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.
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.
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.