Next week is National Eating Disorders Awareness week, a movement promoted by the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) to promote unity among the eating disorder community. Their theme for this year is “come as you are”, sending the message that all body types and all forms of eating disorders are valid. Though the only thing that runs through my mind when I hear the theme for this years awareness week is the popular Nirvana song, I think the message that NEDA is sending out is wonderful. It is needed.
I struggled with body dysmorphia as a young girl. I was a varsity basketball player, but I always thought of myself as fat. I would obsessively compare myself to the other girls in the locker room who were more slender than I was after practice. I would change clothes in the corner, facing away from everyone so that nobody would see the grotesque figure that I was stuck in.
Today, at my heaviest, I look back at those basketball days in amazement. I was in perfect shape. I was thin enough but still curvy. My love handles were non-existent. I didn’t even have a double chin. I see these pictures and wonder how it was possible that I felt fat – I certainly wasn’t. I spent all of high school hiding behind baggy sweatpants and t shirts, claiming that I did so just because I was I was a tomboy. In reality, I fantasized about wearing cute little dresses, perfectly accessorized with earrings and a bracelet. I could’ve done this – I could’ve enjoyed my figure while I had it – but my mind was so warped that all I saw was an obese girl.
Despite my talent for sports, this idea that I was overweight took hold of me and I started taking stimulants to keep the weight off. I could stay up late, not feel hungry, and work out in excess. By the age of 18 I was addicted to methamphetamine, I quit playing basketball, and my life took a turn for the worst. I stole from the people I loved, I was kicked out of school, and I had no respect for myself or for others.
My body was wasting away, yet I would take immense amounts of selfies and post it all over social media. I finally thought I was pretty.
Today, at my heaviest, I look back at my days of drug abuse in amazement. How did I think I was beautiful? Why did I think that being skinny was worth giving my life up to drugs? I was literally wasting away, nothing but skin and bones.
At two years sober, I can finally “come as I am”. Part of getting sober meant accepting and loving myself for all of my flaws and imperfections. I pray in the morning and I pray at night for acceptance of all things just as they are.
Today, I am happier than I have ever been. I may be heavier, and sometimes I do still compare myself to the models on magazine covers, but today I love myself for who I am because I have people who love me for who I am. I have a life where I am not constantly obsessing over how I look or seeking ways to dramatically change my appearance.
Today I have confidence. This confidence triumphs any feelings of inadequacy, feelings of insecurity, and feelings of fear. So, ladies, this week – come as you are. Confident, sexy, and unapologetically you.