Love Your Skin.

I want to talk about eating disorders.

Actually, I don’t want to at all. I need to.

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Recently, a family member of mine told me I needed to go on a diet. Yeah, sure, I’m curvy. Some days I may even go as far as chubby. However, I eat rather healthy—lots of fruits and vegetables, limited sweets, etc. I walk daily, exercise when I can, and do yoga a few times a week.

I don’t need to go on a diet because I’m built this way.

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My reply to this family member was, “No, this is my body and I love it.”

Yet he continued on, arguing with me that I was still a little *he lifted up his fingers and made a pinching motion as if he were pinching my fat rolls*. He argued with me about whether or not I should be satisfied with the skin I’m in.

This wasn’t some stranger on the street criticizing me. It wasn’t even some jerk of a frenemy. It was a family member.

It was these types of comments, and much worse, that led me to have dismorphic thoughts and depression before I even hit puberty, a full-blown eating disorder starting when I was thirteen, and worsening self-destructive tendencies all through high school. It was these types of comments that continue to have me dealing with deep psychological issues at the age of 25.

I’m somewhere between my eighth and ninth year in recovery from anorexia and bulimia. ED recovery is like addiction recovery—you’re never truly recovered, always working towards improving but knowing the issues will continue haunting you.

Very few people know this who weren’t there to witness it. And even those who were there to witness it averted their eyes and pretended nothing was happening. They wanted to believe my smile. They wanted to believe it was just a phase. They chose to believe that I was okay.

I wasn’t okay.

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I literally had it written on my walls.

I was such a chubby kid and a surprisingly large portion of those around me growing up commented on my “baby fat”, how I needed to cut out desserts or else I’d be fat forever, told me I needed to dress this way or that for a slimming figure, and much worse all before I hit my thirteenth birthday. I shrunk down so quickly my first year of high school that today I’m shocked no one intervened. The compliments I received about how thin I had become and how great I looked was the most accomplished I had ever felt. I loved feeling my ribs, collarbones, and hip bones poking through my clothes. How come no one ever realized that if that were unhealthy in a pet, it’s unhealthy in a child?

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But I didn’t stop there. I started counting calories, giving myself a limit of 500 a day. No, that’s not a typo. 500. I still remember talking with a friend about how we’d rather use our calories on candy bars rather than sandwiches because we were never properly educated on the importance of proper nutrition, empty calories, or the fact that calories are energy for your body. Calories became the enemy—a poison that must be avoided. Thin became an addition. Hunger became a positive feeling.

 

As I was nearing fifteen, my body started to broaden out. My wide hips and broad shoulders are simply the way the beautiful women of my family are built. I love them so much now, but the tiny teenager me saw them as a curse. None of the women in the magazines had them. None of the protagonists on any of the shows I watched had them. I continued to watch my intake of food and worked out as much as my low-energy body would allow.

 

My hair started to thin and fall out. My skin was dry and blemishes (which I was already prone to get due to genetics) were taking over my face, chest, shoulders, and back. However, I was still mocked by kids at school for my thighs and hips. I’m not joking here, despite all of this I was still bullied about my body. I very clearly remember someone telling me not to go to the county fair because my thighs would break the ferris wheel.

 

Then I hit my worst.

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My body stopped properly regulating my blood sugar and I began passing out from it. A few of my guy friends intervened and made sure I ate lunch at school daily. They were the first ones to ever tell me that I needed to eat and show that they care. However, I needed to be thinner and purged everything I ate in front of them.

It wasn’t long after this time that the switch finally flipped in my head. I would go to school, barely able to function, and come home, immediately falling asleep. All of my personal relationships were falling apart. I barely had the energy to eat even if I wanted to. I continued to have issues with getting incredibly dizzy or even blacking out.

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I never had a specific moment when I decided that I wanted to start taking better care of myself. I slowly began introducing more foods into my nonexistent diet and eventually had full meals. Gradually, my body became mine again.

I had a few relapses as my body filled out. My hips grew broad and didn’t look like any other girls’. Turns out I have what’s called “violin hip deformity”. Yes, deformity is part of the term. Because that’s what every developing girl wants to hear about her unique and beautiful shape. My violin hips cause me to look like I have a muffin top even without clothes, only deepening my hate towards my own skin.

One girl, upon seeing me at a sleepover when I was seventeen, commented that she always thought I had always wore my pants too tight but she then saw that my hips were just “weird”.

Dismorphia doesn’t even cover my struggle with my hips.

I have cellulite. I have broad shoulders. I don’t have perky boobs and they don’t fit into anything smaller than a baggy large. My hips are “deformed”. My thighs are big.

However, I have reached a point where I force myself to compliment myself every time I look into the mirror. One compliment. Two if I criticize myself.

My thighs are killer and amazingly strong, as are my shoulders. My boobs fill out shirts in wonderful ways. My hips are unique and should be used as a powerful body positive tool.

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It’s my body and I love it.

Girls today need to be educated that skinny doesn’t mean healthy and fat doesn’t mean unhealthy. They need to be shown different body types. They need to feel that they are beautiful for their minds and bodies, despite how they may look or develop. They need to be taught that the number on the scale, the number in their jeans, or the number assholes at school rate them does not define their self-worth.

All bodies are wonderful and deserve to be loved because they all house beautiful minds that deserve to be nourished.

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Seasonal Depression

I’ve posted before explaining my struggle with mental disorders and spoke about how I wanted to create an open dialogue about mental health. Now I want to explain what it is like to battle against seasonal depression.

First off, does someone with the flu feel embarrassed when they admit they’re sick? Does someone with eczema get ridiculed as being attention seeking? Then why should someone with depression feel society’s wrath when they try and speak openly about their invisible illness? The stigma attached to depression and other mental illnesses is sickening and should be addressed. These are issues that many people suffer from that should be taken as seriously as visible illnesses.

I think it’s important to emphasize that I am happy with my life. It’s simply that my body doesn’t feel like I am. My brain chemistry is causing everything to register incorrectly. But I am more than content with my life. I suffer from a lesser level of depression year-round, but it’s definitely manageable and pales in comparison to how much worse it becomes in the colder months. Once it hits around October or November I basically become useless. I shut down and can barely muster the strength to eat.

A lot of people describe depression as a weight on your chest and/or in your gut. But I relate it more to the feeling of treading water. A constant, exhausting full-body feeling that causes every second that passes to bring me closer to the brink of giving up. Any moment and anything too heavy can cause me to slip under the surface, suffocating as I gasp for air.

As I go into the winter months, I can remember how much easier things had been for me when it was warmer. I could write, paint, even leave the house without becoming unbearably exhausted and unbearably heavy. So heavy. These memories keep trying to pull me under as I dwell on the fact that I know I should be able to do these things. I was able to do them a few weeks ago, why not now? Eventually, as the snow falls and I get deeper into the winter months, it gets easier for me as I am no longer being pulled down by the under tide of the memory of summer. I simply become an entity – an echo of myself – treading water in attempts to keep breathing. Constantly having to put forth effort to do the simplest tasks.

Eventually, I hit a plateau and the world stops crashing down on top of me. All the debris has fallen and the dust is beginning to clear. The weight of life is still on top of me but I can begin to dig myself out. Piece by piece I pull the ruble off of myself and start to return to the me I want to be. Finally, I come out from beneath the broken waves and find the shore. I look around and see spring has sprung.

Only to go through it all again later that year.