I was watching some melodramatic high-school based Hulu show tonight, and the music, for some reason, took me back. The situations the characters were in took me back, and my mindless jabbering through shows brought me to some honest revelations and memories that I had basically blacked out. These circumstances may have been the spark that set me up to struggle with a terrible eating disorder for six years of my life. For all of us that are parents now, and all of us that have faced this issue, I think it’s important to share the experiences that I feel set mine off. I am aware I’m speaking only for me and my experience.
My parents never had a good relationship. I knew this my entire life, but it didn’t faze me until my brother was out of the house and I was confronted with statements like “We’ve only stayed married for you”. This was the beginning of the end for me. I accepted that my parents needed better, but not having a license yet, or a great family support system, I was not ready for the fall out. I let them know that I (as a freshman in high school) was prepared for their separation and wanted their happiness first. I set off a bomb without understanding what I had gotten myself into. Now, let’s throw in a shitty boyfriend that had one thing in mind and endlessly and relentlessly pursued that. My parents basically ghosted each other. Dad moved out, cell phones weren’t much of a thing, and mom was scared to tell me much because she didn’t want me in the middle (or to tell Dad anything).
So there was a point when my parents had me STAY at said boyfriends. This is the guy that used to shove my 15-year-old face or hand near his piece, regardless of my denials. At one point, I can remember him taking my clothes off no matter how much I rejected, and my only option was to let him put it in my mouth, because it felt like a better option than getting pregnant by him.
So there I was, my entire life had fallen into the hands of an ill-meaning 17 year old boy that I had to rely on to get to basic places like school. A boy that was the only one to tell me he “loved me” for a while. That was the first time I can remember making myself sick. I don’t even remember if I had to throw up because of how I felt, or if I just did it out of desperation to start some long road to suicide. I stood in his sister’s bathroom and stuck my fingers down my throat until I had nothing left in me.
This sad march that I had begun marked many struggles through the next six years of my life. I silently wanted to not be on this Earth anymore, and built walls around me. People that assume eating disorders are strictly a “body-image” problem are wrong. It’s an emotional problem. It’s a support problem. It’s a “not-feeling-like-you-can-turn-to-anyone” problem. And in my case, it was an “I-want-to-die-slowly-and-discretely” problem.
This bullshit eating disorder became what I turned to so I wouldn’t have to tell people what I was really feeling. I would hate my life in silence and pretend everything was golden in person. Unfortunately, I do not think I am alone in this experience. I think many of us get to this dark place through different paths. Feeling ashamed and depressed without a place to turn creates a terrible fate for anyone. Whether people turn to drugs, eating disorders, or suicide, loneliness is the enemy. Feeling helpless is the enemy. Reach out to your friends, care about one another, and let your children know they are important. I feel like there is a universe in which I wouldn’t have experienced this, but then I couldn’t share my experience with you. There is a better future, and learning from our struggles create it.