Happy Monday, everyone! I think the only thing that kept me plugging along today was knowing that I had a great Embrace:Me contribution just waiting to be posted this evening. This week’s post comes from Lauren, who (if you’re keeping track) also authored ‘Dear Body’. I was thrilled when Lauren contacted me about this post, because she is so good at writing about ED in a way that is relatable but also descriptive of her unique experience. If you’re interested in getting to know more about Lauren and Libero (of which she is the founder), you can also find her on Facebook. Finally, a great big thank you to her for being so kind as to share her work once again.
People always ask me, “How did it all start?” They want to know what triggered it all – a trauma, a comment, a break-up – or if I woke up one day and decided not to eat. The truth is it wasn’t any specific event. I prefer to say it was a series of choices that first turned me down the path. Ignoring my better judgement, I started breaking the rules…
Thou Shall Not Covet
She was beautiful and popular, but most importantly she was tiny. And he wanted her, not me. So I suppose you could say it did start with a break-up, but it was not the break that kick-started my troubles with body image, it was who had replaced me – I wanted what she had, not the guy, but the body. For the first time I felt my appearance was holding me back and I entered into a war against my self.
Everything that every other girl had I wanted – longer hair, prettier eyes, slimmer arms, a leaner stomach; what I had wasn’t enough.
Celebrities quickly became the source of my envy – I analyzed them, mesmerized by their perfection. I wanted it, I wanted it all…
Thou Shall Not Commit Idolatry
I spent hours researching the weight, height, and measurements of actresses and singers. I covered my bedroom walls with magazine cut-outs of the girls I wanted to be. I lay on my bed, soaking in these images – flipping through the magazines, watching the music videos. I was obsessed. It wasn’t that I idolized the people themselves, I was idolizing their bodies. I worshipped the flawlessness.
Then I began focusing on my own body, turning it into an object that needed to be re-moulded into something beautiful – something perfect. As I began losing weight, I only fell deeper into the hole, possessing a strange love-hate relationship with my body. On the one hand I hated it, was disgusted at the sight of it even, but when I didn’t hate it, I worshipped it. Every moment was devoted to maintaining the pursuit of perfection. There was no time for friends, no time for family, and no time for God. I was completely consumed. And I was willing to do whatever it took to keep my idol a secret…
Thou Shall Not Lie
Secrecy became my way of life; if I wanted a shot at perfection it would have to. So I lied. I lied about skipping meals. I lied about being ‘healthy’ again. I lied about being happy.
It’s not that no one was there to help me; it’s that no one knew I needed help. I dished out meals that went straight into the rubbish bin when no one was watching; I ignored my rumbling stomach while I politely declined offers of food; I was never honest about how long I was spending in the gym. I credited my weight loss to a new interest in being active and a self-proclaimed ‘sugar allergy.’ And I accepted people’s compliments on my ‘new’ appearance as encouragement for my behaviours.
I even lied to myself. I lied about my motivation, lied about the severity of my situation, lied about how far I was willing to go – which ended up being much farther than I ever would have imagined…
Thou Shall Not Kill
All of the jealousy, all of the obsession, all of the lies led to one result: I was killing myself.
It’s not like I didn’t know the potential outcome of my actions – I read countless articles and watched countless documentaries that showed the damaging effects; I knew exactly what I was doing. The problem was I didn’t care. So I continued to abuse my body and damage myself emotionally and physically. My appetite, which was never fed, had no other choice but to eat up all that was left inside of me until I was an empty shell. I was emotionally dead, spiritually dead, and it was only a matter of time until I was physically dead. Typically people don’t view eating disorders as a form of suicide, but the truth is they are simply the longer route to the same destination. I was taking a life, and that life was my own.
But I didn’t succeed.
The Greatest Commandment
To get to where I am today from where I was then, I had to retrace my steps and reverse each one, starting by choosing life rather than death. The next step was breaking the secrecy – first by being honest with myself, and then opening up to my family and friends. Once others knew what was going on it became harder to keep my obsessions a secret. Suddenly I had people holding me accountable, and with my desire to stay alive, I sought help.
Succeeding in recovery depended on one thing, obeying the greatest commandment: Love your neighbour as yourself. I already loved my neighbour, now I would need to learn to love myself – this was the most difficult of all, but once I achieved this, the jealousy and the desire to have what others had rather than be content with Me slipped away. I was happy. I was beautiful. I was free.
You can find past Embrace:Me posts and contributions here. If you’d like to submit your own story of body confidence, please get in touch! I want to hear your stories of learning to embrace yourself, and welcome contributions in whatever format you feel suits you best. You can also find Embrace:Me on Facebook.