There's this girl I knew once; looking at her was kind of like looking in a mirror.
She's got similar hair color. Similar smile. Definitely a similar build.
She was one of those people I could look at and think "look at how happy she is. How beautiful. Even looking like she does. So close to like me."
Then one day I heard about something she was doing that was going to really alter her appearance.
My world came shattering down around me.
If she isn't happy looking like that, if that's so much a facade that I never ever knew, then how can I possibly be happy looking like me?
I know we're different people.
I don't expect us to be that similar. But I know that we're a lot alike.
I took pride in that. If anyone ever said, "You know, you and so-and-so, you look like sisters, you could surely pass for..." (Ok, they didn't say it, but they COULD have, and now? Now they can't.)
I don't wish anything negative for her. I know her choices are her own. I know she thought hard and doesn't take her decision lightly in any way possible.
But I needed to say this. I needed to write this out and say, what about me?
Again, it's not about me, and I know that. But isn't it amazing to think that someone else's self-esteem is something I hung my own upon? I weighed my own insecurities against what I thought were hers. I spent my time watching someone else - who truly didn't seem to have them. And now, well, now I know she does. She did. She probably always will, to some extent, but she's working to change things in a way I never could.
So mine will always be mine. As they always were, of course, but how do I face this? How do I listen to the glass shatter as it turns into shards around my head? Before my eyes? How do I shield myself to make sure I don't fall deep into that hole of pain? What can I hold on to?
I don't want to fall into that well that sucks me in and causes me bloody knuckles and nails as I claw my way out. I don't want to go there. To that place where I'm stuck and all I can do is look at myself and feel sad. Find flaws I try hard to ignore.
I read about moms, women, those of us trying to teach their daughters that we're all beautiful. I want to be one of those people. I want to show my child that I see my own beauty. That I'm more than just the thoughts that race through my head.
And I'll do it. Even if I don't have that alternate mirror to look for or into anymore. I'll keep trying. Hopefully I'll find my way. Hopefully the only mirror I'll need will be my own; I'll be happy and strong no matter what it is I think I see in there. I'll remind myself how what's inside is so important and what counts the most. No matter what. I'll get there.
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Here at The Band, we believe in kicking stigmas to the curb, flinging glitter, and shining a light into the dark. And now?
Your bandmate needs a sounding board.
It's time to Ask The Band!
I apologize in advance for my terrible writing, but I'm like 14, y'all, and I don't even know how to say this...
I have weight issues. Serious weight issues. "So?" you ask (or I assume you do). "So do most women."
Well shut up and listen (I say lovingly). I've dabbled in quite a few self-destructive behaviors in my lifetime, but I've always been obsessed with my weight. I've starved myself for days, chewed-and-spit, and tried countless times to make myself throw up unsuccessfully (my hidden talent? I can touch my uvula without throwing up!).
I know I have no justification for this. I am not fat, or even a little overweight. But being skinny; really, truly skinny ... it's like a shining beacon of light in the distance. In all the things I deal with, this is by far the least serious (...isn't it?), but I've never told anyone and I feel like I have to.
And isn't that what The Band is for?
Quite honestly ... I'm scared. I'm scared it will never go away. That I'll forever spend my nights in front of a freaking distorted full length mirror, analyzing every single thing about my body. That I will always compare myself to every single pair of thighs I walk by, wondering if mine are fatter or skinnier, because I can't tell anymore. That I'll never stop taking videos of myself walking around and watching them over and over trying to see if my butt is too big.
I'm asking for your help here, Band. What should I do? Is this normal?
I know it's not that bad, I just can't live with it as a secret anymore. Thanks for reading this, The Band!
You're so amazing.
We've all faced a battle with our self-esteem.
This is her war:
I've never been a thin girl.
Maybe when I was little - when I wanted to run around and did not care as much about my weight - I was a lot slimmer and healthier than I am now.
My body has changed over the years and, while I know some changes are genetic, some of them are my own doing.
I hate myself for that.
I was overweight as a teen. This was apparent when I did not fit into my clothes, when I looked at the three digit numbers on the scale, when I ate and felt terrible after, and when I looked at the images of "beautiful" women and knew I wasn't beautiful.
My depression didn't make it any easier.
I'd always wish I was skinnier.
Sometimes I'd imagine that the belly fat was a baby that would go away, and I would be smaller again.
Then, I wouldn't be made fun of by the girls at school or feel awkward and uncomfortable in my own skin.
I was told to embrace the curves, even the love handles at my side, and the fact that genetics - thanks Mom! - had given me some rather large breasts.
Instead, I hid behind baggy clothes and refused to show my body in any way.
I hate swimming season because trying on suits makes me feel awful and nothing fits right.
I feel like an elephant and cannot keep the girl I have been - the one way overweight - from telling me I look terrible, no matter what I'm wearing.
I should know better but there is nothing to stop me from being irrational, running with what I have experienced rather than what I should know and how I should respond.
In 2010, I had a scare. I found out that, in a sense, I was allergic to bananas and had an attack that was a mix between an allergic reaction and full-blown, I-feel-like-I'm-going-to-die panic attack while out with a friend.
I drove home and, quite literally, had to slap myself to keep awake and calm and to know I was still breathing.
It was the longest fifteen minutes of my life.
From that point on, everything became a danger to me.
I essentially stopped eating because I could not trust anything that was food.
It was summer and, while I would eat with my family, I ate as little as I possibly could because anything else freaked me out.
I took my anti-anxiety medication more that summer and eventually ran out, which was a disaster in the end because I was so freaked out, paranoid, and scared that I couldn't deal with it.
I went back to school and, by the end of September, I'd lost 20 pounds - mostly because I wasn't eating.
I had no appetite for food and, considering my love for it before, it was sad. I went in for an appointment in October, which was when I saw that I had lost so much. I was shocked and amazed at how good I finally seemed to look.
I went to therapy and got myself sorted out with the food issues and everything else.
I went vegetarian for a long time because vegetables seemed much safer to me. In a way, it helped me open up my food palette.
I got used to eating and, eventually, allowed fruit back onto my plate with semi-regularity. I'm still iffy about it two years later.
I know I should love my body regardless.
I know what self-loathing does to a person.
I know that I should feel beautiful regardless, but it doesn't keep me from worrying.
When I'm stressed, I don't eat, which means I stay thin.
I try to get out and move but sometimes I feel it isn't enough.
I try and nothing works.
Part of me wants to be thin again but since I left the most stressful work environment I have ever known, I have gained weight.
I have fallen into comfortable normality. I'm afraid that I am getting (gasp) fat.
I want to stay motivated.
I know my boyfriend loves me. He knows I am trying.
But part of me always feels disappointed when we're together because I know I'm bigger than when we met.
I'm afraid that if I am not skinny I will not be desired by anyone, especially him.
I worry. I try. And I just hate myself sometimes.
I haven't been on a scale since March. I refuse to look at the numbers. I'm afraid.
I'm trying to love myself, but some days are harder than others.
Eating disorders affect the entire family.
This is her story.
As a kid, you don't have much choice about anything. What to wear, what to watch on television, what classes to take; those things are decided for you by the people who know better, or at least, should know better.
I never had a choice about what I was going to eat. My mother had an eating disorder. She had this fear that she was going to weigh over a hundred pounds and that when she did, she'd be so horrifying that my stepfather wouldn't love her anymore. Once she told me she hated eating, "because it made her have to use the bathroom."
She pointed out "fat" people to me at stores; ridiculed them to me. Carefully, she measured out the amount of food I was to eat and didn't allow for seconds. We had a carnival scale on the back porch to make weighing ourselves a "game" but she never failed to remind me that the scale was "too light, so I was fatter than it told me."
I weighed 90 pounds for most of high school. People see pictures of me and ask if I was ill, or assume that I was anorexic as I was always depressed and withdrawn. They assume it was my emotionally abusive boyfriend or losing Mister E.
No one knew about my mother and her war on food.
As an adult, I had no idea how to eat. I'd been taught that, to lose weight, you stop eating until you're thin again. There was no moderation. It was all right to just keep eating whatever you want. I didn't learn about exercising - you just had to stop eating. This was harder than it seems so I gained weight like it was a competitive sport.
Because my mother had always told me how fat and ugly people were, when I gained weight, I saw myself as a disgusting monster. When I looked in the mirror I wanted to kill myself, even though I had only gone from 117 to 130 pounds in college. So I stopped eating for a week, went to the gym every day, and lost five pounds. I couldn't keep it up, so I gained ten pounds.
This pattern was pervasive. I found diets and tried them, lost weight, then gained it back. Lost weight, gained it back. After every diet, I started eating again, I mean I was disgusting and no one would ever want me anyway, so what was the point of losing weight?
After two breakdowns, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. In therapy, I learned what body dysmorphic disorder was and the doctor helped me understand that I was seeing myself differently than the rest of the world saw me.
With diet and exercise I finally lost the weight and made it back to my college weight and I was happy. Until they gave me the antipsychotics. My weight ballooned again and I was right back into the eating wars. I had no idea how to stop them because I'd never been taught how.
It has taken me years but I've finally started to accept who I am. I've been running because it's fun, not because I'm trying to lose weight. I've been using intuitive eating to learn when my body is hungry and when I'm just feeling emotional. I've been eating healthy, fresh food to watch my sodium intake for my blood pressure.
Most days I look in the mirror and I see someone intelligent, sometimes funny, compassionate, creative, and a little tilted. Some days I don't, and I've come to understand that's okay as well. And somehow, magically, I've lost a little weight but somehow it doesn't seem as important to me anymore.
I think I've finally won.
Eating disorders have the highest rate of mortality of any mental illness.
This is her struggle.
I hope that there will be a day when I don't obsess about food. About my weight. But I don't know how to make it stop.
When I see another girl, I immediately compare every single part of her body to mine.
If I think she is thinner than I am, I assume that everyone else in the room is acutely aware of it and automatically likes her more than they like me. I start tearing myself down, feeling worthless, feeling helpless, feeling ugly.
If I think she's heavier than I am, I worry if I will ever reach her weight. I start thinking that I need to have more control over what I eat so that I can avoid ever getting to that point.
Yet I feel I have no control what I eat. I just eat, pretty constantly. I'll go from eating under 1,000 calories a day to eating cookies and chips, the phase I'm in now, to eating only raw foods.
No matter what I'm eating, I pretty much hate myself for eating it. But since I maintain a "healthy" weight, I don't purge, and I'm not anorexic, I wonder if I don't really have a problem, if I'm just like every other girl.
My friends tell me that it's normal to obsess over-eating and to over-analyze every aspect of every girl around me, but then again they all exhibit some form or another of slightly disordered eating.
Whether or not it's "normal," I want it to stop. I want to be able to go out in public without constantly comparing myself to every girl around me. Without obsessing over what I've eaten that day. Without trying to plan my meals days in advance to feel some aspect of control, and then breaking the plan and feeling horrible about myself.
I want to be rid of these different types of eating cycles.
I just want to feel normal.
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