I started writing this post in August. I promised to post it in November. And now, as the year is drawing to a close, I’m finally ready to put it up. Because as I wrote in this post, I think it’s important to know the backstory when attempting to frame up the future.
I have never, at any point in my life, been what people would have considered “dangerously” thin. I have been slightly underweight, but nothing that anyone would have seen as cause for concern. More of my life has been spent being overweight. Nobody could ever see that there was anything wrong with me (aside from being “fat”); and therefore, as people gradually learned about the eating disorder (ED) that I was actually treated for, they tended to write it off as a phase. In their eyes, my ED didn’t go on long enough to constitute a major life event. I was never at death’s door. And “obviously” they couldn’t have been that serious, since I “allowed” myself to get fat again. The truth in reality is that I have had eating disorders in one direction or the other for almost my entire life, and for me they have always been a serious issue, despite what may or may not have been perceivable to others.
When I was in grade-school, I was painfully shy, but it’s hard to say which came first: the shyness, or the bullying. I was never a skinny kid; I was always a little bit rounded. But I was never overweight until I was seven. My family moved to a new neighborhood that year. It was the year that intensive attention began being paid to my little brother and his special needs for getting through school. By default, or by virtue of not having any problems, I was on my own. Unfortunately, that was also the year that I was first allowed free reign in the kitchen. Since my eating was no longer being monitored, I did what any depressed seven-year-old would do: I ate a ton of junk food. It wasn’t lost on my classmates that I was getting bigger. The teasing started, and it didn’t stop until I decided to switch to public school for junior high, instead of going on to private high school with the rest of my classmates. It didn’t stop, even though I did actually lose a lot of the weight between dieting (I started dieting at age nine) and growth spurts before I left.
When I moved on to junior high, even though I was starting with a clean social slate, I had two major problems to contend with: 1. I had stopped growing at age 11, and my body was already fully developed, 2. Thanks to the previous seven years, it was already deeply ingrained in my head that I was fat, and therefore did not deserve love, kindness, sympathy, respect, or pretty much anything good. Obviously, the latter was to be the bigger problem. The chip on my shoulder ensured that I still got targeted. Some of the more harrowing experiences happened during those years (being picked on while undressing in the locker room, having to file an on-campus restraining order because one of the few bullies from grade school that also switched to public school was still following me around the hall in high school yelling fat-based slurs).
Throughout jr. high and high school, I did make many good friends. A good core group of friends was something that I had been lacking before, and it was such a relief to finally feel like I wasn’t all alone. But I still always saw myself as the ugly duckling, and in hindsight, that warped vision of myself had already begun to create a much different internal world for me than what others saw on the outside. The body dismorphia aspect of an ED was definitely in full effect by the time high school rolled around.
I was always bracing for the next emotional hit, and had therefore developed a bit of a sharp edge. I cringe when I think about some early attempts that boys made at asking me out. I was incapable of seeing myself as attractive, and completely used to being defensive about my appearance. One clear incident was a boy who was perfectly nice and not at all the type to be cruel, that attempted to ask me out and was met with an incredulous “no!” simply because I couldn’t believe that he was asking me out. I thought that he was being sarcastic and just teasing. He never spoke to me again – for good reason! I had unknowingly totally mortified him! Sadly, this would become a bit of a pattern in my early romantic life. I often didn’t realize until it was completely too late that my behavior , based on my own reality that others had no idea about, would seem totally bizarre and confusing to normal people who thought that I was a normal person.
Tomorrow: As if College Wasn’t Crazy Enough.