Writing this post is hard for me.
Posting anything this intimate is hard. With friends and family wanting to check in on my latest post, I’m somewhat careful of what I let free on my blog, while at the same time trying to do my best to be open, honest and to address important issues that I feel need exposure. Issues that have been swept under a rug for far too long, and need to be out in the open for all too see. That’s why, I decided, to finally write this post.
Around a week ago, author of Asking for it, Louise O’Neill tweeted that it was Eating disorder awareness week. Despite being happy that we have en entire week given in dedication to this, it makes me sad that we need to have a specific week to raise awareness. It should be something ongoing, uninterrupted.
It is no secret, that in our day and age the media rules all. Using imagery and clever words they warp our brains, twisting our initial feelings and ideas until they are unrecognisable to us, and line up perfectly with their own.
I hit puberty around the age of 11. I was kind of an early bloomer, taller and more developed than all my friends. As a child I thought this was cool, I felt like a woman. I felt like I was in on a secret that no one else in my class had yet been told. I would even venture to say it was empowering. This empowerment, however, was short lived, and that which I had been oh so proud of, had quickly become a hinderance, a demon that clung to my body and refused to let go. My linear body shape changed, and before I knew it, I looked vastly different from everyone else. I was more developed and much taller. I began to feel awkward in my own skin. I began to compare. I mean why not, I had noticed everyone else doing it! Everyone else looked like the girls on all the shows I loved, flat chested and skinny, their hair perfect and makeup shockingly flawless for fourteen year olds. All the while, I was struggling with mascara and learning that I needed to feel ashamed of the fact that the size of my clothes was so much higher than those of the girls I went to school with.
I would go home and read magazines and watch tv, I would see that I looked nothing like other girls my age, other women. I watched music videos where women had revealing clothes and even more perfect skin. I remember looking at myself in the mirror, wearing nothing but underwear and being disgusted.
This only got worse as I became more sexually aware. I was being labeled ‘one of the guys’ amongst my male friends, and where there had once been pride at the title, the older I got the more inadequate and undesirable I felt . Why weren’t they talking about me inappropriately? Why wasn’t I being sexualised? Was I not sexy enough? Not pretty enough to deserve a compliment? I had no idea about sexism and feminism at this age, and oh lord I wish I had.
I felt lost, panicked. I had to change. I had to change or I was forever going to fall behind.
It started with cutting out sweets and exercising. I then cut out more and my workouts became obsessive.Pro-anorexia and pro-bulimia sights became my haven. I learned how to manoeuvre food around my plate to make it look like I had eaten nearly everything. I had learned to lie like a pro. I began to loose weight, I began to feel desirable and this only fuelled my new unhealthy lifestyle. My happiness, as expected, was short lived and in it’s place came stress. I needed to loose more. Before I knew it I had developed bulimia and went through bouts of binge eating. When I wasn’t stuffing my face for the next purge, I would eat very little and weigh everything. I would count calories, giving a splash of milk 100 calories and a cup of tea without milk 50. At the peak of my illnesses I ate maybe 600 calories a day….including maybe four cups of tea.
I would cry into my food when I was alone, knowing that if I ate it, I would be a disgusting failure. I would later throw it in the bin and proceed to cry out of hunger.
I made a book I called my inspiration book. I would count calories and cut out pictures of women to stick in there.
I quickly became someone nobody recognised. I would look at myself and see fat were the gleam of a bone would press against my now almost translucent skin. The panic and unhappiness was almost unbearable, and I would fall into a dark place where I felt the only thing I could control was my weight. I could see I was hurting those around me, their faces tight and eyes watchful, but in my desire to be beautiful and my selfishness to be like the actresses and singers I loved, I didn’t care.
I did all this simply to look how I thought I was ‘supposed to look’. I didn’t look like the beautiful actresses I idolised or the singers I wanted to be. I didn’t look like the beautiful contestants on ANTM. None of them were ever very curvy, none of them had chunky thighs and big breasts. And the worst thing? Whenever they did, they were shamed in magazines; red circles etched around their ‘offensive’ parts, around the unsightly cellulite and gag worthy muffin tops.
Representation is so important. This has been stressed so many times, and is something that has been brought into the light as of late. Be it size, gender, ethnicity, colour, disability, everyone needs to be represented. Everyone needs to feel included in the majority. Everyone needs to see that they are who they are supposed to be, and that is more than perfectly fine.
To this day I still struggle. It’s been around seven years since I got out of my old habits, habits that I’m ashamed to say still haunt me. Lingering around every doughnut, around every indulgence, just waiting for me to break. They laugh from behind every skirt thats too small and shirt thats too tight. I see them, and I can hear them. I can feel them poke at all that’s wrong with me by media standards, and sometimes, just sometimes, it’s a little too much to bare.
It’s taken me a long time to realise that every body is beautiful, that every shape is sexy. It’s taken me a long time to be able to wake up to mornings where I look at myself and smile instead of cringe. It’s taken me a long time to be able to stuff my face guilty free. It’s taken me a long time, but I got here. And yes, these days may be fleeting, and sometimes far and few between, but I still have them, and the mornings I wake up feeling beautiful are so worth the effort.
So, for anyone reading this who has or has had any eating problems or disorders, I am so sorry for your pain. Battling eating disorders is not an easy task, and is something ongoing, but it is do-able. Go look at body positive blogs, look at all the different types of people and realise your own beauty. Surround yourself with people who love and support you and know that (sadly) you are not alone in this.
I hope this post has opened eyes and minds, and that you all have a great, healthy, self-love filled week.
If anyone would like to message me or talk about the topics in this article, please feel free to message me on twitter.