It was hard, trying to fit in. Often it took me a while to even understand what “in” was. I thought that by looking good, or by having a nice body, people would start paying attention to me. When I looked around and saw people with long and skinny legs, and flat stomachs, I was filled with envy. I had low self-esteem. When we changed in gym, I’d always have to hide in a stall as opposed to change in front of everyone. At times when my friends talked about clothes, I couldn’t join in the conversation because I was afraid of not knowing what I was saying. I didn’t know what I looked good in; I didn’t know if a certain brand of clothing was “pretty.” I was lost. Everyone who knew me understood how unconfident I was about myself. Physically, I felt incapable of fitting in because I thought I looked fat.
I wasn’t bulimic; I was anorexic. Though I didn’t irreparably destroy my body, I wasn’t treating it well either. I wouldn’t eat for days, five at most. I would tell people that I just never got hungry. I wasn’t lying, but I wasn’t telling the truth, either; hunger never came to me, but that was probably because I was pushing it away from my mind. After almost a week of not eating, I would feel a little bit more confident about my appearance. I would then reward myself with a treat, a cupcake maybe, or a zero-calorie diet Dr. Pepper. But then the cycle would repeat itself.
I was slowly killing myself; my body wasn’t getting the nutrients that every healthy human being was getting. So what? I thought. My grades were still fine, my family didn’t know … But that didn’t last long. After a year of being anorexic, the effects started kicking in. My hair was getting thin, I couldn’t stay awake in class, and my physical abilities were weakening. I couldn’t keep up in school—my grades were dropping quickly. I never intended to wear down my image. I didn’t want people to know that I was anorexic because I didn’t want them to think that I purposely went out of my way to harm my body, or starve myself. I just felt that I had more control over my body.
Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder. The word “disorder” sounded ugly. Eating disorders are mental illnesses, though, and that sounded even worse to me. But in my devastated mind, I thought of anorexia as my best friend. She made me pretty. I wanted to be pretty. I wanted to look skinny. But what does that even mean anymore?
The road to recovery was a long one. I wrote a lot during this time, keeping a diary on my computer where I expressed how I felt each day. This helped me sort out my feelings and control my urge to do any more harm to my body. My friends were also a key to my recovery. They would boost up my confidence and make me laugh in ways that I never thought I could. Genuine smiles started appearing on my face. No one is born anorexic; it was the environment in which I grew up that shaped my mind to think those horrid thoughts.
After a year of recovery, I now know that the first step to feeling “pretty” is to feel confident, no matter what size or shape. To be beautiful, I must be myself. I don’t need to be accepted by others; I just need to accept myself. Nothing is more beautiful than a confident individual who doesn’t pretend to be something he or she is not. Secondly, I have to love myself. Love myself, so other people will soon learn to love me too. Because no one in this world is perfect, or pretty, for in the end, these words are all just words.