I feel like my life is always a struggle between being “healthy” and being “skinny.” I feel like I’m constantly battling demons with every bite I take. Every mile at the gym, I wonder why I’m running, or whom I am running from. Is every step a step towards a healthy lifestyle, or a step towards an overworked, starved girl? I have no idea. I self-diagnosed myself with EDNOS, which stands for ‘Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified’ about a year and a half ago, right after I was dumped by my boyfriend. After being dumped, your mind seems to try to rationalize everything and anything about the termination of the relationship. For some reason, the fact that I was not as skinny as I could be was what I fixated on. I always had a self-confidence problem. I shy away from large crowds because I feel as if everyone is staring at me and judging me for who I am or what I lack. I am nothing extraordinary. I am a petite, somewhat attractive young woman who is incredibly awkward around people her own age.
After the breakup, I lost 8 pounds within 2-3 weeks just because every time I tried to eat, I was forced to throw it back up due to a horrible reaction from my nerves. Apparently heartbreak can cause some pretty nasty side effects. Once I noticed how 8 pounds changed my appearance, I started craving to lose more weight. I became incredibly aware of what I ate. I kept, and still keep, a log of all my food every single day. I am very aware of every calorie I ingest, whether it’d be from a solid or a liquid. Within the next month, I hovered between 108-110 pounds. Now, as I am only 5’1, this is in range of a normal weight/BMI for my height. I looked good, but not good enough.
Suddenly, all of the memories from grade school and high school came back to me. Being called “thunder thighs” in the hallway echoed in my head constantly, every single time I lifted a fork to my mouth. I was never a fat kid, but I was always thicker. I weighed around 120 pounds from the time I was 12 until I was 18. I was active in high school, so much of the fat I had converted into muscle, but I was still thicker. I was always a size 7-9. But all the sudden, what I was used to stopped being good enough. I was sick of hating myself and seeing all the fat on my body. I remembered being so afraid to take off my cover-up at every single pool party in high school or secretly wishing I would get a stomach virus so I wouldn’t have to go shopping for new clothes. I remember a time in high school where I would self-harm, mostly because I hated myself. I hated who I was, my awkwardness with other kids, and how I felt about my body.
Apparently being dumped managed to dig up all of the terrible thoughts and feelings about myself. I’ve never been rejected before, mainly because no one typically gave me the opportunity to be rejected. I was ignored by the majority of my class, only making friends who I “felt safe” around. Kids who I knew would never care how heavy or how skinny I was, kids who were intelligent and aware that a person has so much more to offer than just beauty or appearances. These kids put a temporary patch on all of my cuts, and led me to the false assumption that I was healed of my self-destructive attitude.
This attitude resurfaced when I was forced to hear that my boyfriend of almost two years (5 days short of two years to be exact) told me that he didn’t love me anymore and that he felt that way for several months. This shattered me in a way I never thought possible. How was I so blind to not see that my relationship was falling apart? I was left a broken mess. Worst of all, I was left without a real explanation for the reason our relationship ended, so naturally my old, buried demons managed to resurface and imagine the worst possible reasons for being rejected.
“You are ugly.”
“You are fat.”
“You are worthless.”
“You are nothing.”
“You are not good enough.”
These words were constantly replayed in my head for over two months. Two months, four nervous breakdowns and 13 pounds later, my best friend and I got in a fight, which is something we have never done in the 11 years of our friendship. I realized that this breakup had such a massive and negative impact on my life, and it was time to get over it. He didn’t love me, but that didn’t need to mean I couldn’t love myself. My best friend managed to point out everything that changed in me since the break up. I realized she was right, but I was only willing to fix certain aspects of myself. The weight would never be regained I decided. I was to never go back to that weight again.
Not even 24 hours after I had made this “epiphany,” I received a text message from my ex-boyfriend. He missed me and realized he was wrong and he understood if it was too late. I called him and we talked for several hours. Problems with the relationship and things we’ve both done as single adults were discussed, and we were left in limbo. I was unsure of what to do next. I still very much loved him, but I loved him as I loved my childhood bedroom. I was so attached to all of the memories and feelings associated with it, but I felt ready to move on. However, when we met up about one week later, I realized that it was not over between the two of us. Out of everything that was talked about that night, the words that had the most impact on me were, “You look amazing! Have you lost weight?”
Those words. Those horrible, beautiful, sinfully wonderful words. The words I crave to hear constantly. I thought us getting back together would stop this obsession with thin, but it only calmed the beast for a short while. I soon found myself cutting calories, or ‘forgetting’ to eat because “I was just SO busy!” I went through periods of purging after I ate, or periods of time I would just eat everything I could get my hands on. This typically led to another period of purging or a day or two of fasting. I lost weight, I gained weight. It was constantly changing and my moods depended solely on a number the scale showed. Anything from 103-105 was okay, anything more than that meant I was a failure who didn’t deserve anyone’s love or food.
This went on for a while, but my friends started noticing the weight loss. I was questioned, but I was always good at hiding self-destructive behavior. After all, I cut my arms for years and they were none the wiser to my actions. This was a piece of cake. I told them I was working out more or that I was having stomach issues. My friends eventually backed off and I thought I was golden, I thought no one knew my secret. My boyfriend seemed to love the new me, and he had no idea how I managed to achieve my now very small frame. But he never questioned, and I never said. It was the perfect agreement.
My moods suffered and I was always tired, physically and emotionally. I was always making sure I covered my tracks so no one knew my secret, I eventually began to spiral out of control. My friend confronted me and explained that basically everyone knew what was going on, but no one wanted to talk to me about it. I was shattered again. How was it obvious? How was it possible that I failed to see the problem again? I denied everything of course, but my best friend has always been able to see right through me. I knew she wouldn’t say anything to my parents, but I was extremely conscious of how I acted/appeared in front of her. I wanted her to think I was dealing with my problem, but in fact, it was the total opposite. I was constantly going back and forth with binging and purging or just fasting. My weight fluctuated depending on what phase I was in at that moment.
I eventually told my boyfriend because he was constantly asking me why I never wanted to go out to dinner or why I was always so tired and miserable. He seemed confused, like he couldn’t understand why I was doing this. It felt like he actually thought I chose this for myself. He asked me if I wanted help and I said no. That was the only time we’ve ever discussed my problem.
It hurts sometimes to know that he is aware of what I am doing, but he doesn’t do anything to change it or to help me. But mostly, I am relieved that he is keeping my secret and pretending to be unaware of the entire thing altogether. There are times where I wish he would just scream and yell and try to help me. Sometimes his silence is just as painful as was hearing the words “I don’t love you anymore.”
It’s an incredibly lonely place to be sometimes. Constantly wanting to improve yourself, always wanting to achieve perfection. Every day is a struggle. What is “safe” to eat? How long will I have to go to the gym today to burn off everything I ate? Why did I break my 850-calorie limit max? Will I still be 102 pounds? Was it worth it? Trying to suppress the urge to vomit from disgust of what I just ate, and all the self-loathing is a constant struggle. I can almost make myself sick just by thinking of how much I hate myself sometimes. Maybe my demons are right. Maybe I am never going to be good enough.