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My story is not a unique one. Almost everyone suffers from some sort of eating disorder in their life.
I was anorexic for four years. I'm saying was because I do not consciously continue the practice of starving myself. That said, one should know that these tendencies never really go away.
People who have never gone through anything akin to a mental disorder of great volume cannot grasp the sense if deprivation one can endure to satisfy an inner urge. It is difficult for me to grasp what power my mind had over my body at the time.
It is—it was—about control. I noticed this pattern later in life too. When I felt like I spiraled out of control, I had to sabotage my life to regain that iron grip on it. This will make much more sense if I say when everything felt out of control, I went to the only thing I knew I could control: food.
We know that there's always a trigger for maladaptive behaviour. I tended on the depressive side of emotions always, had a flair for the dramatics, and feeling sorry for myself. I also am a terrible perfectionist. Whether that is truly me or something society had conditioned me to be, I'm not sure. However, it is the perfect pillow for anorexia to raise it's head from day by day.
I never fit in at high school. And when I say I didn't fit in, I mean I should have had nothing to do with that class of people. They were immature, selfish, and self-centered with a diminutive sense of emotional intelligence.
I could hold a conversation with any adult. They choked on a single question asked by an authority figure. I thought of myself as someone who didn't belong, and they took to the scent like bloodhounds. It was weakness to them. The greatest strength, integrity, and independence threatened them. Unanimity was sacred and I was the single pillar standing in the hurricane that was more dangerous than anything.
If one could do it, all could do it, they must've thought. Yeah, but at what price...
Euripides said that those the gods mean to punish first turn mad. Well, I was not right in the head, to say the least.
I turned inward, held everything in up til the point where I was begging something, someone, to relieve me of existence. I wanted to die so bad I took a knife and held it against my stomach. I pressed. Harder and harder.
I couldn't do it. I stood on the edge of my ten story building. My balcony on the tenth floor while my parents were out. I couldn't do it.
I'm glad I didn't.
It's still with me whenever anyone says they've been to my country and that it's a beautiful place. I can't think of it without corrupted memories.
Because that's the place where all of my abuse took place. If I go back, they can still hurt me and, more importantly, I can still hurt me. I can go back to that place where I've only been twice since I moved.
I relive the moments when, at a party, a guy put out a cigarette on my back because he was ashamed of how he liked me. I remember the guy I liked calling me a fat pig and all the others laughing at me while they threw coins at me. I was already starving by then. I couldn't eat more than 500 calories a day. I was weak but happy. I fit into my jeans. We had to buy new ones.
I could wear skinny jeans!
They bullied me for losing weight then. They made fun of me not eating. They flung chocolate bars at me saying "eat" as if I would just realise what I had done wrong by them pointing it out. A single word making everything so simple.
Kids are the cruelest. Dumb kids are even worse. They shamed me for not eating. They shamed me for being fat. There was no winning.
Obviously I reached a plateau, so I started working out. I ran. Every day. I ran. Away from them. Closer to me.
I read for days. I cared about nothing else but reading, but escaping into a world where I would be understood. And I found my heroes. Will and Tessa. The girl who was just like me and Will, the boy who was just as troubled as I was.
I held onto them with such extreme force. They were all I had. I told myself no one cared about me, so I had to. But it was fine. There was someone like Will out there for me too. The nefarious bad-boy who drinks all the time and will only love one woman in his whole life.
He would love me still. He would heal whatever was wrong with me that the others I so wanted to please couldn't accept.
I got into modeling. It was fuel to the fire. Now my self-destruction was justified. "You need to lose weight for an international career," they said, and I sheepishly nodded, looking at my bony wrists in my lap, thinking yes, I will train twice as much and eat three times less. An apple a day is enough for a day, right? That's how the saying goes. right?
I know' I admitted the defeat. And it wasn't hard. It was default to think of myself as not enough. Never enough. I didn't have that bone protruding here and there that the other girls had. I didn't have my upper ribs showing under my collarbone.
I clawed and tore at my own flat stomach, willing it to be smaller, my hips to shrink, my thighs to disappear. Because if I made it here, I won't have to bother with the others at school who thought I was a piece of garbage swept in by the wind.
I wrote too. Painfully bad stories about vampires. Why vampires? Because they didn't eat. They fed on blood that made them perfect. There were no fat vampires, they we're perfect. Becoming one was the key.
You can want eternal life and want to die with every fibre of you're being simultaneously. Just another contradictory adolescent narrative that was possible only to my emaciated teenage brain.
There was no becoming a vampire without my classmates knowing and, as a standard past-time, making fun of it.
That's when I learnt to be friends with the darkness. It was my companion for infinity. I was in with it. But even the darkness couldn't protect me from myself.
And don't think darkness was the worst. Darkness was the best thing in it. I personified it and, in turn, it was shelter for awhile. I was the most dangerous being because I had nothing to lose. If no one cares for you at all, do you really exist?
I was too weird to live, too rare to die. Just an endangered species behind her own bars.
It's not just food. It's punishment. Food equalled necessity, but in my mind turned into punishment.
The amount of time I spent ruminating my choices for the set calories was ridiculous. I was obsessed. I ran away from my mother who chased me with a piece of gingerbread at home and cried because she wanted to force it on me.
I drank green tea, apple cider vinegar, green coffee pills, cranberry pills... Every night I would run my hands over the dip along my hips, my flat stomach, the protruding ribs to make sure it didn't feel fatter. And when it did, I cried myself to sleep and punished myself with a liquid food diet. Three days on coke, for example. Nothing else but coke.
It was pure mind over matter/body. I felt good about doing it. Achieving it was a bliss that told me I can do it but made me want to raise the stakes. Four days? Five? A whole week?
Perfectionism is deadly.
It changed one time, in the middle of a 42 degree celsius summer that my complete right side swelled up, and I had a panic attack. I couldn't sleep because I drank so much I had to go to the bathroom every hour. I drank instead of eating. I was dizzy all the time. I thought I had diabetes and that I was going to gain weight no matter what. Obviously that sent me into another spiral.
Then I tried again by being vegan twice. I didn't only refuse to eat meat, no potatoes, pasta, rice, or bread, anything that would remotely constitute as "bad carbs." I never felt better. I lost a lot of weight. It was almost perfect.
I did have some cheat days and I chalked that up as part of a balanced diet which was basically the beginning of some sort of drunken bulimia, where I stuffed my face with cheesy toast and then put two fingers down and hurled until I felt blood come up because I scratched the top of my mouth.
Probably the most twisted thing is that my brain converted all of these memories into the good old days. I fondly remember the days when I was wafer thin, had arms like Ethiopian children and ran six kilometres a day living off of a single apple.
And I'm not the only one. I have met others telling me they're struggling and it's so great to be able to talk about it with someone who understands and does not judge them. I never adopt the role of the wise and old, been-there-done-that attitude. If anything, I tell them I'm not over it. I still love the feeling of my empty stomach, when I eat once a day, when I go to bed starving, knowing it's too late to eat something. I obsess over the size of clothing I wear.
I rarely break down anymore. The mentality, the abusive tendencies are not something that is going to say an easy goodbye to me. The mirror never shows something I'm satisfied with. The guilt will stay, but I'll refuse to lend it governance again.
I hate this with a passion because people are starving in this world. They would gladly have what I refuse to eat. It is a First World problem and it's hateful that the media conditions young people to be a certain way. I feel like a hypocrite every time. However, that does not diminish the severity of these disorders.
I have no advice to give other than talking about it so that the much needed support, understanding, and compassion could be felt by the people suffering from any sort of disorder.