This is the first of the 10 posts in drafts I’ve committed to finishing and publishing by the end of this month. I started this one in October of 2015.
Today I have decided to go public about my struggle with food and self worth, because “shame cannot survive being spoken.” This is ABSOLUTELY TERRIFYING, but it has to be done. I’m putting shame on notice that I’m taking ownership of my life. Here goes…
I have spent the majority of my life ashamed of my body. Not just because of what it looks like, but because of all the things they say being fat means about me as a person. I’m sure you’ve heard them. Just a few weeks ago some lady claiming to be a comedian went on a whole tirade about it. I was taught to believe that being fat means I’m lazy, I don’t have any willpower or self control, I don’t care about myself, I’m stupid, ugly, I smell bad, I’m inconsiderate, ignorant, oblivious, a burden to society (medical costs), I don’t deserve to be loved. I’m told that I could very easily do something about it, if I just made that choice (let’s talk about how false and harmful this is some other time), making me also feel incapable. Ashamed.
Maybe you are thinking “who cares what strangers on the internet say,” or “who is *they* anyway,” but it’s more than some anonymous, imaginary foe. I started getting these messages at home long before I was aware of a greater social narrative. I started dieting in first grade, counting calories with my mother. My grandfather once told me that I probably only thought about dieting when I wasn’t eating. My father used to tell me that I have such a lovely face, I could be so stunning, if only I could suck in my tummy and tuck in my butt. I spent most of high school in the same few clothes, because regular stores didn’t cary things that fit, but I didn’t know where else to go. I was teased, hurt, but I couldn’t even be angry about it, because I believed that I had brought this shame on myself.
In my recovery, I have found peers and friends around whom I have been able to speak about my shame and be met with empathy. People who understand this common struggle of disordered eating and self/body hatred. But I also found that I am still too ashamed to share my story with people who might not understand, might not empathize, so I continue to hide. To suffer in silence. To remind myself why these things aren’t talked about.
I tried to move forward without having to be vulnerable and put my whole self out there, but as long as I am too ashamed to embrace my full story, what I’ve been through and where I’ve come from, shame gets to keep its death grip on my life and happiness. So today I say NO MORE. Here’s the truth I’ve been too ashamed for anybody to know:
Hi, my name is Margo, and I have an eating disorder.
Given that it is now June of 2016, you’ve probably guessed that I didn’t end up going public quite at that time. However, I did leave my job in December and explained to a number of people that my eating disorder was a big reason for the life and career change, which was a pretty huge step for me, and then in February I “came clean” on my personal Facebook page. And to my great relief, I was met with a mountain of love and understanding from a huge number of friends and a pretty significant and surprising number of “me too”s. Here’s the post I shared:
In honor of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week this week (2/21-27), I want to share something I don’t talk about very much. I was officially diagnosed with an eating disorder about 3 years ago, after 25 years of struggling with food, body and worth, and being told by family, doctors, friends, society, that I could change if I JUST worked a little harder, cared a little more, wanted it badly enough.
I thought I was fairly well educated about eating disorders, but I never thought for a second that my own inability to control compulsive behavior or obsessive thoughts around food, binges, shame, anxiety, depression, restricting, chronic dieting, daily (or multiple times a day) weighing, and more were a real medical condition. So I suffered in silence, too ashamed to talk about it, or ask for help, for fear that others would judge and hate me for my “failure” as much as I judged and hated myself.
Through treatment, an amazing support system, and some of the most incredible people you could ever hope to meet, I have come a VERY long way these last few years. I’ve changed in ways I never even imagined were possible. I’ve learned to love myself, value my life, and appreciate my body for the amazing things it does every single day.
My recovery journey has put me on a new career path, to use my own experience and pay it forward. I could have and should have gotten help so much sooner, if there had been more awareness and education around eating disorders, especially in the medical community. I am grateful for the opportunity to use my own experience to have an impact and pay it forward.
In the meantime, for anyone who might be suffering in silence, like I did, I want you to know:
**you are not alone
**you are worthy of recovery
**recovery IS possible
**help is available
**I am here to support you
AND if you don’t know whether your own struggles with weight or food might be an eating disorder, check out this free, anonymous screening.