There’s a lot of talk, especially on the internet, about body image and self confidence in girls. (We even had a Culture Shock post about it recently.) A common message is that girls shouldn’t focus so much on what’s on the outside, but rather we should try to be good people on the inside. What’s on the outside shouldn’t matter. And that’s a great thing to say, but it’s not that easy.
I was anorexic in my junior year of high school, and I had to attend fifteen hours of intensive therapy every week for five months. They released me in June of 2011, and I’ve never relapsed, but it’s something I’ve struggled with every day since then. I also have body dysmorphia, so I can’t tell what I really look like. Everyone says that I look so much better now. My face isn’t sunken in anymore, and I got my glow back. I can’t see a difference. I still think I see fat that other people say isn’t there. And I have no idea how long I’m going to be living like this, in a constant battle with my body. You’ve had outsiders’ perspectives on this issue, and I’m here to give you an insider’s perspective.
I wanted to be sick. When the psychiatrist told me I was anorexic, I felt so proud of myself. And then I was scared. I knew I wouldn’t be allowed to be sick anymore. We ate dinner at therapy, me and about fifteen other girls. And sometimes we would try to hide pieces of food in our sleeves or our pockets. It was hard there, with all the therapists watching us, and the time I got caught was horrible. It was easy at home, though. I had routines for hiding all my meals, and I felt so sneaky and accomplished. I had to drink three Ensures a day, which were basically calorie shakes. At night, when everyone was asleep, I would go down to the refrigerator, dump them out, and fill them with water. I lied a lot, and I liked it. It felt powerful. I was in control.
ThinSpo blogs made my anorexia far worse than it would have been otherwise, I think. I wanted to be thin as a personal goal, but I also wanted to be thinner than everyone else. It started as a competition with those around me. Could I be the skinniest girl in my high school? I think I got pretty close. But then there were all these girls on the internet who were skinnier than me. I started a competition with the whole world.
Fear keeps me from relapsing. My mother would pull me out of school and bring me home. Being busy, too, helps a lot. I don’t have time to worry about food because I have so many other things to do. But it’s always been in the back of my head. And a nasty little part of me is still proud to say that I was once anorexic. That same part of me still gets angry when other people have eating disorders, because I wanted it to be my thing. I wanted it to make me special.
It’s so hard to ignore the voice in my head that tells me I should be skipping meals, even years after recovery. So what I want to say to people who have this problem is, I don’t know if it will totally go away, but it will get better. And to those who don’t have this problem, you are very, very lucky.