Being a teenager is a no easy feat. The transition from child to adult is forced upon us during a time when everything from our bodies, minds, friends, relationships, and hormones are changing on a daily basis. We go from being a carefree middle-schooler whose greatest concern is who she’s going to sit next to at lunch that day to suddenly being forced to make life-altering decisions about everything from our career paths, colleges, and which member of N’Sync we would give our hand in marriage to. (JT, obviously).
I still remember my first day in high school. All my life I had been attending a private, Christian school where my class size was 15 students and the most controversial event was an 8th grader bringing a Playboy magazine to school. He was immediately expelled and no one dared talk about it except for whispers in the hallway where rumor had it that once he was expelled he tried pot. If it wasn’t in the Bible, it wasn’t to be discussed. I remember being openly chastised in front of the class because a teacher overheard me telling a story where I said the word “bra.” She claimed that I had no class and was disappointed that I would use such a word in front of my male peers; as if a bra is something every young girl should feel ashamed of.
Now, here I stood amount 1,500 peers who openly discussed sex, drugs, and their wild weekends spent passed out after drinking wine coolers in their parents basements. I couldn’t tell you about my classes or my teachers even if I wanted to because all I remember is being consumed with the fact that I didn’t fit in. I knew nothing about what the world was like outside of my Reformed-Presbyterian school background where even uttering the word “damn” would get you sent to the principal’s office.
Walking the halls felt paralyzing to me. The girls at my new school were different from my friends before. They were beautiful, confident, and they all wore Abercrombie which was the epitome of cool in 2001. I would watch in awe as they easily drew attention from guys as they flirted and laughed at their terrible jokes. The message was loud and clear that in order to get attention from a guy, you needed to show just the right amount of cleavage while being easy and flirty. Which was unfortunate for me because the most intimate thing to happen between me and a guy was receiving a candy gram on Valentine’s Day and I was only a size A cup.
If I couldn’t be like the other girls, maybe I could at least try to look like them.
A few months into high school, I was finally becoming adjusted to my new social circle and I didn’t openly flinch every time I heard someone swear. You could say that being in a public school had its own effect on me because I was even becoming more rebellious as I secretly purchased my first non-Christian cd. It was Avril Lavigne’s debut album Let Go and I’d sing Complicated at the top of my lungs as I drove to and from school. Man, did I feel like a badass.
However with the new-found rebellion and freedom I found, I also found myself more entrapped in my eating disorder. I became even more obsessed with dieting and attempting to lose weight. I would eat as little as I could while the feeling of hunger made me fantasize about all the things I could be or do if I was skinny. The hunger pangs would motivate me to resist more food even more as I imagined my new, skinny self just ahead. Skinny Rihanna wasn’t intimidated by the other girls in high school Skinny Rihanna had a boyfriend and was the envy of all the other girls. Skinny Rihanna was smart, funny, and popular. Skinny Rihanna’s dreams were just in reach and she had the support and encouragement of her friends and family. Skinny Rihanna didn’t spend hours in the front of the mirror pinching and squeezing her love handles wishing she could just do away with them altogether. Skinny Rihanna was happy.
Eventually, I broke.
It was a Friday afternoon and I was driving home from school. I was exhausted, starving, and had just majorly failed an acting audition. I remember fantasizing about everything I wanted to eat. Cookies, cereal, peanut butter, icecream, you name it. When I got home, I was alone and I found myself standing in the kitchen. I paced around the kitchen island as I fought with myself as to whether I should eat or not. One little snack couldn’t hurt. I’ll stop after just one granola bar. I went into the pantry and quickly one granola bar turned to two, which turned to the entire box. The shame I felt was overwhelming and the only way to avoid having to feel it was to keep eating. Entire boxes of cereal, half a gallon of icecream, pasta leftovers from the night before. I ate until I felt sick and I could no longer even look at the sight of food.
I was so naive to the world of eating disorders that I had no idea that there was even a word for it. I stood in the bathroom, hovering over the toilet trying to make myself throw up everything I had just eaten. I had heard of girls who could eat whatever they wanted and they were able to stay skinny by making themselves vomit immediately afterwords. But I couldn’t.
I remember crawling into my bed that night, overwhelmed with shame, guilt, and disgust over what I had just done. Just as the feeling of hunger made me feel powerful, the feeling of indulging made me feel worthless.
As I drifted off into sleep, I swore that it would never happen again. Little did I know that my journey had just begun.
Stay tuned for the next chapter next Wednesday!
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