We all have our secrets. We all have our pieces of our own history we try to black out. But sometimes they come up when we least expect them. Sometimes they float into conversation like they are nothing at all, even when they used to be huge.
My secret is, when I was in ninth grade, I was anorexic.
I don’t like to talk about this because it seems so long ago. And to be honest, it seems superficial and stupid. Because I was. I was so, so stupid. But I was a child. I didn’t know better. Or maybe I did, and just didn’t care enough. But there were some days that I wished I’d slowly waste away. Where I’d pass out and wouldn’t wake up.
People have all kinds of motivation for being anorexic. Mine was sadness. When I was younger, I had this piece of sadness inside of me that would sometimes find it’s way into the back of my tear ducts and force me to cry. It was a sadness for not knowing my biological father, for him not wanting to know me. It was a sadness for not feeling good enough. I never, ever felt like I was good enough. I tried extra hard at things, searching helplessly for approval. My mom and step dad could give me all their love but it never felt like enough. Because they weren’t him. He was my flesh and blood. He was half of me. But he wanted nothing to do with me.
As I got older, I learned better. But when I was fourteen and my first high school boyfriend broke up with me for another girl, the sadness slowly came back. I couldn’t eat. Or maybe I could but just didn’t want to. I wanted to be skinny. I wanted to feel something, anything, other than sadness, even if it was hunger. Even if it meant that I’d also feel weak and tired and cranky. I felt out of control. I wanted to at least control this.
I got skinny. There is no doubt about that. But I lost a bit of myself as my skin got looser around my bones. I lost my strength. I lost my ability to believe in myself.
No one ever said anything to me about it. It amazed me that either they didn’t notice, or, they didn’t care.
Until, one day, the technical theatre teacher offered me a snack, and hovered as I ate it. Then, the next time I saw her, she did the same. Once or twice she wouldn’t hover, and I’d quickly turn to a friend and over the snack to them, thankful when they gladly took the free food.
This same teacher ended up being my AP English teacher senior year. She treated me like glass, even loaning me a pillow to rest my head on during her class so I could nap. I think even then she was still worried about me, scared I’d break or disappear in an instance.
To this day, I don’t think she realizes that I knew what she was doing, or how much it meant to me. Sometimes it’s hard to ask for help.
The day I stopped starving myself was a Friday a few months later. I hadn’t eaten but a small bowl of cereal in three days. I had woken up from a nap after school and I knew I had to eat something. I was too weak to walk so I held my body against the wall as I walked slowly down the stairs. It took all my strength to make myself a small bowl of cereal. I sat at the kitchen table but I couldn’t eat it. It just made me feel sick.
I laid back down on the sofa for a while until I got enough strength to go back into the pantry and pull out a brownie with colored sprinkles. I took it back to my room with me and forced myself to eat it.
Not even thirty minutes later I was throwing it up.
I had made myself so sick, my body couldn’t even take the food.
Right then, I knew I had to stop. None of these boys, not the ex boyfriend, not my father, were worth that kind of torture. I was a dancer. How would I dance if I kept doing this?
So I cold turkey’d it. And ever since, I’ve had moments of falling back into those patterns. But I try and train my brain to make myself stop.
It is a tough battle. But associating sadness with not eating is something I will probably always have to fight myself on.
I’m happy to say that I got healthy. I’m happy to say that I didn’t let my insecurities control my life.
I just hope that anyone who reads this knows they are worth it. There’s no reason to make your body skinny. There’s no reason to control yourself in that way. You are better than that. You will get healthy. And you will always be beautiful.