One thing with recovery that I have noticed is I am always searching for answers.
- Why did I want to hurt myself?
- When did this all really begin?
- What is the foundation for my destructive thought process?
A few days ago I received an e-mail asking me different renditions of these questions, but more specifically about how my ED started.
That’s a really tough inquiry for me to answer because I first developed an interest in food and nutrition when I was about seven years old.
I feel like I have told this story a million times, but my great-grandfather, who was a very significant influence in my life (I am actually named after my great-grandmother) told me I needed to “cut out the Dairy Queen” because I was getting fat.
This was around the same time that I broke a chair in school, which prompted other kids to start calling me “whale,” and I first started to feel somewhat curious about why my family was different than others.
*SIDE NOTE: This is a whole nother story but I grew up in a single parent household, but never met, or knew about my biological father until my teen years, and it kind of felt like a taboo subject as far as my relatives were concerned…other kids also told me my father never wanted to see me and thats why he was never around…good things to hear when you are in elementary school and trying to develop a sense of self.
Anyway, this was a pivotal point in my relationship with food and my body.
I started absolutely hating my physical characteristics because I felt they caused me to be the outcast both at home and at school.
My mom is beautiful and has always looked very young, stylish and more like my sister than a matriarch. The other girls in my class were being passed notes, having “boyfriends” on the playground and doing gymnastics, while I was out on the soccer field with the boys as “just another one of the guys.” I felt like a complete ugly duckling.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not complaining about my childhood by any means. I actually have some really great memories, but my lack of self-confidence really started to shine through starting around the second grade. And then when I went on my first diet, which also occurred that year, my perceptions of food completely went out the window.
Take Dairy Queen for example, since that is a monumental fear I have had since that period.
When I think of ANYTHING from DQ. I equate it to, Grandy criticized me for eating too much of it, and putting on weight, which translated in my mind to him thinking I wasn’t good enough and that combination…DQ=FAT=Not an adequate person… has continued to stick with me for nearly two decades.
Obviously I also have issues socially because I was impacted tremendously by my peers calling me names and alluding to me being overweight. I will admit as a child I did carry some extra baby fat until part way through elementary school, but I played sports since I was 4, grew up in a home where my family owned a gym and then a golf course, and being active has always been a significant part of what we enjoyed doing as a family, so being unhealthy because of a few extra pounds should not have been an issue.
Since I felt so isolated and insecure around my classmates I asked my mom how to lose weight. For awhile I ate predominantly vegetables, grilled chicken, diet coke, and low calorie fudge pops, and “successfully” shed some layers to my tummy making me look a bit more like the other girls. The lack of chub, however, did not get me any more friends (because in all honesty, I wasn’t disliked before, just had a stupid nickname) nor did it make the boys want to hold my hand on the playground.
So really there was no change in those aspects of my life, and being lighter didn’t really make me feel any better about ME, either.
This just goes to show that although many believe “oh if I just weighed X amount, then everything would be all better!,” is an absolutely, positively, one hundred percent WRONG thing to believe. Body size does not necessarily control happiness.
The point is. I don’t blame any of WHY I developed an eating disorder on my family, or the childhood teasing.
Do I think these things contributed to me being self-conscious? Sure! But I am a firm believer that there are certain genetic make ups that facilitate mental distortions that can lead to destructive behavior.
Essentially I took the criticism or comments people made and twisted them into something more than they were. I wanted to fit in and be liked, be perfect and please everyone, and when I felt like I was failing at those tasks, the only way I knew how to handle it was to punish myself.
When I was very sick, I never viewed excessive mileage on the treadmill or restrictive eating habits to be punishment, but they are, and they were. It’s a form of self-harm because although I may not have been able to feel the damage, or see it right then and there, I was killing myself.
I believe the foundation for my ED was always present, but it took specific triggers to ignite it.
Pressure, insecurity, feelings of worthlessness, all played into my self-hatred, so as the years passed and these elements kept piling on top of one another, the house of cards would eventually fall…and it fell hard.
So now I am playing with a new deck, to build an entirely different foundation filled with healthy thoughts, a positive mind-set and an openness to try new things.
I have found that expanding my hobbies and growing as an individual has helped me gain confidence and feel good about who I am as a person and that has been KEY!
If you can’t find something YOU like about yourself as a human-being; not your exterior beauty, the material things you have, or other physical attributes, but actually who you ARE, then self-esteem will never truly be established.
I have always looked to grades, clothing, other people’s compliments, pretty much anything that didn’t have to do with my values and personality, as validation, but now I am trying a different approach.
No longer is the “one nice thing I try to tell myself every day,” about a characteristic like “I selected a nice purse,” but more about the fact that I have a big heart, I like to help people, I am working harder at praying more often, I am forgiving, etc. The more and more I de-emphasize superficial “positives” the easier it becomes to build my confidence.
There are definitely more factors that played into my disease and if you are interested, I would be happy to share, but after a few days of really thinking about what things I can change, what I need to move on from in the past, these were what stuck out in my mind as pivotal points in my development.
Please do me a favor and tell yourself something you are proud of…proud of about WHO YOU ARE. Do it now.
It might be hard, but like all things that are worth doing, it just takes a little extra effort.
Start your weekend that way and see how you feel. I promise you its worth it!
Have a stellar Saturday and Sunday!! Can’t wait to catch up on everyone’s fun plans!