It’s all very well for internet arseholes like me to tell you to be confident, own the world, and generally stamp around with a level of self-assurance that most people would struggle with on a good day. I know that, despite my hippy-esque assurances that you should love yourself no matter what, genuinely being happy with yourself is one of the hardest things to be.
Your rational mind can look in the mirror and go “well, I’m sort of average shape, quite tall, and reasonably tidy-looking” while your emotional mind, ignoring evidence to the contrary, goes “I’m so fucking UGLY.” Even the most confident, beautiful, almost-perfect people get these flashes. But some get it harder than others, and some have to fight it every single day.
It’s all very well assuring people that ‘you’re totally fine. You’re beautiful. Don’t be ridiculous’ when they let their insecurity out, but often the problem is so much deeper than just a simple desire for reassurance. Knowing that helps us understand people a bit better, and dodge the flippancy that I’m certainly guilty of a lot of the time.
The following guest blog is by Madison, who is a very new blogger writing excellent things over at Madisonwritessht. She got in touch to ask if she could write a guest blog on recovering from an eating disorder. And fuck me, can she write.
I can’t tell if I’m getting fatter or if my mind is getting sicker.
I have never had a positive body image. I remember panicking when we had to go swimming in primary school, and being jealous of my younger sister for having a smaller body than me. I was six, and I was sick. I thought that the only way anyone would love me would be if my bones were visible and I was blemish free. Unfortunately, I still do.
It’s difficult to explain how you feel about your body with a mouthful of pizza and friends saying they want to look like you. It’s not that I ever thought I was obese, or even fat. ‘Fat’ doesn’t have the same meaning to someone suffering from an eating disorder as it does to others. Fat means disgusting, it means failure. It means you can’t get anything right, and as long as the numbers on the scale are creeping higher, you’ll never be a success.
Personally, food is a comfort. I don’t remember the last time I was actually hungry, I eat when I’m sad, bored or lonely. Food is so tightly connected with emotions that every moment of my time is spent counting calories, or searching for happiness in a bar of chocolate like a Wonka ticket. So, as a pre-teen, I did what I thought would make me look ‘normal’. I drank a litre of salted water and stuck a toothbrush down my throat. I didn’t care what anyone thought, as long as there were other people out there skinnier than me, I was fat. I’d cry myself to sleep and, for a long time, I wished I wouldn’t wake up in the morning, so I didn’t have to deal with myself. There was nothing I could do to stop puberty or my developing body, but the success in stopping my periods spurred me on. But I never lost much weight and the constant act of bingeing and purging simply left my weight fluctuating and my body wrecked. It wasn’t until I was sent to therapy as a teenager for other issues that I was able to stop the voices for a while, and put them to one side.
After accidentally losing a lot of weight during summer a year or so ago, starting at university was torture. The drinking and fast food, coupled with a new unrestricted environment caused my recovery to go downhill. I bulk bought laxatives, taking 30 pills in one go, went days without eating and exercised like a fanatic in my bedroom. I knew I was being irrational, but an eating disorder is an addiction, and I didn’t see a way out. I just wanted to be confident, and to like something about myself. For a short while I had a boyfriend, and after he broke up with me for stupidly arbitrary reasons I didn’t sleep for two days, bingeing, convinced that he would have stayed with me if I’d been thinner.
These days, I’m in recovery. Or at least I’m trying. I’m trying so hard to regulate my eating pattern and think about myself positively. I’m scared about disappointing people if I let myself fall again, but even making myself a bowl of pasta is terrifying. The worst part is, I’m almost 20 and I feel like I’m broken. I’m just looking forward to the day when someone will tell me ‘you’re beautiful’ and the voice inside me won’t erase their words.