What It Means To Learn To Take Up Space


I don’t remember the day I decided I wanted to be smaller, that there was too much of me in this world. The concept of taking up space is so simple, it’s a matter of science. However, for those like me, with thick heads and brittle bones, it’s an unbearable certainty we fight against with our struggled breaths. Instead of coping with who we are – the space we naturally take up – we feel our only option is to shrink.

Having been a child myself once, I know there is a common shift in girlhood (and boyhood) from blissful acceptance of oneself to the beginning of a long road of self-abuse. That one morning you wake up and realize you don’t look quite like the other girls in your grade, but unlike the night before, it’s not okay anymore. It suddenly becomes your personal vendetta to conform, to become someone other than yourself. You have to change to be liked, and that’s just the way it is. But in this moment, insecurity was branded into your pimply pubescent flesh, leaving a scar for you to see each time you have the misfortune of walking by a mirror.

My self-hatred – while always present- didn’t quite take tangible form until it manifested into a nasty little eating disorder my freshman year of college. We became best friends, and have been inseparable ever since. When I received my first failing grade in my entire life, I felt like my entire persona was falling apart. I was the wiz kid, the one with all the brains. But college is hard, and when I couldn’t keep up my ED was there to comfort me. Sure, I couldn’t study hard enough to pass a Chemistry exam, but I could lose two pounds in a day if I tried hard enough. It was a distraction to add some form of self-acceptance to my life, because if I couldn’t be smart anymore I sure as hell would be skinny.

However, my little distraction soon took over all parts of my life, wrapping its bony fingers around everything of importance to me. I would spend hours at the gym to make up for the single cucumber sandwich I had eaten that day for dinner. If I could have gotten away with skipping dinner, I would have done that too. But unfortunately, my friends were curious as to how I was losing weight, and there was no way I could skip our friendship-family dinner every night. Instead, I came up with other methods of compensation such as working out until I was incoherent and making damn sure no other foods were to touch my lips.

The pounds came off like the decimals on my GPA, and I was being congratulated for it. Everywhere I turned, girls around campus were applauding me for how much weight I lost and wondering how I did it so quickly. Why would I stop what I was doing when it was working so effectively? I told them all, “Try Slimfast! It works miracles.” All at once, I was noticeable. Guys were beginning to think I was “so hot” and I was on the map at frat parties. Girls were giving me the green light to continue my self-destruction. How could I not fall in love with my illness? It was heaven, and I had finally found something I was good at. Being thin.

However, a starving body can only stand so much, and soon came the day that I crumbled under the temptation of food. This concept baffles me, because while suffering with an eating disorder I can’t seem to kick, I also rationally know that food is not evil and I am going to die if I continue this way. Food shouldn’t be a temptation, it should be a necessity. But this concept can’t be in my mind while I continue to be sick, and that is something I have come to accept. The day I broke was a week or two after returning for summer vacation. I was home again, and being home meant being surrounded by food. One measly snack to curb my hunger pangs turned into a full-fledged binge, and I’ve been this way ever since.

Bulimia has taken over my life, and there are parts of me that are still not willing to let it go. There’s a certain feeling of beauty and control when you complete a session of purging, like all of the self-hate comes flooding out with the pools of vomit. In reality though, you leave the bathroom smelling like puke and bile, and you have accomplished nothing. The feeling of power fades, and you are left alone with yourself. But instead, this self has nothing left but broken relationships, yellowing teeth, and dull hair to match her eyes. After multiple times in the hospital for dehydration and organ failure, after numerous inpatient and residential treatment centers, I still cling to this coping mechanism. But this eating disorder isn’t a friend. This eating disorder is that mean girl you knew in high school, taking shots at your appearance to make herself feel better. This eating disorder is a friend that you confide in, only to realize they never had your back when you’re left alone at your darkest moment. This eating disorder is an abusive boyfriend, pointing out all of your flaws to keep you complacent with his manipulation, never letting you be loved like you truly deserve by severing you from all who care about you.

There is no comfort in an eating disorder. This two-finger diet has left me empty in more ways than one. But there is hope for each and every one of us, because if we are one thing, we are determined as hell. The day will come when we decide we are better than starving ourselves, that we are worthy of love, and when it does we will be able to fight for it with all we have. Every human on this earth deserves to be here, deserves to take up space. That includes you. Take up your space, and share it with others. Because we have way too much to offer, much more than being small. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

More From Thought Catalog