So, I feel a bit weird. I want to talk about something important (to me) and serious, but I’ve never really spoken about this in any sort of coherent or public way. And we’ve never been serious on the blog before. But I feel compelled to talk about this and I don’t think I’ll be satisfied with anything I put up here until I do.
I guess I’ll just jump into it. Also, trigger warning? Cuz that’s a thing on the internet.
Monday night I watched this video of Hank talking about various forms of eating and body dysmorphic disorders on Crash Course. I thought that I would be okay watching something like this, becoming more informed on something that I had/have. I wasn’t. I spent a lot of time crying after watching this video, in a very troubling mess of sadness, disappointment and helplessness.
Please take a moment, if you haven’t already, to watch the video.
First, I am no authority on eating disorders. I can offer no adequate help. But I can share my experiences with binge eating and body dysmorphia. [I just went back and forth ten times deciding whether to put disorder or not – which is sad in itself. The idea that I have a disorder or a mental illness is alarming because in most capacities, I feel pretty normal. Normal is a horrendous word.]
I’ve spent pretty much all of my life being fat. Growing up, I was never teased because of my weight, I was never bullied, I wasn’t much different from anyone else to be honest. I’m lucky for that. I never really associated my weight with my worth until an ex-boyfriend told me that he didn’t think I was beautiful because I was fat. That was around my sophomore year of college. That’s when things started getting ugly.
I’m the type of person that doesn’t know how to deal with whatever it is that I’m feeling – and so my body takes it out on me instead. In my senior year of college, due to stress, I got daily severe tension headaches my first semester and broke out in hives for my second. I didn’t even know that it was stress induced until my doctor told me that I was obviously stressed [and I was just sitting there like WHAT WHAT WHO??]. So I can’t tell you how I got from him saying that to not being able to look at myself in a mirror/assuming that I didn’t deserve to be loved/eating food and hating myself for it. I will also be very bad at telling you how I feel about that now.
What I can tell you is this: for a long time I hated my body. I was certain, and I can’t explain effectively how certain, that I would never be loved. It was an absolute impossibility. And, what’s worse, I was okay with it. I accepted that those circumstances were my life. Unless I became thin, I would never find someone who was capable of loving me. And that is incredibly unhealthy.
I was told by a number of people that I trusted in my life (and who didn’t know any better) that this behavior was normal in women. All women hate themselves. What they didn’t know was that my hatred went beyond annoyance, went beyond wishing I had her legs. My self-loathing was who I was. And so I didn’t seek professional help. I didn’t see a therapist because this was something every woman went through. I was normal.
And that’s what made me cry the other night. That I let myself stay in such a miserable place for so long. And that so many people continue to suffer from these behaviors because we don’t tell women that hating yourself IS NOT OKAY. I felt so sad for College Me and for the lack of resources I had when I was younger and helpless for my past self. But – I also felt proud because when my fiancé saw me crying and told me that he loved me, I was able to answer him back without any hesitation that I love me too.
For anyone struggling with self-loathing, body dysmorphic or eating disorders, please seek professional help. This is NOT normal. It is not normal to not be able to walk in front of a mirror. It’s not normal to cringe at photos of yourself. It’s not normal to assume you’re not going to be loved because you’re not your own convoluted idea of perfect. Your body is awesome, perfection isn’t real, and your brain isn’t your friend.
I did not seek professional care and I wish I had. Here are some ways that I’ve found love in myself outside of professional care, for anyone who is too scared, or has any reason that they don’t want to seek professional help.
- No Pants Weekends: These are easily my favorites. Essentially, anytime you’re home, TAKE OFF YOUR PANTS. Undies ONLY [or not, you do you]. I found that this really helped me shock my brain into learning to love my legs. Suddenly, I became comfortable walking around the house in my chonies and, later, outside in short dresses or shorts.
- Bad days are okay: This is not something I’m going to get over easily. It’s going to be something that I’m going to struggle with for a while, maybe for longer. I can’t put an expiration date on being better and I need to be okay with that.
- Little goals: Sometimes I look at a shirt online and think, “I can’t wear that because it doesn’t have sleeves.” Nope. That’s not okay. That’s not self-love. Instead, I buy the damn thing and I wear it when I feel ready. Even if it sits in my closet for a month before I do it, that’s okay, because once I actually do it, I feel amazing.
- The luxury of plus size: I’m a plus size woman, so I have my own set of models that I get to ogle at. These women are remarkably normal in size, most of them very tall and very slender (size twelve/ten and 5’10’’ does not a fat woman make), but I still don’t have to choose between looking at scarily malnourished-looking models. The models I look at and the women I choose to feed my brain with, are all “fat,” whether it’s society’s definition of plus size or my own. My Tumblr and Instagram feed, in regards to the fashion icons I look up to, are exclusively larger women. I feed my brain with these images and I’ve noticed that when I’m presented with society’s definition of beauty, I don’t like it.
- I can’t force myself to work out: I don’t know what working out for myself means. I’ve only known the mentality that working out is to be skinny is to be loved. This mentality isn’t okay and I need to learn how to work out to be healthy and not working out to be skinny.
- Learning what Healthy means: Health and weight are not the same thing. I’m not qualified to talk about this, because I’m not a doctor or a nutritionist, but there’s a reason my blood work comes backs normal. You can read a good article on fat vs. heath here.
- Five years of insistent, demanding love: For nearly five years, my fiancé has spent every day proving me wrong. It is clear to anyone who sees him looking at me that I am loved. Eventually, you just have to deal with the fact that you’re a hot piece of ass.
I have a number of self-care goals to continue with on my 101 in 1001 post. For anyone struggling with this: please seek help, and take comfort in knowing that you’re not alone.
Here’s a toll free number to the National Eating Disorders Helpline. If you’re ready to find help or you need to talk to someone, please call 1-800-931-2237.
To the furthest star and back,