Everyone thinks “that can’t happen to me”, but how often do you become what you think is impossible? If the answer is once, twice, or three hundred times, it doesn’t matter, because you became part of the statistic.
Rewind a little over 10 years ago, I was in 4th grade. I knew what eating disorders were and I knew how troubling they were. I was part of conversations on the playground. I saw the picture diagrams and notes on “how to get skinny”. I heard about family members struggling. I saw disorders on the TV and in magazines. I said NO, NOT ME.
Fast forward about 4 years. I’m a youngster in high school now. I know girls who refuse to eat. I hear cafeteria conversations about whether a tooth brush or finger works best. The media attention with disorders has increased. It’s surrounds you every day. I said NO, NOT ME.
Fast forward a little more. I hate my body more than ever. I try to make myself throw up, I can’t do it, I go straight to the cookie jar and binge. The next week I try to not eat… I get dizzy during track practice and binge out on Braums. I go to Walgreens to buy laxatives and diet pills, surely these will work, I think. My mom finds the pills that had fallen out of my backpack and I get lectured of the dangers. I start crash dieting, lose a lot of weight. Finally feeling healthy, confident and avoiding disorders.
A few more years go by. I’m at TCU where the girls are a 100 on a scale of 1-10. The average size of a TCU gal is a double 0. Being “fuller figured” or having an “athletic build” are turnoffs to the guys you are trying to impress. I hear the statistics about how many Horned Frogs will struggle with an eating disorder. I see it occur in people I work with, that live in my dorm and that are in my classes. I try so hard to be strong. I said, NO, NOT ME.
Everywhere I turned I saw a teeny tiny girl, a super ripped guy, flawless, beautiful people. Half the time they were photoshopped. Shoutout to the media for photoshopping to the extent of completely changing the way someone looks… and an even bigger shoutout to the unreealistic expectations you put on women, men, teens and children. Not to mention social media! Literally everywhere I turned there was a beautiful person in my vision. Trying to keep up was hard to do.
Another year goes by, I realize I’ve been gaining weight despite my daily gym sessions and chicken salads. I go into a depression. I hate myself and the way I look. I feel out of my place and unwanted. I binge on cookies during a football game because my once too big pants, were now too tight. I needed to escape. I went to the bathroom because I felt sick to my stomach, and there I became a statistic that I swore I never would become.
It started out as an “every once in a while” type of thing. I ate a snack, or had too much of something and wanted a release. It turned into an obsession. Having food in my stomach made me feel disgusting, no matter if all I ate was an apple and a piece of chicken…or a full-blown meal at Babes, I didn’t like the feeling. I found myself running to the bathroom multiple times a day. I did my best at hiding it for a while, then one of my friends found out. Instead of telling me I was an idiot and telling me to get help, I was encouraged to keep it up. If it makes you skinnier and prettier, then why not?
One day I woke up and realized how unhealthy this way and how it actually made me feel worse about myself than I had ever felt before. I made a vow to stop. Anyone who has struggled with a disorder of any sort knows that it’s impossible to drop something on a dime. But damn, did I try. I was able to completely stop cold turkey for a few months. I had gotten my mind into a good place and was losing weight by eating healthy and working out with a gym partner. Life was better. I was healing.
The hardest part of healing is doing it without a support system. Once you become a statistic, how do you turn your life around without the help of those who love you and care for you? You can’t really. I learned that the hard way. Falling back into old habits is so easy to do. Over the past few years I have had my ups and downs. Days, weeks, even months have gone by where the thought to head to the bathroom after dinner hasn’t even crossed my mind. Then there are days where I will do anything in my power to relieve the disgusting sensation of purging away my guilt, stress, food, insecurities.
Perhaps my journey would be different had I gone and asked for help instead of working on everything on my own for so long. But, the mere thought of having to say this out loud is petrifying. I don’t want to disappoint my mom, who years ago told me how dangerous eating disorders were. I don’t want to embarrass my friends, my family. I want to pretend that it never happened to me. But it did. And it is happening to millions of people all over the world.
The best part about being a statistic is that you know how bad it hurts to be that statistic. You know the struggle. The defeat. The triumph of overcoming. You can be there for someone else. You can share your story and your support, and you can become a different statistic as you overcome it.
I’m recovering. Slowly but surely. Each day that goes by that the thought doesn’t cross my mind is a day closer to being healthy mind-body and soul. The days that I think about it, but don’t act on it are just as big of a triumph in my book. Talking about it makes it easier. You never want to hear that someone else has been through the same struggle, but boy does it help. At this point in time a few people have been there for me to open to, to go to when I feel weak. However two people in particular truly helped open my eyes to what was going on and how unhealthy it was. One was a support system I never expected, and the other had been in my shoes years before. They both knew how important it was to see myself as more than a statistic.
It’s true. I am more than a statistic. I don’t want it to define me. I’m battling something on the journey to become the best me that I can be. I’m a real person. I struggle. I love. I live. I laugh. I’m far from perfect. My goal is to learn to love myself despite my flaws, and that I see myself the way I want to see myself… I don’t need to be defined by standards or statistics. I am me. I am real. I am recovering.