As of tonight, about 7:45pm, I’ve had a few helpings of leftover Chinese food, a little mac and cheese,and a couple of glasses of rum in between. (Not the breakfast, lunch, dinner or drink of champions or holistic health enthusiasts, I know, but bear with me.)
As of 7:45pm about eight years ago, I might have eaten an apple. Or I could’ve binged on pizza all day, who knows – either way, I probably would’ve thrown it up by now.
About eight years ago, I was in the middle of a long bout of disordered eating. I’ve never been officially diagnosed with anorexia, bulimia or any other the other things people think of when they hear the term “eating disorder.” I’ve been to several therapists, however, who’ve tried to help me get to the root of my particular case – a wide berth of self-loathing where self-love should have been. I had allowed it to become an undercurrent of my life and sweep me into situations rife with toxicity.
It all started when I was about 11 or 12, your average young, awkward, nervous preteen. I remember sneaking downstairs after everyone else had gone to sleep or was just too tired to notice, with stacks and stacks of sandwiches and cookies, piles of potato chips and a big glass of milk (or two) to wash it all down. I’d stuff myself quickly, savoring the fleeting pleasure of every sweet (and salty, and spicy) bite. Just moments later, waves of shame and guilt would wash away whatever pleasure my illicit meal had given me.
I’d assuage my shame and guilt with either far too much time on the treadmill in my parents’ basement, or if I felt particularly ambitious, a resolution to consume only 600 calories the next day. If overindulged and rose above the calorie mark, I’d slash the calorie count for the following day. And so on. And so on.
Sometimes, my parents would notice, but they didn’t know what to do. Alarmed by my excessive exercising but unaware of the extent of my issues, they’d yell at me to make me stop, when they could; my mother even threatened to “have the church pray” for me. So I just got better at hiding it from them. I’d always had a high metabolism and never gained a pound from my late-night binges, so my overeating was concealed, and I would simply limit my excessive workouts to when my parents weren’t home. I belonged to secret internet groups that encouraged starving and purging. My secret life was safe. Perhaps it wasn’t perfect, it wouldn’t have made sense to anyone else had they known of it, but I didn’t care. It was something I could call my own; I felt that it gave me an identity, a sense of purpose. It was as false as it was dangerous, but it was good enough for me. It continued on and off throughout my teenage years, and only got worse when I became an adult. Myeating patterns clumped and rolled into a snowball with other dangerous habits, a cold conglomerateof self-destructive behaviors. I’d begun to self-mutilate, cutting and burning myself to the point where I couldn’t wear short sleeves, and I drank too much in an effort to escape my pain and drown out the darkness. I literally hated myself; I sincerely did not care what happened to me. Had it not been for family – many of whom I’m not even close with – and my desire to not put them through worse pain, I could almost surely have committed suicide.
Eventually I sought help for it, seeing a therapist who tried to helped me deal with the root cause of he issue: a lack of self-esteem, but also a lack of identity. I simply didn’t know who I was. I remember explaining to her that I felt like a house that was up for sale; the lawn was manicured, the shutters had been painted, and I wanted someone – anyone – to stop by and see me. And someone would; I’d make a potential new friend or attract a new lover, perhaps. But the minute the door was open, I’d slam it inthe face of my new prospect. I wouldn’t let anyone inside, wouldn’t let anyone see the real me, because I was ashamed of what was inside of me. I felt there was nothing there at all, that I was empty. I knew I couldn’t be the smartest, the prettiest or the funniest in the room. But I could certainly be the skinniest. I’d always been thin, was even teased for it growing up; now, thinness had become my identity, my raison d’etre. My life began to turn around only after I found a new sense of purpose, a new identity. I found – and let in – new love, a relationship that lasted seven years. I allowed my new partner to love me, to see me for all that I was, and all that I wasn’t. Creating a happy home for the two of us became my new passion, and in doing so, I encountered the world of holistic health. Listening to YouTube gurus like Nubia I. Sutton and Leija Turunen helped me learn new ways to take care of myself (and inspire my then-boyfriend to do the same); I experimented with making green smoothies and salads, and even went vegan. Where self-destruction had once reigned, self-love now began to flourish.
But of course, life is change. The relationship eventually ended, and diet-wise I’ve certainly fallen off the wagon. My life is different now; I’ve moved to a new city, I have a new fiancé, and to be quite honest, the fervor I once held for holistic living has dampened. I don’t hold the same sense of passion or purpose I once did, and as new circumstances enter my life, my perspective and priorities are changing. Sometimes I’m not sure what my purpose is, or if I even have one. But I’ve can always find fresh nourishment by actively taking steps to treat myself well. When I catch myself in the midst of negative self-talk, I change my thoughts to make them more compassionate. I allow myself to be loved and embraced by others, struggle as I might in doing so, empty and inadequate as I may feel sometimes. I eat, frankly, whatever I want to, and though my metabolism isn’t quite as fast as when I was 20, I actually like that I’ve gained a little weight. I feel strong, sexy, and secure. This is yet not a success story; if anything, it’s a confessional. But I’m learning to understand myself, and with understanding comes acceptance – and from self-acceptance, hopefully, comes self-love.
About This Author
Due to the sensitive content of this, the author chose to remain anonymous. Let’s commend her for sharing her personal experiences. She hopes that those who need to hear these words are inspired into taking the first steps toward self-acceptance and self-love. If you or someone you know has experienced an eating disorder, please reach out to a qualified healthcare provider. For more information on how to seek help for an eating disorder, please visit Help Guide.
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