8 Week Challenge: Inward Compassion
For my essay on Inward Compassion for the 8 Week Challenge, I’m presenting you with this revised version of one of my earliest posts about my struggle with Anorexia. You’ll not find a heck of a lot of Compassion in this story, but the Judgmental mindset with which I lived my life brought me to where I am today. Loving yourself is one thing, Learning to Love yourself after a lifetime of hate and judgement is an Accomplishment that I am incredibly proud of.
I have an Eating Disorder.
There, I said it. I hide the food I eat, I lie about what I eat, and I tell everyone that my weight is a medical issue. I know it’s not. I know that I eat too much, and don’t exercise enough. All I think about is food. When can I eat? Where will I eat? What’s for dessert? Have we run out of chocolate? It’s forefront on my mind nearly 100% of the time. It’s torture, and it’s ruining my life.
It’s just a little extra weight, how can you let it control your life?
Well, to understand my issues with food now, we should probably go back to the beginning.
When I was three months old, I developed tonsillitis. I was treated with antibiotics. I got better. A few weeks later, the tonsillitis came back. More antibiotics, got better. A couple of months went by, and then, you guessed it, swollen tonsils strike again. This cycle continued for years. Multiple bouts of sickness treated with course after course of antibiotics, not to mention endless hours in the hospital. The tonsils had to come out, but I wasn’t big enough for the surgery. My throat hurt, so I didn’t eat, and I didn’t grow big enough for the surgery. I was seven years old before I was big enough to have them removed.
Needless to say, I was a tiny child. Small and sickly. After my surgery, things changed. I discovered food. Glorious food. I indulged, and no one stopped me. After years of trying to force in just one bite, I suddenly was able to devour any and everything set in front of me. I became robust, then plump…. then chubby.
By the time I hit puberty I was carrying more than my share of pounds. It didn’t effect me emotionally though. At least, not until all of my friends started getting boyfriends, and I was just “one of the boys”. When I looked around and saw that all the girls with boyfriends were thin and pretty, something clicked in me. Or rather, it broke.
So began my life as an anorexic. I didn’t know that’s what I was, but I was one all the same. In the early days, it wasn’t so severe. Skip a few lunches, ride my bike a bit more. It didn’t have complete control over my life. When I graduated from elementary school, I was thin and pretty, just what I was striving for.
And for a while, that was enough. I maintained “thin and pretty” for a while. I had lots of boyfriends, lots of friends, high school was awesome. I was a bit obsessive about counting calories, but I was mostly healthy.
Then there was this boy (isn’t there always?). I really liked him, but it was unrequited. That’s tough for a kid. For me, he was perfection. Unfortunately, I wasn’t his type. He told me that he like his girls “anorexicly” skinny, which I was not. That was my tipping point.
Forget calorie restriction, I employed calorie annihilation. I got down to a couple of crackers a day. By the time I was 16 I was no longer “thin and pretty”. I was bones. He still didn’t want me.
I’m not really sure how thin I would have gotten. That year my Dad got transferred, and my family moved six hours away. In hindsight, it was the best thing that could have happened.
Removed from daily contact with the catalyst for my disorder, I became less rigid about abstaining from food. Within a few months I was back to “thin and pretty”. I wasn’t healthy though, not by a long shot. For the next two years I was up and down, emotionally and physically. Sometimes I would binge, and then spend the next several weeks “making up for it” by restricting calories and over-exercising.
The cycle probably would have gone on forever, if it hadn’t been for a boy (didn’t I say there was always one of those?) This was a good one though. If he hadn’t started to notice, and I hadn’t been embarrassed about it, nothing ever would have changed.
I started to get better. I stopped counting calories, I put on some weight. I stopped thinking about food. In fact, eating became mindless. College came and went, but the 50 or so pounds I gained stuck around. I married the boy, and had to buy a plus size wedding dress. We got a dog, bought a house, had some children, and all the while, I kept getting bigger.
The bigger I got, the more I started to remove myself from my life. There are very few pictures of me because I hate the way I look. When I do pose for pictures, I try to hide myself away.
Without my noticing, the food began to control my life again. Not in the same way, but with the same force. It’s all I think about. Food, trying not to eat it, feeling extreme guilt when I do. Hating myself for getting so big. Hating myself.
And then something incredible happened. I decided to cut myself a break. Yes, I still want to be slimmer, but I’m starting to realize that it won’t really change who I am. I’ve discovered that who I am has been greatly influenced by the fact that I don’t consider myself to be beautiful. I’ve always tried my best to be kind to everyone, and especially those who don’t really like themselves. I give acceptance to anyone and everyone, regardless of their appearance or popularity. Hell, I even dated people that I had little to no interest in, simply because everyone deserves a chance, and anyone can end up surprising you.
I am Compassionate because I know what it is to be Judged. I have spent my entire life judging myself and I would never want that for another person. It’s been a long road, and I’m still on it. Sometimes it’s bumpy, and yes, sometimes I still judge myself for my physical short comings. I’m working everyday at changing that inner dialogue. But I know that this bumpy road has lead me to a place where I can cultivate True Love, for myself, and for all.
Thank you for you sharing your post! It was brave and thoughtful and I know will help others. We all need to cultivate true love for ourselves, don’t we? All the best! Laura
It’s too bad we spend so much time when we’re young worrying about how this shell of ours looks rather than marveling at how well it works! I just found out I am diabetic and now I am forced to look at food in a whole new way. It is challenging to let go of sugar and carbs, I have a sweet tooth. If I cheat I will lose more than I want to give up and shorten my life. I’ve already started taking lectures from friends and family about how I need to improve my habits. Everyone’s an expert. It’s a bummer but I will greet the challenge with a smile. Acknowledging your eating disorder is the first step to reinventing your relationship with your beautiful body. Let’s start down a new path of eating for health together. Let’s have compassion for our dear bodies and treat them well. The rewards will follow.
Compassion for your body, a balanced healthy diet…
From 21 to 34, I suffered with an eating disorder. My life was out of control, but that was the one thing I could control, until getting sick 13 yrs later. To this day, I will not eat, unless I’m hungry. I’m diabetic and on insulin, so sometimes, I must eat to avoid my blood glucose from dropping. To this day, I struggle with this issue. I sweep it back into the corner of my mind. Funny the way people treat you when your skinny and attractive versus overweight. I’ve been on both sides.
It is difficult when we feel we are being judged by those around us. My only advice to you is to try to truly accept that you are not what others think you are. You are yourself. And your weight does not define you. Your actions define you. When you make the effort to Live in Love, you will find that you naturally surround yourself with other Loving, non-judgmental people. In time, with a little confidence, you will come to see that if you Love yourself, others will be so impressed that they will follow suit and Love you too.
Ok… so, just so everyone knows, I am that boy that said I like my girls anorexicly skinny. Me, Tristan. I did not in any way mean for it to be taken the way it was. I did not realize I was giving instructions, I was simply answering a “so what is your type?” question… I believe I also said brunette and shorter than me. If I had known, I would never have said anything… I am sorry Lesley, for causing you so much pain. I was just a stupid kid.
Tristan, you sound like a nice guy and I hope you don’t start judging yourself harshly. How could you have known your comment would have had such an effect? You couldn’t. And not feeling attracted to someone is not a cause for guilt either. All the best to you.
Lesley and I have talked about it and sorted it out. I don’t judge myself too harshly, but I have learned what you should not say to someone.
No need for apologies. As we discussed privately, I was broken before I even met you. If I had been healthy, I would have heard your “skinny, brunette and shorter than me” and thought that two out of three wasn’t bad, but I fixated on the one thing that was already taking a firm hold on my life. Believe me, you’ve been more of an inspiration to me in life than a bad influence. Please don’t fixate on the two sentences in this post that are about you, and reread the last two paragraphs about me. They’re the important ones, and I have you to thank for inspiring me to write them down.
Thank you for sharing this, it is beautiful and so are you.
Thanks for sharing your story — so movingly presented — and your decision to love yourself — not an easy one.
Moving, and uplifting. And beautiful. Harshly judgemental, that sums up the signature of the fearful, conserving heart. I caught your story because it links up with my most recent work – Meditation on Love – please read it, because you fall into the category of true love. I love you.
Thank you, I look forward to reading it.
Thank you for sharing about your relationship with your own body. For so many of us women we struggle with our body and ourselves. I am on a path now of really trying to figure out how to be more compassionate with myself as I would with another. And giving myself the same love I give to others. You are not alone in this process!