My high school boyfriend shook me awake. I had just fainted in a park after consuming nothing but water for the past two days. I had noticed some people around me, asking him if I was okay. I remember thinking they were overly dramatic. He said my name again, but this time he sounded angry, not worried. He asked me when the last time I ate was. He asked me why it had been so long. And over and over again, he asked me if I was doing this on purpose. I rolled my eyes at him. He clearly just didn’t understand. I wasn’t dieting because I needed to be skinny. I was already skinny. I was dieting because I liked the way it felt. I liked the feeling of the hunger pains and I felt gross and sluggish when I was full. It was just the way I was, but there was nothing wrong with me. In that moment, he was nothing more than another person telling me that I had an eating disorder. He was just another person who didn’t understand me.
I was used to it. My nickname has been “bones” for as long as I can remember. When I was five years old, my nanny told my mom I was picking apart my food and throwing it away instead of eating it. And by the time I was in elementary school, I had developed a habit of going to the bathroom every time after I ate. It didn’t even register that there was something wrong with throwing up. I just felt the need to after a meal. It felt good to me. Almost like taking a hot shower after having a really sweaty work out. Soon enough my mom caught on, and I wasn’t allowed to go in unsupervised. But I soon adapted by eating less and purging at night while she was sleeping.
My middle school thought my weight was their business too. They called my parents concerned after we had annual class weigh-ins for our fitness testing. According to their records, I had grown a few inches over the three years, but I had only gained two pounds. They acted like it was so weird, so unnatural, and even wrong. The fuck did they know?
Things were better when I lived with my dad in high school. He didn’t hound me about my weight like my mom had. He didn’t bat an eye when I ate ice cream after every meal. He would even praise me for eating so much. “I’ll never know where it all goes” he’d chuckle after watching me binge. Clearly he thought I was fine, so why should my dentist give me a hard time for a low gumline? Why should I listen when the doctors told me I was underweight?
Then I hit 100 pounds my sophomore year of high school. That was the first time in my life I had the thought “I’m fat.” My entire identity was being the skinny girl, but I suddenly couldn’t relate to that anymore. Even though I was still very underweight for my age and height, I felt gross. I started doing what I was doing my whole life with the intended purpose of staying skinny. I followed pro-Anna and pro-Mia blogs out of curiosity. It infuriated me by how much hate these women got for their bodies. I didn’t find the girls pictured as the “thinspos” too skinny. In fact, I was attracted them. I loved that you could see their bones and ribs so prominently. What exactly was the problem?
When I got to college, I weighed a whopping 103lbs. I ended the year at 101lbs. I laughed at the girls in my dorm who’d been hit by the freshmen 15. Didn’t they have any self-control? How did they live their lives like that?
When I went home for summer, I fainted again getting out of my car. This time, I didn’t have some loser boyfriend to ask me why I didn’t eat. This time, I didn’t have someone to drive me home. This time, I was scared. I was starving. I felt weak and no matter how much I willed myself to think away my hunger pains, I couldn’t. I wasn’t in control of my body anymore, although I don’t think I ever was to begin with. It wasn’t a snap decision, but after fighting with myself and my own urges, I finally admitted to myself that I had an eating disorder. I had had it for years and it wasn’t something I was just going to grow out of. I was sick. I needed to stop.
I wish it was some happy ending. I did eventually start to eat, and I began to throw up less. Eventually, I was able to eat in front of someone without feeling like they were judging me. I gained a little weight and I usually ate when I felt hungry instead of chugging water. I still pretend like it doesn’t bother me when people comment on how I look healthier or “more normal,” but it kind of does. It’s still something I struggle with and think about, but I don’t let it consume me. Recently my doctor gave me a goal of gaining ten pounds and I am actually going to try to do it. I think the biggest thing for me was actually admitting to myself that it was a problem. As hard as recovery is, it needs to start with that. I don’t know if I will ever be able put it completely behind me, but I do know I will never be in that situation again..
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