Confession time: I almost didn’t graduate High School. It’s a fact, and I’m not proud of that. I almost didn’t graduate because I almost failed a class my Senior Year that was needed to graduate. It’s another fact, and I’m not proud of that.
But the “almost failing a class” was a symptom of a bigger problem, Anorexia, which was just a side effect of the underlying condition, Depression, with which I had been suffering for years. I’d like to attribute my depression to my sexual assault, but I think it’s always been a part of me (for more on that, you can click here). As for the Anorexia, that started in 9th grade, became more acute after I stopped cutting, and didn’t stop completely until last year, September 24, 2013, during the beginning of my sophomore year of college.
It started in 9th grade when I began to realize I wasn’t as pretty as other girls. It became more acute after I stopped self-harming because all the hate I felt toward myself had to find other channels of escaping. It came to a complete stop during my Sophomore Year of High School after the grip it had on me for years gradually began to weaken as I began to love myself again.
During my Senior Year of High School is when my eating disorder became just that: a disorder that caused order to become chaos. I’ve never dealt well with chaos. My life felt like it was spinning out of control, so I tried to control what I could. I could control the amount of food going into my mouth, and so I did. I meticulously counted calories. I started eating less and less and less. My schedule was perfect: I woke up too late to grab breakfast, so breakfast was usually a granola bar grabbed from the kitchen. I was taking too many classes to have a scheduled lunch, so I grabbed lunch (either snack bars from my locker or something from the cafeteria). The good I bought (which wasn’t much) was thrown away. The food I grabbed from my locker went back.
My locker became a storage facility for all the calories I didn’t feel worthy enough of eating; I gave it away to my friends who need it more than me.
I almost failed a class because I couldn’t concentrate. My body was demanding food, and I was depriving it. You couple my roaring stomach with the screaming in my head, I was miserable. So I let my grades slip. And I barely managed to graduate.
But I did.
I swore to myself that when I went to College, I’d do better. I’d eat. I’d have a clean slate. I would not worry about others judging when I ate. I would forget the fact that with every bite I put in my mouth, I’d feel less and less secure and more and more judge by those around me.
But it didn’t happen. I walked into my campus dining hall on the first day of classes my Freshman year, and then I immediately walked out. There were so many pretty faces, and I wasn’t one of them.
. . .
When I tell people I was anorexic, they find it hard to believe. Sometimes I find it hard to believe. I find it hard to believe that a year ago I was skipping meals like an atheist skips church. I didn’t need God. My God was my rumbling stomach, and I found comfort in the rumbly in my tummy (as Pooh Bear would say).
I stopped eating because I didn’t think I was beautiful enough. I would get up every day, and I would look in the mirror, hate what I saw, and would compensate by being someone I’m not. And it was physically and mentally exhausting. Between the not eating and the not being, I was having a really hard time.
I was fighting a Battle of Comparisons, and I couldn’t win. I was always not good enough, not pretty enough, not ‘insert adjective here’ enough.
And people don’t understand when I explain to them I wasn’t trying to die. I was trying to live. People don’t understand that my Depression and Anorexia weren’t about a lack of faith, because I had so much faith. Every day I had to get up and have faith in the floor to hold me up, have faith that I wouldn’t die if I put food in my mouth, and have faith in God to get me through the day alive.
I didn’t want to die. I wanted to live. But I didn’t know how to live in a body I hated so much. I felt like my life was spiraling out of control, and there was nothing I could do about it. So, I controlled the one thing I knew how: the amount of food I ate.
And every day it was a battle. Every day is a battle for people who struggle with anorexia. Your stomach is telling you to eat, but your mind is telling you, “Nah, bro. No good.” And how can you argue with that? You know what they say: Mind over matter. Or in this case: Mind over stomach growling. It’s finding the perfect balance between how much you want to eat and how much you’re willing to let yourself eat. It’s about taking one bite at a time until you hate yourself so much you can’t take another bite. And then it’s about repeating this action over and over.
It gets to the point where you have two options: either you die, or you get help.
I got help. I told my friends. They started holding me accountable, eating lunch with me, checking to make sure I ate, making sure I didn’t skip a meal.
And I don’t know when things began to change. I didn’t wake up one day and decide to start eating. And I don’t know why I had the sudden change of mind. I didn’t wake up one morning and decide I was worth enough to eat. I didn’t wake up one morning and decide I was beautiful. I didn’t wake up one morning and decide my life was back in control, because it’s not. I don’t have my life controlled. At all.
Every day is still a battle: a battle to get out of bed, a battle to put food in my mouth, a battle to not hole myself up in the library somewhere. But I try my best to do what I can to live. Life is not about surviving; it’s about thriving. I was barely surviving for so long, I want to thrive.
I was so focused on trying to be beautiful, I missed what was right in front of me. I am beautiful because of who I am. I am beautiful because of who I was. I am beautiful because God made me in his image.
. . .
I’m a Senior in College, and I’m experiencing the same feelings of terror and panic I did when I was a Senior in High School: the crippling fear of the future, the uncertainty about what lies ahead. Only this time, I’m a lot happier. I’m a lot healthier. And I still have my bad days, but I know where to find my strength to persevere.
It’s September 24, 2014. I haven’t skipped a meal in one year.
I’m a recovering Anorexic.
And I am beautiful.