You Don't Have to Starve
I remember coming home from college that summer. My hands were shaking and my laundry was dirty and I echoed with emptiness. An emptiness that was so expansive I wasn’t sure if I would ever feel full again.
I was finally realizing what everyone else had been trying to tell me; something was wrong. I was fading fast, and it wasn’t normal; this anxiety and need to control everything from my breakfast to what the person in front of me was thinking.
People say a lot of things about eating disorders. There are a lot physiological causes and a lot of underlying motivations and a lot of reasons why people starve themselves. Each one is as different as your thumbprint is to mine. Some call it their burden or their struggle and some people hide behind exercise and healthy living and others just plain hide.
No matter what brand of eating disorder it is, there is one thing in common: the shame. The shame of eating or not eating or what to eat and the shame that comes once the high of control wears off. The shame that you will never ever belong to anyone or anything because you only belong to yourself and there are things that no one else could possibly understand.
Once, shame wrapped itself around me like a leather jacket, supple leather on skin, and I didn’t realize it for what it was. I called it humility and love. I thought it was helping me on my pursuit of perfection. I thought what I was doing was right and that equaled being good.
What I didn’t realize before that summer day when I stood at the door of change was that restricting my eating wasn’t just hurting my body, but my soul too. I was living on thin air. I remember belly laughing hard only three times in one entire year. For someone who thrives on joy, who makes it a priority to laugh-cry at least once a day, this was a sure sign of fading. It wasn’t just a body problem, it was an everything problem.
That summer went by slowly and the year even more so. I struggled to heal. I struggled to not fall back into restrictive thinking. Into wanting to constantly do better, be better, live better. To eat ice cream and laugh and not worry about things. The year was no cupcake, even if I was eating them again. People were shocked when they saw how I had changed, not only in my new jean size but also in my personality, in the zest that I had suddenly found in living.
I read once that people who struggle with eating disorders are trying to make themselves smaller. Not just for the sake of beauty, but because they don’t know their own worth. I didn’t know myself, and so I tried and tried and tried to fit into a mold. To become who I thought I should be. I tried so hard to fix myself and it only resulted In breaking myself and my relationships more.
But that’s not the end of the story.
Somewhere along the struggle, along the hard stuff, came really good stuff. Things I never expected happened. I traveled to places I had always dreamed of. Friends came, friends who have been teaching me so much about how love can truly be unconditional. Friends who don’t mind when I say something awkward or when I just don’t know what to say. Friends who are friends no matter what I look like. Friends who love me for the person I actually am. Who don’t make me feel less than, but rather make me feel full. Friends who I love in return with all of me, even the parts of me I don’t like so much.
Somewhere along the way I got better.
I don’t buy into the idea that an eating disorder is the type of struggle that stays for your whole life. I don’t buy into me and you not being okay someday or even today. I think it will take time, but I know you can feel full again.
I know, because I feel full again. Are there moments when I look in the mirror and don’t like what I see? Yes. But they are getting more and more rare. And I’ve learned to shake it off, as the great T-Swift would say.
There is so much goodness on the other side of that door.
I used to deal with anxiety everyday. I used to feel on edge at restaurants. I used to try to ensure that everyone liked me.
That can change. I also used to not believe in that change, but it can happen.
That anxiety has been replaced with belly laughs and s’mores and long runs just because I feel like it. And now instead of kindness for the sake of pleasing people I just feel plain ol’ kindness. Sometimes some sass. And I absolutely love it. I absolutely love feeling satisfied.
If you are standing at a door, wondering if things can change, choose courage. Commit to finding your people, the ones who make you want to stay up late and wake up early. Commit to belly laughs and making mistakes that will turn into lessons that will turn into you looking up and realizing it.
Choose to not be defined by who you think you should be, but who you are, underneath the confusion. And if you don’t know who that is, then just take baby steps. Baby steps can be the most groundbreaking moments of your life.
Windrose Magazine is your guide to navigating life in your twenties through a collection of essays, interviews, and advice that will inspire you to chart your own life course, free of comparison.
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