I’ve been putting off creating this series of blogs for a while now. I came up with every excuse imaginable to avoid having to put in the time and effort, however I was recently challenged when I was praying one night. I was asking God what my purpose was here. What is my next step? Am I wasting my life away living day to day with no real goals or vision? The answer: yes. After finishing BSSM and having to go through the process of grief after losing family members, I found myself just taking one day at a time. For a season, that was exactly what I needed. However, I’ve felt a shift and the Lord gently reminded me of a promise I made to Him when I first moved to Redding, CA just four years ago. When I arrived, I was deep in my struggle with bulimia and couldn’t find anything about myself that I liked. I lived guarded and insecure. I would cry before God asking for freedom from this life-consuming disease and promised Him that if he would set me free, I would give my life to help others find their own freedom. Since my recovery journey, I’ve had many great opportunities to share my testimony and see it give hope to others and my prayer is that the same continues.
I welcome you to join me as I share my story of my own fight for beauty! I’ll be posting once a week a new chapter of my journey, from beginning to end. I’m going to share the good, the bad, the ugly, and the embarrassing. My hope is to remove the veil and misconceptions that people have about eating disorders while offering hope to those struggling that there really is a way out.
With that said, here is Chapter 1 of my story.
“What is it that you want?” She asked as she sat leaning on her worn-down desk. Her office always smelled of old potpourri and hand sanitizer combined. The lights were always dim. I assume to give the person sitting across from her a feeling of comfort and coziness, but I instead always felt like I was sitting in a police interrogation. My eyes scanned across her walls and I briefly remember seeing pictures of her family, her degree set on display within in an overly-gaudy frame, and her bookshelf was packed with books entitled, “Family and Depression” and “The Monster Within.” The monster within. I knew that monster all too well. That monster is what got me here in the first place.
“Rihanna,” she interrupted as I stared blankly at her. “What do you want?”
“To be skinny.” I replied.
Her eyes grew narrow as she stared directly at me…or through me. I couldn’t tell the difference.
“What do you want?” She asked again.
What do I want? I thought to myself. I want to be skinny. I want to be able to have a conversation with my parents without it turning into an argument about food. I want my sisters to stop thinking I’m crazy. I want to go out to dinner with my friends without leaving in a nervous breakdown. I want to eat cake on my birthday and not think twice about it. I want the dreams about working out and bingeing to stop because I can’t even escape this disease in my sleep. I want the kids at church to stop treating me like I’m a lost cause. I want my sisters to be proud of me. I want to sing and travel the world. I want the sadness in my parent’s eyes to go away. I want a boy to chase after me as if I’m the only girl he’s ever laid eyes on. I want a friendship so deep that we finish each other’s sentences. I want to be loved. None of this would have even happened if I could have just lost weight. None of this would have happened if I was skinny.
“Rihanna, bulimia is just a symptom of something lacking in your life. Now, I’m going to ask you again, what is it that you are looking for? What do you really want?”
The silence of the room was only broken by the sound of the clock on her wall.
“I want to be skinny.”
It didn’t start as a sickness. It didn’t start as a disease. I couldn’t honestly tell you when my obsession with my body began. My earliest memories consist of watching my mom do Jane Fonda workout videos in our living room and overhearing conversations about diet and exercise. My mom, aunts, and their friends always seemed to be strange around food. While serving us macaroni and cheese or grilled cheese sandwiches, they would comment on how lucky we were to be able to enjoy such a luxury while they had to endure celery sticks and rice cakes. I never understood why they felt that eating cheese would be the end of their world, but I remember thinking that if their lives would be ruined if they wore a bigger size jeans, then surely mine would be as well.
I remember hearing my parents fight one night. They seemed to always fight about money or the fact that my mom would spend hours on the phone at night with her friends and I guess my dad didn’t like that. This particular fight was different though. I remember my mom yelling, “I’m sorry that I don’t look like Cindy Crawford!” I remember my heart sinking as I wondered, “Does my dad not think my mom is pretty?” I remember thinking about the times when everyone would tell me that I looked just like my mother. Ever since that night 21 years ago, I have yet to see a photo of Ms. Crawford without being brought back to that moment.
It was in the sixth grade when I made the first real effort to lose weight. My friends and I all began noticing our bodies changing and while my friends were going shopping for their first bras, I was going shopping for bigger jeans. I was developing curves and everyone noticed. My friends started calling me “JLO” and I remember coming home from school crying because everyone thought I was fat. Since I didn’t have a clue about dieting, I decided to stop eating breakfast. I loved the feeling of being hungry. It gave me a sense of control and power.
As I entered into Junior High, everything began changing. My friends, our bodies, our lives, our interests. I never felt like I could fit in anywhere. I desperately wanted to be accepted by the cool girls in my class, but everything felt off. I remember sitting in Heather’s bedroom listening to Blink 182’s Enema of the State while she and Cara were modeling their new bras that they filled out perfectly and talking about the boys in our class that they wanted to make out with and eventually marry.
“Rihanna, who do you want to make out with?” Cara asked.
I immediately felt uncomfortable in my own skin because not only was I still stuffing my bra with toilet paper, but I wasn’t particularly interested in marrying anyone in the seventh grade. Don’t get me wrong, I had my fair share of crushes and had an undying devotion to Craig Johnson who made me weak in my gangly knees, but I’ve always had different goals. Growing up, I fantasized about being a rich and famous singer who traveled the world but lived in my humble 20 acre ranch in Nashville, TN. Boys always came secondary to my dreams of singing. Although to be honest, I do sometimes feel that I have a better chance of joining the ranks of Taylor Swift than accumulating my MRS degree, but that’s for a different blog.
“Umm, maybe Troy?” I quipped.
“Well you better hope he likes girls with a fat butt like yours!” Heather laughed.
I immediately wanted to shrink away.
Not good enough.
I walked home that night as those words echoed through my mind. I vowed to not only cut out breakfast, but also lunch. That will show them. Then I’ll find a guy to like me.
Stay tuned for the next chapter next Wednesday!
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