So, school and life in general have kept me pretty damn busy and stressed the last couple months. Sadly, that meant I neglected to post new reviews or even hang out on Twitter. I wanted to post a review today, but since today is the last day of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week I wanted to take the opportunity to discuss something a little more personal (yes, more personal than talking about sex toys).
I want to share my experience with anorexia.
I have only recently, in the past year or so, started accepting my body. For the ten years prior to that, I constantly saw myself as flawed and I wanted to look different, like someone else, someone skinny and beautiful. I distinctly remember becoming aware of my appearance in the fourth grade. I became self-conscious because I had gained some weight, and by seventh grade I was so uncomfortable with how I looked that I stopped eating.
Now, I didn’t really realize what I was doing at first. It wasn’t like it was a strategic thing, where I planned to skip meals and count every calorie I consumed and all that jazz. No. I just thought, ‘oh, maybe I shouldn’t be eating so much… I won’t eat lunch today’. That sort of thing. But eventually it took over and consumed most of my thoughts; I spent hours online on ‘pro-ana’ sites, looking at ‘thinspo’, and writing about my obsessive weight loss with other girls on Xanga (wow, is that even a thing anymore?).
I started getting compliments about my new figure and some of the pretty, popular girls started talking to me. I suppose I could describe it this way: the more invisible I became, the more visible I was. In a short amount of time I lost 50 pounds but no one seemed to wonder how. No one told me I didn’t need to lose any more weight and that there was nothing wrong with me in the first place.
One night, about a year and a half after this all began, I was sitting in my living room talking to a friend of mine over AIM (remember that?) and I admitted to him that I had an eating disorder. He threatened to stop being friends with me if I didn’t get help (which is NOT something I would recommend doing if a friend tells you they are having any sort of mental health issue, btw) and this kind of broke my heart. I started crying and my mom asked me what was wrong – I knew I had to tell her. I did, and she didn’t know what to do other than to hug me as we both cried, telling me how sorry she was that she didn’t realize this was happening. The next day she made some calls and made an appointment for me to see a therapist.
I’m not going to sit here and tell you that recovery was quick and easy because it is far from either of those things. But it is so important. Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. I have been lucky to have two wonderful therapists who have helped me through every relapse and have led me to a place where my thoughts are no longer preoccupied with food and appearance. I also have amazing friends and family that have supported me even when they didn’t understand why I couldn’t “just eat something.”
I’m also not going to pretend that I never have days where I wake up and look in the mirror and hate what I see, or that my thoughts never drift back to ‘I should skip dinner tonight’ when I’m having a stressful day. But I can cope with all of that now and I can proudly say that I am happy with who I am and how I look.
Not everyone will have the same experience as me and develop an eating disorder, but almost every girl I know can relate to at least part of my story. I’ll just leave these statistics here for you to consider: About forty percent of first to third grade girls want to lose weight, and twice as many ten year old girls are afraid of being fat. Sixty percent of women over thirty are dissatisfied with their bodies.
I know it can be difficult to stop worrying about your appearance and what others think of you, but when it comes down to it, fuck anyone who doesn’t appreciate you for who you are. Uh, by that I mean those people are asshats. You shouldn’t be fucking anyone who doesn’t think you and your body are awesome.
For anyone struggling with anorexia, bulimia, or another form of disordered eating, please seek the help you need. See a therapist, talk to a dietitian to learn how to have a healthy relationship with food, and find friends and family who will support you, no matter how scary it seems. Maybe check out some recovery stories, and pick up a copy of Life Without Ed while you’re at it. You deserve to be healthy, and happy. National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) has a Helpline you can call at 1-800-931-2237 Monday-Thursday 9am-9pm EST and Friday 9am-5pm. You can also chat online with a Helpline volunteer during the same hours.
For those of you who know someone who may have an eating disorder, please support them and encourage them to seek out those resources and get healthy. I cannot overstate how important it is to have someone who you can talk to, free of judgment, if you are struggling with an eating disorder. NEDA’s Helpline is also available for friends and family, and they have excellent information here for anyone who wants to learn more about eating disorders, including ways you can help.