What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest posts is by Kiran (Masala Chica)..
I had a troubled childhood. No surprises there – many people have. Looking back I realize that I had a few too many sad stories to tell by the time I was fifteen and little control over what was happening in my life, in my family.
In my head.
I was a people pleaser though, so most people who knew me would probably never guess at the anxiety, the responsibility I felt to hold my family together and the never-ending list of insecurities that seemed to be raging in my head.
I know the adults in my life meant well. When I would come home with a 92 on a test, I don’t think that my parents meant to hurt me by asking, “Why wasn’t this a 100?” When I told my Guidance Counselor what schools I wanted to apply to, I’m sure she was just looking out for my best interests when she said, “I don’t think you can get into any of those. Aim lower.” When I did get into the college I had dreamed of going to, I’m sure my Calculus teacher was just joking when he said, “Well, you ARE a minority.”
I never felt like much. I didn’t feel like I was worth much – I wasn’t pretty, the boys didn’t like me, I was an average looking Indian-American girl who never felt like I fit in.
I felt like I was taking up a lot of space. More space than I felt I was worth.
My eating disorder started when I was fifteen. It came shortly after the day my sister and my mother laughingly pointed out that my thighs were getting larger. Until that day, I had always considered myself “skinny-ish.” This was the first time I had heard anyone say the words out loud.
My eating disorder was not your typical bulimia. In a way, I was always scared of that – the act of putting my finger down my throat had no appeal to me. In my troubled mind, I considered those girls “brave” for doing what I could not do. Instead my eating disorder took on a different form. I had what was called exercise bulimia. I would eat, so I was not anorexic, but I ate enough just to get by.
Every calorie that went in my mouth was mentally tallied up so that I could figure out how many miles I would have to run that night or how much time I needed to spend in the gym.
It was standard for me to get up in the morning to run anywhere from 5-10 miles. I would rather miss brushing my teeth than miss that chance to purge everything I had put in my body, physically punishing myself until I felt like I was at peace and “cleansed” in some way.
I lost weight quickly but after a time, the quick weight loss stopped, as my body adapted to what it believed was starvation. This just made me work harder, not understanding why my slim legs would not get smaller, why the shape I would always have in my thighs would not disappear. I had what looked like the Hollywood “Lollipop” look. You know – a big head on a small stick.
I lived on this roller coaster for several years. While I was often complimented on how thin I looked, I don’t think anybody ever was concerned about it or recognized what was going on. If anything, it just became a running joke in my family. My family would laugh that even when I had a baby, the first thing I would teach my child was how to do sit ups. If someone was looking for me and asked where I was, the response was always, “Probably at the gym.”
Rest assured, I didn’t. Although, Shaila does have some frighteningly strong abs.
The summer before college, I started to come to terms with my issues. I was entering a new stage in my life and I also knew I would never be able to succeed if I could not let go of this obsession, this desire to remain “mini” sized.
The one thing with being prone to eating disorders is that it never fully goes away. At least it didn’t for me. It’s something I know I am prone to and especially when things in my life get hard, I can quickly fall into the patterns I had in college. I remain cognizant of it. I am a mother now and I cannot choose to live that way in front of my daughter.
Still, every time I am at the grocery store and I look at a People magazine, at the “perfect” skinny little bodies on the cover, I get swept with a wave of jealousy. Even when I know the cost and the toll it would take on my body, my life and my children.
A part of my mind says, “You will never be skinny enough. Good enough.”
The difference? I can now tell that part of my mind to “Shut up.”
And for now, I am ok with its silence.