I was always a pretty anxious kid, who eventually grew into the body of a (still-anxious) semi-adult.
I worry about lots of things — the boring, the ridiculous, the wildly farfetched — all of it. "Did I unplug my hair dryer?," I'll ask myself endlessly. "Will my cat get stuck in the crevice under the sink in my apartment?
Am I worthy of love?"
While these questions are daunting and at times, exhausting, it's nothing compared to how profoundly stressed I was, battling myself for eight long years.
The thing is, I didn't even realize it.
Between the beginning of my freshman year of high school and the end of my senior year of college, I struggled with bulimia. Like many who suffer from the disorder, I made sure that my struggle was a secret.
I knew how to hide my tracks. I knew where to binge, and naturally, where and when to purge — even if it was at work, school, or a friend's house. I felt my life was regimented, structured and most importantly, I was in control of it — all the things I didn't feel in other aspects of my life.
In retrospect, it's so clear how deeply I was suffering — calculating the time between my meals and when I could find the nearest bathroom, gorging myself on any and everything I could find before a purge.
Much of why I didn't take my own life-threatening disorder seriously is because I simply didn't fit the bill for what I'd been told eating disorder victims look like. I was never medically underweight in all the years I battled bulimia — at my lowest weight (I'm 5'2"), I weighed about 110 lbs. At my heaviest, I was about 135 lbs. According to the CDC, both weights falls under the "healthy" range for my height, which is sad and ironic, because for so long, I was anything but.
I never thought what I was doing was healthy, per se, but I thought it was necessary in order to a) literally purge myself of the anxious thoughts I felt about myself, and b) feel that I had some sense of control over my body, and by extension my life.
Of course I knew about eating disorders. I even knew people who had struggled with them. I just kept telling myself that on some level, I was different, because I wasn't underweight and I didn't look emaciated. Who would take my sickness seriously if I didn't think I was sick to begin with?
I never had a come-to-Jesus moment of clarity where I suddenly decided to end my destructive habits. My recovery was frequently punctuated by fuck ups and relapses — it happens. But I think what catalyzed my healing was unlearning the stereotypes I'd internalized about what the typical ED survivor looks like.
In mainstream media, we get a myopic view of what a person with an eating disorder looks and acts like. Take the 2006 documentary "Thin," for example. The film follows four young women who are in a specialized facility that deals specifically with ED survivors. Though the women all come from different walks of life, they embody the classic stereotype of someone with an eating disorder, that is, white and absolutely emaciated.
While these are real women whose experiences are absolutely valid, not all people with eating disorders are white, or thin, or even an institution. That's not by any means a knock at these victims or the way anyone chooses to get help — it's just a reality that EDs can affect anyone of any race, gender, or age at any time, any place.
Perpetuating the idea that only one kind of person can have an eating disorder erases the stories of so many survivors, including those of men, fat women, women of color, nonbinary identities, and more.
It took me years to realize that just because I looked "healthy" — whatever that means — I didn't feel it. The rollercoaster of gaining and losing 10 or 20 lbs didn't make me happier — it left me feeling empty and exhausted.
Over the years, I've learned to focus on the fact that I'm more than just a body — I'm more than a flesh cocoon that sometimes weighs more or less. I'm a writer, a cat and dog mom, a girlfriend to the world's most incredible boyfriend, and overall, a happy person.
My bod's not too bad, either.