MENTALLY, I'M ANOREXIC

This is one of the hardest posts I have ever had to write. It is also one of the most honest, and one of the most personal. I actually wrote it several days ago. However, I've been sitting on it, debating whether or not I should confide in you. In the end, I concluded that I should--because this blog is my "online scrapbook," a culmination of experiences and thoughts, both good and bad. 

This post, which describes my severe, mental struggles with body image and self-esteem, is to be read as a journal entry. It is rambling. It is honest. It is sad. I just can't begin to describe the scrutiny I put toward my body each day; the anxiety I feel when choosing an outfit, the hatred I feel when I see my reflection. The best disclaimer I can add is this: "I'm sick."

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I think I'm mentally anorexic.

I mean, I eat. In fact, I love food. Sometimes, I love it a bit too much.

I have a sensational sweet tooth—always have—and have a penchant for Oreos and chocolate cake. My favorite junk foods are Goldfish crackers and Scotcheroos, and my favorite junk T.V. is the Food Network. “Chopped,” to be exact. “Chopped” when it is judged by Alex Guarnaschelli, to be exacter.

I know that mangoes are my favorite fruit. And I know that grape tomatoes are savory when roasted with salt, pepper, garlic, thyme, and olive oil. Some of my favorite textures are those of cottage cheese, shrimp, and mushrooms. And though I despise early mornings, breakfast is possibly my favorite meal. The sizzle of eggs, the frying of bacon.

During my last semester of college, I took an Italian foods class. We studied food. And looked at it. Drooled over it, even. Oh, the timballo. The frutta di mare. The fresh mozzarella. The different olive oils and wines and breads. It made me appreciate good food; it made me want good food.

I can’t quit eating now. Not before I learn how to use chopsticks. Not before I try poutine in Canada, exotic curries in India. Not before I eat true, fresh, and rich ingredients in Italy.

I can’t.

And, quite literally, I can’t.

I was diagnosed with hypoglycemia when I was nine years old. It was summer, and I had spent the entire day outside, as usual. My mom made supper, as usual. But sometime in the evening, I fell ill. An intense nausea. Clammy skin. A dizziness that left me flat on the couch, unable to fully communicate with my mom. She quickly phoned Helga, an acquaintance who was also the school nurse. Helga came over to the house and inspected me and, together, she and mom managed to feed me a hot dog. With protein, my blood glucose level (blood sugar) slowly returned to normal.

My memory is patchy when I think of that evening; I don’t remember trying to chew and swallow a hot dog, but I do remember the furniture arrangement of the living room. I don’t remember when I first told mom, “I don’t feel good,” or when Helga first arrived. But I do remember her voice. Her and mom’s, softly and cautiously, above me. It was quite late then, and dark—save for the light of the T.V. And as I drifted off to sleep—something I do to this day if I recover from a similar experience—I heard whispers and worries. “What if it’s diabetes? What if she has it just like her brother?”

Ultimately, my diagnosis was milder than that of my brother’s (three years earlier, he had been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, which is known commonly as juvenile diabetes). However, I still have to be careful. Exercise rapidly decreases my blood sugar, and I am often left hungry or dizzy. Even walking long distances—especially in the summer heat—drags me down. And things that affect diabetics—motion simulators, roller coasters, hot tubs—affect me as well. In fact, when I was nine or ten, I went to Hoo Doo Days (a small town's Labor Day celebration) with my aunt and cousins. Hoo Doo had, as always, a parade, a midway, and some carnival rides. My cousin Derek and I went on one particular ride; a ride that swung the cars in a wide circle, and one that allowed you to simultaneously spin your personal car even more, if you wished. Oh goodness, did I feel terrible.

Another low blood sugar, another hot dog. Only this time, I was flat on my back on a public sidewalk, rather than on a couch.

It’s well-known among family and friends that I sometimes need frequent breaks and extra snacks. Even at work, I bring with me several snacks. I’ll eat breakfast (either at home, on-the-go, or at my desk), nibble at something around 10:30, eat a small lunch around 1:00 or 1:30, and have another snack around 4:00, just before I head home. (When I was working late, I often brought with me two meals—lunch and dinner—and four or five snacks.)

I have to eat in order to feel well.

I have to eat in order to function. In order to think. In order to talk. 

But damn … sometimes I wish I didn’t have to. Because in my head, in my crazy, anxious, obsessive, depressed, perfectionist, manic brain, I’m ugly.

It’s a disease, this type of thinking. And, really, there is absolutely no benefit to it; all I’m left with is a hatred for myself. But I also can’t stop. I can’t stop looking in the mirror and critiquing everything. It’s the critical part of me. The anxious part of me. The part that wants control of something.

Several years ago, my friend Brent told me about his sister’s pregnancy. “She was so unhappy,” he said to me. “She would just stand in front of the mirror and cry and whine, ‘I’m sooooooo fat!’ And then just sob more.” Brent laughed at the memory, convinced his sister’s emotions had been riding the ups and downs of pregnancy hormones.

Recently, I realized I am her. I am Brent’s sister, minus the pregnancy. Minus the hormones. I’m just that sick. I will stand in front of the mirror in my underwear and bra, staring at all the bits and pieces that I want to shave off or change. All the parts of me that aren’t perfect. That aren’t flat enough or round enough or smooth enough, respectively. I stand there and cry into my hands, not wanting to accept the size of my feet, the width of my hips, the shortness of my torso. I’m so mentally flawed that I actually believe I’m unattractive.

I’m not sure when this mentality came into play. It certainly wasn’t in elementary school, even though I was one of the tallest girls (with a shoe size to match). I never minded being tall. (The only time I did was in sixth grade, when I had a solo in the operetta. To access the microphone, I had to be in the front row and, thus, I lankily towered over my classmates, a full head taller.) My hips started to appear freshman year; my pant size was in the double digits for the first time. And no one, ever, told me I was pretty. My mom would tell me, sure, and my brother, too, but I knew they were obligated to. I was her daughter, his sister. They were supposed to say those types of things.

It just wasn’t enough.

I wasn’t a toned athlete, and I wasn’t a popular girl, someone who shopped at Victoria’s Secret and made themselves up nearly every day. No, I was a dork. A total and utter dork with glasses and crooked teeth and wide hips and raw, bitten fingernails. That was me. I hated me.

I still hate me.

I hate me for hating how I look. I hate that I never feel beautiful. I hate that no matter how hard I work out, no matter how little I eat, I can’t change the width of my hips. Or the prominence of my veins in my feet. Or how my toes are shaped. Or how short my torso is. I just look at myself think, “I’m structurally flawed.”

I wish I were an inch taller, just once inch from six feet. I wish I could go into a vintage store and try on shoes. I wish my teeth weren’t crooked. I wish my eyes weren’t almond-shaped and squint-y. That I didn't have astigmatism. I wish my neck were longer, my hips were narrower, and my waist more defined. I wish my torso were longer. More specifically, I wish my torso were longer and my legs were shorter in order to accommodate all those ill-fitting dresses I keep returning. I wish my knees weren’t so knobby. That my hair wasn’t frizzy. I wish I didn’t have to tweeze my eyebrows. Or already pluck a few stray, awkward hairs. I wish my belly button were lower, my boobs were bigger, my butt smaller. I wish my eyes were greener. I wish my hair were darker, to make those “green” eyes “pop.” I wish I didn’t have to worry about acne. I wish my face were less round. I wish my skin didn’t have its greenish, olive tone. I wish my thighs weren’t so close together, that my upper arms were so loose. I wish I could wear short shorts and bikini bottoms. I wish I didn’t have growth marks and stretch marks on my hips and legs from the year I grew four inches. I wish I didn’t have a scar from an infection on my torso. I wish I could wear strapless dresses. I wish I could wear A-lines.

I wish. I wish. I wish.

Only, when I’m actually looking at myself in the mirror, tears in my eyes, I’m thinking I hate I hate I hate.

Anorexia isn’t an eating disorder. It’s a mental disorder.

The disorder starts with an emotional attachment to control. It starts when you begin to have doubts about yourself. It starts when that one person, that one person, says something about the way you look and you never forget it. It starts when other members of the color guard make fun of how you dress, and joke about the fact that you had to order a costume in XL … just because you’re taller. It grows when your anxiety worsens, when your depression fluctuates. It grows when you see everyone on Facebook receive compliments—real people you actually know and care about and talk to, real people, and not magazine models or Photoshopped advertisements. And you? If there’s a new photo of you, no one says anything. No one says you’re beautiful or stunning or remarkable.

No one bothers to turn their head.

You assume that everyone else sees what you see—an unattractive, plain, wide, flabby creature. You don’t believe your dad when he says, “You need meat on your bones.” You don’t believe your brother, who remarks how thin you look after he hugs you. You don’t believe your mother, who—within the first five minutes of seeing you—says, “You’re skinnier every time I see you.” And you don’t believe your fiancé, either. Because he’s obligated, too.

And so you’re left alone, with just your thoughts and your tears, standing in front of a mirror. In my head, that's normal. But I also know it's sickening. And terrible. ... And truthful. Because a lot of the time, I eat only because I have to. Because I’m not well.

7 comments:

  1. Dawn, thank you sharing your thoughts and heart with us. I wrote you an email.

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  2. If I was to say your beautiful you probably wouldn't believe me after this post. But it's true even if you don't believe me. You have nice hair. I have super curly, kinky, frizzy hair which means I can wear only one style which is super curly, kinky, frizzy hair.

    You can put your hair up in all types of styles and even do a short hair cut without it looking like a frizz ball. ohh.. and your tall! I'm only 5'3 which means me a very tiny person especially compared to my 6'2 boyfriend. (which he reminds me everyday I'm hobbit size).

    I've also gained lots of weight too compared to 10yrs ago. I'm 150 which means I gained 30lbs in 10yrs. Horrible! I'm trying my best to lose weight but I'm a stress eater and I have a stressful job so that means I eat a lot of awful food all the time. Still working on eating fruits instead of chips.

    I get called beautiful frequently but I never believe it. Very rarely do I ever believe which is strange because I've gotten so many times from random strangers. But, I honestly never ever see what they are talking about. All I see is a short frizz ball with a round face.

    You may have a mental condition or you may be just as normal as the rest of us women with body image issues. What helps me get through those moments of insecurity is trying to find some positive in my body. Something that I don't mind having like.. wide hips. I genuinely like how wide my hips are..not so much my thighs but I'll focus on my hips for now.

    Hopefully writing this post helped but definitely believe you are certainly not alone in body image issues.

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  3. You have definitely been complimented by this girl right here.

    I can definitely relate to this post. I was 175lbs until my sophomore year of high school. Then I lost 45lbs when I started dancing..

    Ok, after losing weight yea I looked better with clothes on. But losing weight does not solve all the problems. And wishing does not help. Many people waste their lives away wishing for something that can never be.

    I am tall. I wear size 10 shoes. I have enormous veins in my feet. I have tiny red dots all over my legs after I shave. I have big purple spider veins on my legs. I have acne scars and chicken pox scars on my face. Scars underneath my naval. HUGE stretch marks on the sides of my stomach, upper legs, inner thighs, back if my legs, and even on my calves and backs of my upper arms. My fingers and toes are too long. I have very thin hair on my head, and yet I grow unnecessary hair in unnecessary places. I have hypoglycemia as well and on top of that I have had chronic mono for almost two years that has nearly killed me twice. My list of flaws could go on and on. I have been in some pretty depressed points in my life. 3 drs recommended me to psychiatrists and one gave me antidepressants. I did not seek help and I didn't take the pills. I refused.

    Body image doesn't bother me as much as it used to because I am finding my strong points in life and basing my happiness on them. I know I could be a lot worse off than I am now. The first time I cried about my image was on a car ride home with mom from a dance when I was thirteen. I didn't look like all the other girls. It got worse from there, but it has recently gotten better. I know if I am happy and confident, everyone will be able to see the great qualities about myself. I never try to show my insecurities, Bc people think that is ugly. Confidence is 90% of appearance...

    You ate beautiful Dawn! Inside and out!

    P.s. I have dorky and crooked front teeth as well, and they are only getting worse. I got hit by a baseball in the mouth when I was 12. Guess what, I keep on cheesing in pics because I love to smile and be happy and people see how happy I am when I smile!

    So smile Dawn!! Love you!

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  4. I've read your post a couple of times now, and I've been trying to think of how to respond. There are a lots of things I could say to you and many have been said - but I'm going to go with your approach - honesty. So please bear with me as well.

    I'm not sure if you saw my post a couple of weeks ago, but it was very similar to this, apart from that I guess, its from the next stage of mental illness. Your post is in the depths of it, mine was written after getting some help.

    One thing that I've learnt in the last few months of my own struggle is that you can't really trust your emotions - you HAVE to focus on what you know. So here is what I know...

    1. The words you've used here are: hate, sick, alone, sad, illness. hate.
    2. The words you haven't used here are: change, help, love.
    3. The second set of words are what you really need to get better - from other people, from yourself, from wherever you can find it.
    4. I've never seen you in person, so honestly, I have no idea what you look like or if you're beautiful. However, I know your mind through your blog, through our emails and interaction and I KNOW that you are stubborn, strong willed, clever, funny, determined, eloquent, witty, kind and generous.
    5. All of these things above are also exactly what you need to fight this illness, not a better looking body or wishes or hatred.
    6. You are not alone. I know if feels like it, but you aren't. I'm fighting my own battles too, alongside you, with you - and the fight is hard.

    And last but not least and probably the hardest truth - You are not going to get or feel better unless you really want to and you start making the changes to achieving positive mental health. These changes don't have to be huge, you could start with just one change in a statement, rather than 'I hate the shape of my toes'. Think instead 'I accept that I can't change the shape of my toes'. And see where that takes you, you've already made a step in the right direction in writing this post. All you need to do now is decide what you want from this post - do you want to change? Or do you want to keep going as you are?

    I hope this helps, please know that I want to help you get through this and I want to share what I know to help you. This will pass, it will be hard, you're going to have to focus on yourself more than you will want to. But you can get better.

    p.s. you know where I am if you want to email me about this, I decided to post this here instead as maybe someone else will read this and it will help them as well, you never know. xxx


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  5. Your words made me sad (because I think you're beautiful) but Rhianne's words made me hopeful - because now I'm sure, if you really put your heart to it, you will start to see it, too.

    Sending my love to you two.

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  6. An account I follow on Twitter linked to this article the same day you posted the above entry: http://everydayfeminism.com/2013/04/five-differences-between-diets-and-anorexia. Random synchronicity...?

    *Are* you anorexic without the physical starvation? I can't speak from experience but what I know of that disorder seems to indicate you *wouldn't* keep eating even if you needed to to live. But you do keep eating. Your preservation of self is stronger than the destructive compulsion.

    I'm sorry that you feel this way about your looks. It's sad for me to know that you're struggling. I don't know what to say—everything I think of sounds trite and hollow, even though of course it would be sincere and heartfelt. I hope that sharing your feelings will elicit responses that help you feel loved and accepted by others, even if you don't share that grace with yourself.

    For what it's worth, I think you are lovely.

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  7. I think we all feel this way to a degree about ourselves. I mean I am fat. I know that. I am also working to get the weight back off. And yet, people would often never know I think of myself that way because they think i have all this confidence. I think it is how deep you let the roots burrow. I journal almost daily. If you read my journal you would think I was a cutter or something but that is where I get it all out. That way I feel it isn't rotting my brain and self esteem way. And honestly I would have never guessed you thought this way about yourself from our lunch date. You seemed like a very normal girl. But, as I said, I think these feelings are very normal and it is in degree and not kind that women feel this way.

    I have a lot more to say but I will stop here. :-)

    Poppie
    http://thepoppie.com

    ReplyDelete

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