Even before my eating disorder, I was always too hard on myself. I had no idea what “perfect” meant, but I was willing to do everything in my power to find out, and become it as well. My school grades were outstanding. I took piano, dance, and painting lessons, I did my chores at home in spite of how much I disliked them, and I always ate fruits and vegetables the way mommy said I should. However, no matter what I did, I was never satisfied.
There was always this voice in the back of my head, telling me I could do better; I could be better.
Not only did I think I wasn’t good enough, but I also used aggressive and hateful words towards myself. Then, those words became actions. I decided to starve myself (among other things).
The harm we do to ourselves and our loved ones with an Eating Disorder might seem slow and passive, but this does not make the intention any less furious or violent. Such illness is, obviously, a very different experience for each person who struggles with it.
In my case, I never meant to hurt others, and I hated the attention I got because of my Anorexia. Instead, I genuinely believed I did not deserve food; I had to earn my tiny portions of fruit with long hours of intense exercise.
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What is more, I reached a point where I was so exhausted from trying to be flawless, I started to feel my body was my prison. I remember I used to wish I could crawl out of my skin and become as intangible as air.
I wanted to disappear in order to finally be free.
Nevertheless, as “harmless” and subtle as I thought my purpose was, I ended up causing more pain–to both my family and myself–than I could have ever imagined. This realisation hit me during my recovery, and it felt as if I had been punched right in the face, or worse.
I felt like a monster. I apologised a thousand times, yet I would never be able to erase the image of my mom’s constant tears or my dad’s confusion in his eyes. Furthermore, there was the damaged I had done to myself.
I must highlight the essential role mirrors played when it came to my Eating Disorder. As it happens with most of us who have experienced this disease, body dysmorphia was pretty severe in my case. I honestly could not understand what people meant when they said I looked “sickly thin,” because the worse I got, the bigger I saw myself.
I absolutely despised the feeling of taking too much space, although it was, obviously, a product of my delusional mind.
All of a sudden and with no apparent reason, the reflection I saw in the mirror changed one day.
Truthfully, at that moment I had no clue as to how it had happened; I didn’t know if some miracle had taken place within my brain overnight, or if an unknown mental health fairy had come to visit me in my sleep.
Even though it lasted merely a second, I finally saw what others did. My ribs and shoulder blades were sticking out through my red tank top, my cheeks were completely hollow and I could have sworn both my collarbones and hip bones would be able to cut through glass.
My hair was dull and brittle, my pale skin was as dry as it could be, and my fingernails were purple (I’m not talking about nail lacquer here). Of course, looking like a disturbing version of Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride wasn’t the worst part, for what was going on inside my body was even more alarming.
What frightened me the most, though, were my eyes. They didn’t look sad, angry or scared. They simply looked dead.
Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a magic mental health or eating disorder recovery fairy. Recovery is usually an incredibly difficult, agonizing process. We are not only forced to deal with every single feeling we were trying to suppress during our sickness, but with new ones as well. We are forced to deal with ourselves as a whole.
Among an unexpected roller coaster of emotions, shame and guilt were definitely two of the hardest and most distressing.
They were there with every bite of food I took, with every second of missed exercise, and, above all, with every glance I took of my loved ones and every time the image of my malnourished self in the mirror popped into my head.
Once again, I found myself feeling remorseful and in need of punishment. But, this time I knew better. I reminded myself I had not chosen anorexia or to have an eating disorder, and, in spite of everything that had happened, in spite of all the pain I had been the cause of, I still deserved love and forgiveness. Especially my own.
Mistreatment is never the answer.
In no situation is abuse valid, and that includes when it is inflicted by ourselves upon ourselves.
Declaring ‘hate leads nowhere,’ is a lie. Hate leads to the darkest of places, and I refuse to go back there. Starving myself was definitely the most violent, destructive thing I have ever done, and I know the scar will remain with me forever.
But, I also know it will not always be so painful. I know for a fact I will heal. In the meantime, I will not cease to remind myself of my worth.
Moreover, I will not let anything get in the way of a pizza and me ever again.
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