It begins harmlessly. There’s usually a book or a movie or an idolized person whom you consider flawless, and suddenly you start putting your fork down quicker than before. In my case, it was a book. The book itself promoted healthy living; it was actually an anti-eating disorder rhetoric. In essence, the prompter can be anything—good, bad, healthy, or not—because the problem doesn’t stem from the outside-in, but rather the other way around.
I was a chubby child. At points, “chubby” would have been a politically correct way of saying I weighed way too much for an adolescent. I grew up without the luxury of effortlessly throwing on a bathing suit in the summer or feeling satisfied with the Happy Meal version of what I wanted from McDonald’s. Most therapists would conclude this is where it all began, and though I can agree I was at a proclivity to develop an eating disorder early on, my weight wasn’t something I mulled over endlessly. In fact, I hardly gave thought to weight other than the times I spent with my boy-framed girlfriends.
My weight became an issue in late high school, when the prospect of dating and sex took up more air-time in my head. I began to notice the size of my legs against the size of my peers’. When a boyfriend silently made clear that his utmost interest in me was merely physical, I not only felt the pressure to be ideal, but my anxiety caused my appetite to diminish entirely. I became better at sports—running faster than my teammates—I experienced growth spurts, and I could barely reach wantingly for a bowl of Mini Wheats. Then the book happened.
Inevitably the relationship didn’t last, but being lighter and buying smaller sizes became more and more craveable. As time went on my eating disorder ebbed and flowed. Manifesting itself in different ways, it’s allowed me to associate with anorexics, bulimics, and bingers. Basically, there hasn’t been a form of disorder that I’ve strayed from. Unfortunately, unless you intend on living your life in unobserved seclusion, an eating disorder poses a serious problem as you grow older.
I’m recently married. Six months into my marriage, and I can already attest to the fact that change often brings with it anxiety and tension for a person struggling with their diet. Naively, I thought marriage would absolve me from my issues with food; it’s only made things worse. There’s the prospect of lying and hiding from you spouse, as well as the denying from yourself that things obviously haven’t resolved themselves. I’m not proud that my new marriage has suffered from the internal struggles of my eating disorder, but I’m aware that this is something many more than myself are plagued with.
My main concern is why do we lie. Why do we find it necessary to conceal the most internal, ugly parts of ourselves? For years I strived to hide my issues, hoping people would sense sincerity in my ever-exuberant attempts to appear unfazed and happy. In turn, I led myself into a deeper, more debilitating depression. Instead of reaching resolve, I furthered myself down the path of unhappiness and loneliness, never allowing anyone to come between the eating disorder I closely held onto.
Even my now-husband hadn’t learnt of my eating disorder until two years into our relationship—though I’m not proud of this fact, I know those who have suffered from my illness can similarly relate to the embarrassment and self-ridicule that leads to dishonesty and prolonged announcements of shortcomings.
So going back to the fact that I am now married, no longer in college, i.e., eligible for a full-time career, and at the prime age to “make something” of myself, I’m at an utter loss as to what to do with this disorder that has largely rules my life since I was 17. I’ve heard the horror stories of seventy-year-old women having never relented their binging and purging. Likewise, I’ve heard the successes that lead me to believe that this could all become a distant memory one day. But all in all, where does that leave me?
I hate self-help books; don’t associate well with feel-good mantras. Still, there has to be something more to persuade me that I’m okay in my own, unaltered skin—that eating a meal without the toilet in mind is a far better alternative than my previous proclivities. But what is that thing?
As those who have experienced my pain can agree, this lifestyle is exhausting. I’m exhausted. I can hardly wake up anymore without dreading eating, eating too much, or eating nothing at all (all of which can lead a person in my position feeling absolutely dreadful). But for once in my life I’m happy to be exhausted. I’m happy to contemplate that bowl of cereal, hamburger, ice cream cone, sheet of Oreos, etc., and remember the pain I’ve previously felt on the bathroom floor, grasping for answers and solutions that were too far to reach.
This may not bring solace to anyone as much as it brings closure to me, but I hope anyone who reads this under the same mindsets I’ve been fraught with for the past seven years can agree that a point comes in your life when you either have to give into the exhaustion by quitting or dying.
I hope not to die before my time. The damage I’ve already done to my body is irreversible, I know, but there’s still time to right my wrongs. I don’t know what it takes to commit to living a clean, unhampered life free from this damn eating disorder, but for some reason I can recognize a beauty I never recognized before. There’s beauty in the fact that I find myself loathsome while having a husband who finds me unbelievably lovely; there’s beauty in knowing that every day is another opportunity to say “no” to what I was incapable of saying so to years prior to today; there’s beauty in knowing that if this weren’t my issue, something equally cumbersome would be ruling my life, testing me to be greater, more powerful over myself, and more cognizant of who I am as a person.
We all struggle. We all fail. Yearly. Monthly. Weekly. Daily. I’m beginning to realize that that doesn’t so much matter. It’s the individual seconds that shape our lives. It’s the moment-by-moment process of trial-and-error that allows us to further our ability to cope with all our mental and environmental obstacles. In this exact moment I feel okay. Who’s to say that I won’t eat too much at dinner tonight or be incapable of keeping my food down as a forty-year-old? All I know is that I alone am the one who decides how I want this all to pan out. And for now, I’m done exhausting myself with too much planning and prodding. Que sera, sera. I’ll let tomorrow worry about itself. Today, things are going just fine. And so am I.
I’m a victim of a harsh eating disorder. Who says I can’t make my eating disorder a harsh victim of me?