'You're not that fat'. On my eating disorder.
*trigger warning: contains information about bulimia
Yesterday I bought a pair of mom jeans. I haven’t tried them on yet and I’m delaying that moment for as long as I can until I feel ready. Because the material is not stretchy the possibility of me not fitting in and consequently having my day ruined is high. I feel embarrassed saying that and feeling that way. I’ve struggled with emotions like these for about fifteen years and yet, it’s not something I openly admit to, not fully at least.
My earliest memory related to my body is from primary school when looking at a class photo: I could tell I was bigger than the rest and I didn’t like it. I was 10 years old and planning on losing weight. My family and others would always comment on the way I looked: Some would joke, some would compare me to a skinny cousin, my father would say: ‘you should stop eating, you’re already fat’, my mother would suggest I should stop wearing certain clothes and eat less and my grandmother would talk to my mum on how much I had changed and unattractive I was. And the only words of comfort I would get were: ‘You’re not THAT fat’. None of them though has ever been as harsh of a judge as I have.
That went on throughout my teenage years until I graduated from high school and during that time I developed an overwhelming fear of getting my photos taken and trying on clothes in changing rooms. I hated the way clothes would feel against my skin and if I could get away with it I would refuse to get dressed in general.
The summer before Uni started, I would go days without eating. I could quickly see results and became addicted to not eating. I was obsessed with meal planning and strict routines which eventually lead to bulimia. One day my mother found out about my eating disorder and didn’t say a word. Things got worse when I moved into a studio flat. My disorder reached its peak, it was hellish and I did everything you could imagine, from excessive vomiting to late night trips to supermarket when I had nothing to indulge in. This is when my weight would begin to fluctuate. I went through summer breaks without leaving my house. My friendships suffered. Nobody knew, or perhaps they did but never mentioned it.
Managing my disorder on a daily basis is tough, especially when I can’t help but cancel plans and refuse to see anyone when I feel like I overindulged, or when I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror when shopping and run home to cry about it, or when someone makes a comment on my looks and I try to decipher what it really meant, or the discomfort I feel when getting ready for work and leaving getting dressed till last. I’m terrified of days off work because I know this is the time I struggle the most, this is the time I cannot put my illness to rest. These are the times I genuinely think my life is ruined and every single day is a losing battle.
Last year I spoke to my GP about my eating disorder for the first time. Since then I have tried harder to manage the negative thoughts and stop them from affecting me so much. Usually it doesn’t work. Yesterday wasn’t a good example. I’m still letting my old ways and habits take control. Trying to tame it seems to be the only option right now.
Body positivity is a big deal these days. We’re all becoming more and more aware of mental health issues, ‘hidden’ conditions and disorders. Everybody is being vocal about self-love and care these days, which is good. Ideally, I want to join in. But it’s tricky to do the first step and open up. Especially when the pressure to embrace yourself is so high. I don’t feel like there’s enough discussion on the actual road to self-acceptance itself. You know, the part where you go from self-loathing to going on about your day without an urge to binge, or having to think about how your body looks. Random tips or hacks on how to love yourself more don't work for me. Somehow I don’t think a full body mirror challenge, when I can’t even look at my face, or ignoring the imperfections and looking for the good bits will help me love my body for what it is. I have to refrain myself a lot from saying things that might appear unhealthy or problematic. Hence, I’m very wary of what I say on social media.
There’s a lot more to add and this may be a story for another time. I think it’s related. But for now this will do.
Thanks for reading to those who took their time to go through the whole thing. I’d appreciate if you’d be willing to share your stories and thoughts.