My mother and her intense body image issues were projected on me from birth. I was told the moment they put me in her arms she said my thighs were just like hers, big. From that very moment, I wasn’t worthy, I wasn’t enough. My eating disorder started before I was born, it started with her. It started before her. It started with the generational trauma that just passed through all the women in my family, and it ended.. in me.
When I was 7 years old I would climb up on my kitchen counter to get into the cabinet that held my fathers pills. I’d go to the highest shelf, grab one of the massive multicolored horse pills and somehow swallow it hole. It was awful and huge, but I knew, even though to this day I have no idea what it was, it would make me vomit. Before heading off to my elementary school I’d take the pill, and by the time I’d get to my class, My body would throw up anything I had eaten. They’d always send me home after this, but somehow my abusive home still felt better than being at school and in my body. The body that couldn’t keep me safe. I was only 7 years old, and I’d already lost myself.
I would repeat this ritual more times than I can count, and to this day I wonder if my classmates remember this happening. The vomit, me being sent home, the cycle repeating itself so clearly, but somehow missed by all. Unfortunately that was only the beginning of what turned into 20 years of eating disorders, and what felt like a lifetime of hating my body. A lifetime of hating myself.
Honestly, I never felt hungry, but I never felt full either. Most of the time I would starve myself, but some days I’d binge to the point of winning eating contests, and vomit it all back up. I’d use enemas daily, so often it became necessary for my digestion. This was me at 8, 9, 10… it just got worse over time. Let’s be real here, I was 42 lbs in 6th grade. That’s smaller than my 6 year old is today. I was TINY! I was so unusually small, a bone doctor told my parents I’d most likely be only 4’9 when I was an adult. But somehow, somehow at home I was still told I was fat. I had big thighs. Nothing could change that fact. They said ballet wasn’t right for me, I didn’t have the right body type, I was too much. I was not enough. I had to change it.
In almost every single aspect of my childhood and teenage years I had no power, I was abused, taken advantage of, ridiculed, but my size… my weight. I had control of that. Or so I thought… I was so naturally small, I just slipped through the cracks. No one really saw the struggles I was facing in any aspect of my life. None of them. But in my life, in my home, I wasn’t seen. Even through my twenties I was just pushed aside. Forced to minimize every piece of who I was, including pieces of me that took almost 30 years to find again.
I’m sharing all of this, because I am almost 35 and still look at the mirror and struggle. I know many people who fight daily with the same exact thing. When I was 20, I wanted to look like I was 15 again. When I was 30 I wanted to look like I was 25. It never stopped. It took me until recently to even acknowledge that our bodies are MEANT TO CHANGE. We are not supposed to look like we were at 15 when we are 40! I had 3 kids. Grew, birthed, and breastfed 3 children. How in the world could my body look like it did when I was 12 after that!? It’s literally not humanly possible. But an eating disordered brain truly cannot comprehend this. I thought I had healed my eating disorders in my 20’s, but now I see that was a lie. My brain still saw my body so distorted no matter how good I looked, and it just wasn’t ever enough. It always saw what was wrong. But maybe, maybe all those things that seemed so very wrong, for so long, are actually what was right.
After my mother died a few years ago, I realized all the life she missed out on by focusing solely on her looks. So much life, and not because she died at 59. I don’t want that for myself, and especially not for my children. There is so much I wish I could say to that tiny blue eyed little person who felt so unloved, so unseen, so lost inside herself. I would tell her that she is more than peoples perceptions of her. That no matter what her body looked like, she was worthy of love. She is special, unique, funny and her wide range of feelings are her superpower. I’d tell her that people will eventually love her for all she is, not some, so please… please.. just stop hiding who you are from the world. Don’t wait until you break to find her.
I lost so much of my life focusing on what was outside myself, and not what was within me all along. Over the past few years since my mom died I have grown so much more than I ever imagined. For the first time I can honestly say that I love myself, and who I’ve become. I love all of me, not for my body, but for WHO I am and what I bring to the world. It’s true what they say about needing to love yourself in order to be loved in the way you deserve. It never made sense to me until now. I see it now. If you don’t love yourself, you won’t see your worth, and you’ll settle for a life far below what you’re destined for. Happiness starts within, and the happiness that came into my life since I realized this is far beyond my comprehension. While I still struggle with my body, and probably will in some ways forever, I’ll continue to love myself first. My eating disorder may have started before I was born, but it doesn’t own my worth, and never will again. I do.
***it is important when speaking about eating disorders (not only during eating disorder awareness month) to note that there is help out there for everyone. Please check: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/ and do not feel ashamed reaching out for help. You are beautiful as you are and worthy of love***