*The following article discusses eating disorders in detail. If you are struggling with an eating disorder, consider that this might be triggering, and visit BEAT for support.*
I would never want to go back to when my eating disorder controlled my life. I was absolutely miserable. My life revolved around counting calories, measuring myself and working out how to avoid meals. Birthday dinners were a source of stress rather than celebration. Carbohydrates were the devil’s work rather than a delicious source of energy.
Looking back at the photos, I can finally see that I don’t look well. I can see that my hair was thin, my skin was drained and my eyes look so empty. But when I look at those photos, on the rare moments that I allow myself, I also see the small body I inhabited, one so far removed from my healthy and full figure now. And while I would never want to go back to that time, I can’t help but miss that smaller body.
Rationally, I know it wasn’t. I know that I was stressed and hungry all of the time. I don’t remember a lot of that time and it’s probably because I didn’t eat enough calories to even form coherent memories. I know I was probably awful to be around, a walking zombie with only food on her mind but never on her plate. I probably made other people self-conscious with my fixation on food and weight, and this is a guilt I carry to this day. I hate knowing what a toxic influence I may have been.
Rationally, I know all of this, but irrationally… life felt so much easier. All I had to focus on was how to eat less and get away with it. All I wanted was to be smaller. And I was small, I was as small as I had ever been.
Looking back, it feels like being smaller in this world was so much easier. You get to waltz around as the conventional concept of attractiveness, as everyone’s stereotype of healthy, even if it was so far from the truth.
Now I live knowing that I’m not as small as people would want me to be. I have to know that healthy on me is a bigger size than on other people. People just see weight gain, they don’t see the story behind it. And somehow, that has to be okay.
So I miss living in that smaller body. I miss seeing clothes on a mannequin and knowing how they would look on me. I miss being told I was attractive and feeling like I could wear what I wanted.
But that isn’t about my size, that’s about me. Because even at that size, I felt fat, even when there wasn’t an inch of it on me. I wasn’t confident and I wasn’t enjoying that smaller size at all. I was miserable, and that’s what I need to remember.
I wasn’t myself in the slightest. I wasn’t expressing who I was. So maybe people liked that smaller body, but they didn’t like me.
So while I’ll take a moment to grieve that smaller body, to acknowledge the damage that growing up in this weight-centred society has inflicted on me, I won’t ever go back to it. I don’t really miss my eating disorder. Because it was never worth it. Because the issue isn’t my body, it’s that I need to learn to love my body at any size. I need to adjust to where I am now rather than looking over my shoulder. I’ll grieve that smaller body because it’s gone, and I hope it stays that way. I am choosing to live.
Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.
Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.
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