Summer of 2008 was full of changes – both physically and mentally. I began dying my hair and wearing contacts, I bought a new wardrobe, I lost 50 pounds and I suffered from anorexia nervosa and depression. I finished my last day of freshman year. I had no job. I had few friends and one very important goal in mind – to change. I hated my appearance. I hated the way I felt leaving school obsessing over a comment someone made about my body. I hated the way I felt next to thinner girls complaining about their body fat. I hated that when a boy complimented me it was a joke. I hated the insecurities I felt. I became very self-conscious of my body and there was no way I was going back to school without fixing myself. I took weight loss supplements daily, followed a strict workout plan and starved myself. It was hard at first.
I had to train my body to something it hasn’t done before. I had to constantly belittle myself to push my mind to continue. I began obsessively scrolling through social media pages for models to compare myself to. Those girls were inspirational to me.
My routine was simple. I took my weight loss supplement throughout the day; they provided me with energy and reduced my appetite (and caused whatever poor side effects that I didn’t care about at the time). I kept hydrated and played DDR (Dance Dance Revolution) for the entirety of the day. I refused to eat anything and denied that I was ever hungry. I ate a salad once every two days for dinner – a bowl of spinach with no dressing because it had too many calories. I knew I needed to eat to survive, I knew what I did was not healthy, but I thought I was overweight and thought of any food as an extra roll of fat on my stomach – and that’s what was important to me. I didn’t care about the long-term impacts of my actions, I was chasing what I thought would make me happy now.
I remember my proudest moment was a few weeks before my sophomore year when my younger cousin visited and told me “Wow! I can wrap my arms around you now!” Kids say the darndest things. I remember some laughter followed by an explanation to my cousin by the adults that comments like that could be hurtful. I just couldn’t stop smiling and applauding myself in my head. I did it. I changed.
I was ready to go back to school. Three months had passed in my new routine and I had lost 50 pounds. No one recognized me at school. I drew attention, I made friends, I felt inclusion and ultimately became happy. What did this teach my brain? If I remain thin, I would be accepted. I carried anorexia nervosa through with me to college until I weighed 115 pounds and fit into 00 jeans. I became a gym member my junior year of high school and would go to the gym in between my classes, before and after work, compulsively whenever I did not have an obligation. I denied that the goal in my mind was not achievable. No matter what shape my body was in, I would always find fat somewhere to pick on and there was always a thinner person I could compare myself to. I remember there was loose skin on my stomach from how quickly I lost weight that I could not get rid of. Nevertheless, I never quit trying. I have yet to learn my triggers and even today I still relapse back that mindset on any given day. I can force myself to skip a meal. I can compulsively research weight loss supplements. I can spend every evening at the gym. I can pick on my body and compare it to others. But I can also try to manage it. Expressing myself has become so freeing, it’s my healthy coping mechanism. This piece is for anyone that has struggled or continues to struggle with an eating disorder, low self-esteem, negative body image, or anything that makes you uncomfortable in the skin you’re in. I hope that this is a piece you can relate to and that it will encourage you to look at your body today and smile. Loving your skin is not easy, and the process is not quick, but learning that your skin has done nothing to deserve your hatred is an amazing start.
S K I N
I was born in skin.
Skin that hugged my bones, held my heart, opened my eyes and let me touch.
Skin that has stretched for me to grow, become a woman, form my muscles and hold my food.
Skin that exists to keep me safe and unconditionally heals.
Skin that holds scars and stretch marks as memories and tells a story – my story.
Skin that keeps an identical scar by both of my eyes from a time I don’t remember as a toddler.
Skin that keeps a v-shaped scar on my finger from when I was 8, imagining I had my own hair salon, snipping tall grass in the backyard and grazed my finger.
Skin that keeps hidden my crinkly chin full of scars that reveal when I frown from when I was 10, landing on a pile of rocks when I tried to impress my brothers.
Skin that keeps stretch marks on my stomach and thighs from my pre-teen years, enjoying eating competitions with my dad.
Skin that keeps a scar on my arm from when I was 12 that was a secret I kept to myself.
Skin that homes a tattoo on my back of a simple dolphin from when I was 19, learning that I could only follow one of my dreams and didn’t want to leave the other behind.
Skin that homes a tattoo on my inner ankle from earlier this year when I made the most meaningful promise to myself, to never give up.
Skin that has fresh pokes and scratches from my cats that enjoy my hand as a toy.
Skin that is covered in memories and experiences that are mine, skin that is covered in me.
Skin that rolls when I sit and jiggles when I jump.
Skin that is healthy.
Skin that is mine.
Saying ‘mine’ sounds weird because I’ve spent a majority of my life disowning it… wishing it were identical to someone else’s… wishing it could be a fresh canvas again…
I don’t want to waste any more time hating my skin, the most precious thing I’ve ever had.
It’s time that I claim my skin, it’s time that I love my skin…
It’s only the time that I did not, that I regret.