occurred to me until recently how young I truly was when I first began displaying signs of anorexia.
Imagine a young girl, hardly old enough to shower by herself, staring into her bathroom mirror and examine her body as if trying to determine whether or not it was a nice one. After living in a world where eavesdropping on Mommy and her friends meant hearing them all complain about the so-called flaws on their body, this young girl has difficulty ignoring the fact that her little body may not be perfect, either.
Exercising became an important aspect of my life due to my early-on desire of being desirable. I was determined to be the most athletic because that had to mean I was the skinniest, and to this day I can remember the first time I referred to myself as “fat” in the fifth grade. I have the same body now at sixteen years old as I did when I was eleven. That’s how early and how quickly I developed.
I live in an era where social media dictates how one feels about themselves and others. It had been easy to ignore my body issues so long as I didn’t have to acknowledge the lack of insecurities of others. Unfortunately for me, it was impossible for me to be apart of my own generation without going home from school every day and seeing pictures of my peers loving their lives—and, more importantly, their bodies—even more than I was hating mine. Looking back on it now, all I can ask myself is, “Why were my friends all posting bikini pictures on their Instagram at twelve years old?” None of us were even out of training bras yet. But when I would see girls on Instagram or Snapchat (Facebook wasn’t a place for these pictures since our parents were using it and God forbid our parents know how we’re presenting ourselves online) complaining about their bodies, it was hard for me not to compare myself.
She was always skinnier. The boys were always talking about her butt. Why doesn’t her stomach roll over when she sits down? How does she wear tank tops without having her armpit fat hang out of the straps?
Soon enough, just the thought of food was beginning to make me feel nauseous. It was easy, really, to convince myself not to eat: when one sits at a lunch table surrounded by girls who were more undeveloped than Donald Trump’s healthcare plan, it’s easy to say, “Yeah, I really don’t need this PB and J today.” And, when one can find tips easily online in regards to keeping yourself feeling full for the longest time possible, it’s quite easy to start implementing those tips into everyday life.
I exercised more than I chewed, however chewed more than I ever swallowed, and yet nothing could compare to the amount of time I spent throwing up the food that I had to eat in order to lessen suspicions. It’s exhausting living with a sort of lingering sadness at all times, but it’s even more tiring having to hide it from the rest of the world. Everybody has obsessions that they’re embarrassed about; mine was the idea of being the thinnest person I knew. But no matter how skinny I got, it was never quite enough to satisfy my expectations of myself. Eventually, I didn’t just want to be skinny; I wanted to be dead.
My parents are more observant than I give them credit for. I knew they cared and I knew they were worried. I could not tell you the amount of times I caught my mother sobbing into my father’s chest after yet another skipped meal. Nothing they did, however, could make me eat. My body wouldn’t allow me to eat without feeling unbearably sick. Eating hurt more than starving. Looking in the mirror hurt the worst of all.
Not being able to recognize myself in the mirror has been, and, I think in some way, always will be one of the most challenging things I’ve had to experience. Eating disorders are not completely physical; mentally, one cannot distinguish between reality and what they’ve made themselves out to be. I made myself out to be a lot bigger than I ever have been, and the belief that I was so large caused me to try and lose weight that I didn’t have to lose.
Because I didn’t have any weight to lose, I really only got down to about ninety pounds in the months that I was obsessed with losing weight. This was frustrating for me; even though I was ninety pounds, I didn’t feel thin, and I felt stuck in my process of trying to lose weight. This frustration led to an emotional shutdown that I struggle with even now.
After eight months of this twisted game I was playing against myself, my parents began sending me to counseling. To this day, after years of counseling, I still struggle with body image. I still weigh myself each and every time I enter my bathroom. I still examine my body every night before stepping in the shower. What can I say? Old habits die hard. However, now I can accept and am even learning to love myself and my body. Yes, my hips dip in where they meet my thighs and sometimes, I look like I have some love handles. But I am not afraid of having a food baby anymore. I do not dread the way my thighs expand tremendously when I sit down. The way my stomach folds when I hunch over, I’ve realized, happens to everybody. My body is normal, and as much as I may hate it sometimes, it’s the only one I’m ever going to get. Why spend my entire life hating it?