When I was in the sixth grade, a particular experience forever altered my future and my life.
There is a boy in my art class named Armando, and I have such a crush on him. One day, I overhear Armando’s friend asking him about me. “Hey, do you like that girl Laura?” “Naw, she’s ugly.”
I felt like a knife was being thrust into my stomach. It only took a moment for me to decide I was unattractive and no one would ever like me. I felt as though I needed to find some way to feel good, to feel accomplished. I immediately began dieting.
Instead of leaving this decision and my insecurities in the sixth grade, I carried them with me all through high school and into college.
Fast-forward to my freshman year of college when my most treasured possession was my food journal. I wrote in it three times a day, hiding it in the bottom drawer of my desk, locked away from my roommate.
I woke up every morning and stumbled downstairs to the gym. I stepped on the scale to have it prescribe how many minutes on the treadmill I was required to run and whether or not I would eat breakfast.
After the workout, I would shower, running my hands over hipbones and ribs, body-checking for comfort and reassurance.
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The summer after my freshman year, my weight came to an all-time low.
I had lost my food journal. It had been gone a few days, and I was freaking out. I need it desperately. My two summer roommates confronted me, insisting I would die if I didn’t seek help. I was enraged, feeling cornered and trapped. I didn’t hear their love or caring, all I heard was their attempt to ruin my life.
I don’t know why I agreed to see a doctor at student health, but I will be forever thankful I did.
Recovery is indescribable. It is a roller coaster of emotions, re-learning how to feel, walking out of therapy sessions exhausted from crying and having to go to class with people staring at my tear-stained face.
It’s trusting others. It’s finally being ready to be vulnerable. It’s telling the first person about my disorder by writing it on a piece of paper and running into the other room while he read it.
It’s learning to accept help and seeing people are on my side. It’s knowing when someone offers me a piece of cake, it does not mean they are trying to make me “fat”.
Learning to take these leaps of faith. Giving up my addiction to numbers. Throwing out the scale.
Learning to be kind. Affirming every day I deserve what I have and what I want until I believe it as the truth. Smiling at myself in the mirror.
Opening my mind and heart to concepts and experiences I never thought possible. (Someone wants to kiss me? Really?)
Giving up perfectionism. Buying jeans in my true size and letting myself be comfortable instead of being taunted and haunted by smaller sizes.
Learning to live in the real world instead of inside my head. Learning to question my thoughts. Learning it’s more than okay to eat fries, and it’s even okay to eat fries alongside people eating salad.
I attended a recovery group every week for three years where I learned I’m not alone.
In fact, I’ve never been alone, and now I can genuinely receive the love others give me. I no longer flinch when people hug me. I flirt openly with boys. I tell my friends, mentors, and family I love and appreciate them. When someone gives me a compliment, I don’t try to convince them they’re wrong.
I am free from the boundaries of the past. I am free to be the beautiful, compassionate, trusting, wise human being I’ve always had hiding inside.
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