I’m sitting here feeling so tired but not able to sleep. It’s dark and cold which is typically how I like to sleep. But right now, it’s only making everything worse. I live alone but I’m still in the habit of crying quietly, not wanting to wake anyone else up with my noise. I can hear my therapist in my head saying “call someone – talk it out.” But it’s the midnight that connects Friday and Saturday. All my friends are either sleeping or out having fun and I don’t want to be a bother. I’ve never felt extremely close to my mother but in this moment of sadness I’ll dial her number. My thoughts matching up to every sound of it ringing thinking - Please don’t pick up. Please pick up. Please don’t pick up. Please pick up...
“Hello?” she says and now I sob harder and deeper than I have the last two hours.
“What’s happened? Why are you upset?” And for the second time ever in my 29-year life we talk about my issue with body dysmorphia.
“What if you just ate one saltine …maybe add a little peanut butter?” She suggests. I haven’t eaten in two days so I say I will - knowing that I’m lying. A lie that comes out so easily and so believable that I almost fool myself too. I’ve been lying about my eating habits for years. Saying I wasn’t hungry when I was. Pretending I was full when I hadn’t even eaten. I’m used to saying these lies over and over just as much as she is used to hearing them.
“I’m just so frustrated! Why can’t I just get over this already?” I ask. Now this, isn’t a lie. I am frustrated. I am also annoyed, disappointed and embarrassed. I don’t take anyone’s bullshit and I would never let anyone speak to me the way I speak to myself. But sometimes – on bad days – denial is my only comfort. How can it be true that I am so strong if I can also be so weak?
Because I am human. I am imperfect and flawed. But I am also an artist, smart, and independent. I radiate confidence and sexuality. I am caring to those I love and to any animal I see. I am a great listener. I am devoted, loyal and empathetic. And I am not a quitter.
Fast forward to the next afternoon. I am now sitting in my living room with the sun coming through the window and under a warm fuzzy blanket. I am eating a sandwich. I am still tired and this is all I could find the energy to do right now. But these are the steps. I’ll drink more than just water. I’ll snack on more than celery. I’ll eat something filling and keep going and going until I’m back to normalcy. Then I will look in the mirror and realize that once my tears are dry then everything is going to be fine. I didn’t let that one bad night turn back into years of not eating.
I won again.
Body dysmorphia is a battle I will fight the rest of my life. This battle of control. This acceptance that emotions are not always logical or realistic. Food is not the enemy. Denying to give my body the nutrients it needs in order to survive will not stop bad things from happening. It takes time to learn that bad things are just a part of this crazy thing called life. Looking in the mirror and spewing words of doubt and judgement at myself is no way to live. It took me years to get back to a healthy weight. It took even more years to accept I had a problem at all. It took years to figure out why I find such comfort in such unhealthy eating habits.
What I hope to share to all of you is that we all have scars. Some can be seen easily but some are hidden. But scars are also evidence that we’ve lived a full life. Be open to help and know that it’s fine if you need a shoulder to cry on, it’s fine if you need a therapist, it’s fine if every day is a battle, you’re fine just the way you are.
So, let's take a walk.
On April 26 I will be one of 25,000 people that walk each year with National Eating Disorders Association to “raise critical funds, restore hope, and change the conversation surrounding eating disorders.” Look up a walk nearest to you.
Snap a selfie.
Remind yourself that you are fabulous and gorgeous and don’t you change a single thing! Get some rest. Stay hydrated. Eat all the cake. Love and be kind to all beings including yourself. Because there is only one you and damn you are so beautiful!!!
If you or anyone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, or facing any other issues with mental health, here are some resources that may be of help to you:
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