Just a warning: this post might not be for everyone. It mentions eating disorders, depression, and trauma.
I was twenty-three years old when I discovered I had an eating disorder. It’s taken me almost a year exactly to get serious about tackling it. It’s something I’ve dealt with since I was a little girl—eleven years old to be exact—and it’s become so deeply ingrained in who I am that I was previously content with it remaining in place because it was comfortable. In the same way I sometimes live inside my bubble of depression because it is safe to me, I lived with my ED because it was what I knew.
I’ve never been a “normal” sized child. I was always one of the tallest in my class. And then, over time, I became the tallest, the one who developed earlier than others, and the one who weighed more than the others. However, none of this would have meant anything to me if a family member hadn’t begun to comment on my weight. I hadn’t interacted with the parts of society that I bear witness to now, who vilify fat people for simply existing in their skin. The uncertainty of my body started in my home—in my safe space, my refuge.
I felt like I couldn’t eat too much or too little. That family member projected their body insecurities and self-hatred onto me until I began to starve myself. Purposefully. I’d skip all but one meal, binge eat, and then purge. However, the purging was involuntary, and completely unexpected. In my pre-adolescent mind, this process told me that not only was I not deserving of eating more than one meal, I also didn’t deserve to keep that one meal down.
The first time I involuntarily regurgitated my food, it came at the end of a day where I hadn’t eaten. We were having spaghetti with sausage—one of my favorites—and a salad. I scarfed down my meal so quickly I got a stomach ache, so I went to get in bed until my stomach settled. Then, for the next hour, I went back and forth from bed to bathroom, spitting out the large portions of my meal that my body rejected. In the future, I’d even chew it back up and try to force my body to accept it a second time. Over the years, it became an expected part of the eating process to me—I’d starve myself, eat too quickly, my stomach would ache, and then I’d involuntarily regurgitate my meals, snacks, and even drinks.
My ED is misdiagnosed and misunderstood by friends, family, and doctors alike. Merycism, or, “rumination syndrome,” is typically linked to depression when occurring in young adults without cognitive disabilities or other mental disabilities. Many people like me suffer from vitamin deficiencies due to the fact that our body is unable to extract the healthy nutrients from our food if we spit it out. Quite a few of us tend to be overweight or severely underweight. A lot of times I’ll eat an entire meal, regurgitate it, and will then go hungry the rest of the night for fear that I will be judged for eating again.
The more that I see people coming forward with their eating disorders, the more it empowers me to get a handle on mine. I am more than the trauma and the nitpicking at my pre-adolescent body from a loved one, in what was meant to be a safe space. I am more than my weight. I am more than my ability to digest food. I am more than the anxieties I have around eating in front of others, than my tendency to talk more in social scenarios so I can get away with eating less. I am more than how tired my body feels when it is malnourished and deprived of essential nutrients.
I know now that I am beautiful, I am capable of overcoming this, and I release the fear surrounding this topic, hoping that it resonates with one of you. That hurt, scared little girl within me is free—now I need to make sure she survives.
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