“Please let today be a different day. I want to be normal.”
Those have been the immediate words I have said to myself every morning for about 10 years now. While my friends sat down for lunch every day, they would merrily enjoy eating their bagels with butter, bags of Doritos, and washing it down with a pouch of Capri Sun. My mom would pack my lunch every day containing similar items, yet every bite was a struggle. If I had soccer practice after school, I would gain a sense of relief knowing that those Doritos would easily be burnt up in 10 minutes of constant sprinting. The idea of getting skinnier has tortured my mind each and every day.
When these thoughts were an initial trigger in my head, I distanced myself from everyone as much as possible. The summer finally hit, so it was the perfect opportunity to finally be by myself with my own emotions and behaviors. My mom works for Weight Watchers, so I quickly caught on to the whole Points system the program advocated. If I was going to have six points for lunch, than breakfast would only be one or two. I remember most of my morning meals consisted of a peach and Diet ginger ale. I quickly shed 15 pounds.
Returning back to school after a summer of complete social isolation was horrid. I noticed that everyone was still eating the same processed and artificial snacks that I once indulged in. I started to question, “Do they ever wonder about all the calories in that?? Are they seriously just planting their face in a plate of fries without thinking about the buckets of grease they were submerged in?” I didn’t understand why they never adopted the same dreadful thoughts that circulated my mind each day. I knew that what I was thinking wasn’t ‘normal’ for a girl in middle school. I memorized the calorie count of almost thing that would appear across a lunch table by age 15. Sometimes I would even count in my head the calories of what other people ate and confirm how much less I had just to ease some of the perpetual anxiety.
I started going to both therapists and nutritionists by 9th grade. It was apparent that I developed an eating disorder after my weight dropped to about 95 pounds. Girls on my soccer team didn’t seem to understand why I never finished a plate of pasta or even just have one small bite of chocolate cake. It was nasty how some girls responded to my eating patterns. They would say that I’m being stupid or that I don’t make any sense. I knew what I was thinking about my body image was irrational from everything my therapists told me. However, I just wanted to know that someone—anyone—else out there had the same problem as I did.
All throughout college I never met a girl who admitted she struggled with an eating disorder. Not like I easily ran this through a conversation, but I never even saw a girl who strictly ate so healthy like I did. All I saw was drunken girls slamming down Taco Bell and pizza like how I attacked the salad bar at the cafeteria. Is there anyone out there like me? Does anyone else even know what a calorie is?
After this past year where I finally came to accept my eating disorder and not live in a mental state of shame and embarrassment, I decided to sign up for a therapy group. The group only sought out to include other girls recovering from an eating disorder. I was nervous at first, thinking about risking my identity to this group of strangers. Yet it was something that needed to happen.
Each week we would meet together and converse about the different struggles we are all trying to overcome. I finally met others who feel triggered going to a restaurant, or who worry about being the skinniest person in class. Whatever came out of their mouth was something that I’ve said multiple times in the past. They sound like me. I realized I am not alone.
Eating disorders have been publicized in the media exponentially over the past decade. I was hearing about all this on “E! News” but I never found someone else who battled with the same struggles—another college girl trying to live a normal life. When I finally found others who dealt with the same mental and emotional conflicts, I finally felt like I wasn’t “crazy.”
Everyone has their own issue, and sometimes we think that we are the only ones out there dealing with it. I realized that I don’t have some type of absurd abnormality. We should never believe that we are defected. Everyone has their own shit to deal with. And one day you’ll run into someone where you can surpass it all together.