I've struggled with the idea of writing this for a long time now. Not because I haven't accepted the mistakes I made in the past. Nor is it the fact that I don't find it an important topic for discussion. The reality of the situation is that I've struggled talking about eating disorders because it wasn't until recently that I understood the impact it had on me. The impact it still has on me.
Now, this is not a well written woe is me type of thing. I'm not here to bring tears to people's eyes or to make anyone pity me. I'm writing this for the 14 year old girl who was lost and developed a toxic relationship with food and exercise.
I'm going to be real with you here, during the summer I was transitioning from middle school to high school I suffered from an undiagnosed eating disorder. The majority of people in my life probably don't know this about me. Why is that? It's simple really, At the time I didn't recognize that there was an issue. Afterwards I refused to talk about it because of societal expectations and the lack of understanding of what having an eating disorder did to me mentally.
I'll be very frank, that summer was hell for me. I barely ate, I ran or walked for miles a day in the sweltering North Carolina heat because of an internal desire to work off the calories I did consume. This caused me to lose a significant amount of weight, which at the time was my goal. I thought that if I "looked good" by societal standards that the deep rooted insecurities I had would go away.
What I wish I knew back then was that the way I was going about "looking good" only caused me to feel worse about myself.
That was six years ago. To this day I sometimes struggle to look at a scale and not want to immediately go to the gym and workout for a couple hours. I don't hate myself by any means, but at one point I did. So now I'm working back towards learning to love myself again.
To this day talking about eating disorders in psychology classes unsettles me a little bit. Partially because I've lived that struggle, I know the shame and internal turmoil that comes along with it. Also, partially because I can't believe I let myself buy into this "ideal" beauty standard to which I felt captive. At first it didn't make sense to me why you would discuss eating disorders in a psychology class. What does food have to do with our mental health? Over time I began to realize that the insecurities that lead me to an unhealthy relationship with food existed long after I'd overcome my eating disorder.
If there's one thing I wish I could go back and tell my younger self, it's that the phrase sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me is a load of crap. Our words mean something, how we speak to one another means something, what we say to those around us means something. That phrase becomes accurate when we realize that our value, and our worth, are not found in the expectations or opinions of others. Our worth is rooted in someone who gave everything to love us wholeheartedly, who died so that we could live. So to my younger self I'd say that people are going to tear you down. You can't stop them because they're fighting their own battles. But their words only hurt momentarily and do not define who we are in any way, shape or form.
I'm no longer going to shy away from writing about having an eating disorder because, in a way, this is cathartic for me. Finally, I'm ready to accept my past for what it is and let the fears I've had go in hopes that I can grow from my mistakes and learn to love who I am now. It's a process, and it's going to take time. In the past few years I've already seen myself grow immensely in learning to see myself in a more positive light. Now it's up to me to just trust the process.
That's not my only reasoning for writing this. I'm writing this because I want to draw attention to the fact that everyone is fighting their own battles. We have to learn to embrace our brokenness and the ugly that consumes us and be broken together. We need to speak up and break the stigmas that have been placed on mental health for far too long. It's time to learn to love ourselves again.
To anyone who has questions or finds themselves struggling with an eating disorder or any mental health related issues speak up. Talk to me, talk to a friend, talk to someone. It isn't until you open up about it that you realize the grip it has on you.
I didn't go into full detail here about my struggles then and my continued struggles now because it didn't feel right. I'm no longer afraid to open up about that time in my life. But it takes more than a thousand words to piece together all the emotional baggage that comes along with it. At the time I was hurting and sought affirmation in all the wrong places. Now I'm defining myself as a daughter of the King and learning to view myself from His perspective instead of society's. God's unconditional love for me is the reason I'm, now, so willing to be open and honest about the brokenness in my life. I just hope others who are suffering through similar battles find the courage to seek His affirmation instead of worldly affirmation.