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Come as you are

This week is NEDA’s eating disorder awareness week. To learn more and learn how you can continue to expand the conversation and raise awareness, please visit NEDA.

One of the best re-reads I made this this year was Ruby, written by Cynthia Bond. In Ruby, there is a disjuncture, at least initially, between each character’s appearance and their character. Their struggles are reflected (or not reflected) in their appearance and behavior in extreme ways.  And some, who have had unthinkable and horrible things done to them, are able to maintain a so-called “normal” facade while crumbling inside. As a result, what this book make me think about more than anything else was my ugly parts – or the parts of me that I thought were ugly.  When I think about why I have an eating disorder, I can’t blame any overtly horrible things that have happened to me.  I had, from all accounts, a wonderful childhood.  My parents (who are still married) provided a safe and secure home.  Despite moving one heck of a lot, I had a happy childhood.  I probably thought a bit too much and started reading Grisham novels too young (I was 10), but nothing bad happened to me.  And yes, sexual harassment and being stalked really sucked and was truly a bad thing and it exacerbated it for sure, but the eating disorder started before that.  I can’t blame anyone.

But one thing that I have always wanted to be was perfect.

And the worse I feel on the inside, the more I want to appear perfect on the outside.

That’s one reason I lost weight.  In my head, I thought that only thin people were successful in life, and since I wanted to be successful, I needed to be skinny.  And then I got to “skinny,” and life wasn’t perfect.  It was quite a shock.  And while life happened to me like it does to everyone else, instead of talking about it, I kept it all inside.  I controlled all of my feelings by controlling food, and kept the hurt of a bad breakup, jobs that I hated, and a fear of disappointing my parents all inside.   I controlled food and focused all of my energy on school, work, and appearing perfect on the outside.  I was so focused on my appearance, and despite being what some would same was the “perfect” size spent way more money than I should have on clothes to make me feel good about myself.

And on the inside, I felt like such a fraud.  And so imperfect.  And I definitely wasn’t a perfect friend or sister.  I lost a lot of friends to the eating disorder (luckily my sister is family, so she had to stay with me) and I think I lost a boyfriend or two too.  I’m not fully recovered, nor do I think that I’ll ever wake up normal, but one of things I’ve had to confront as I recover is my need for an illusion of perfect.  The illusion of control.

It’s just an illusion.  And I hope I never give that impression here.

It’s also why it has been so hard to admit to others that I have an eating disorder.  I’ll admit it, but then qualify it with “but I was never diagnosed” or “I’m fine now” because I don’t want it to affect their opinions of me or my competence.  I think that people will think that about me, because that’s what I think about me.  More than anything else, I’m ashamed to have an eating disorder.

That is my ugliest part.

And I think that if people find out, it’s the only thing they’ll think is important about me.

And I don’t know for sure, but I think this shame and holding all of this inside is part of what perpetuates it and makes me feel, some days, like I need to quiet those feelings with food how I used to with restriction.  It’s just two sides of the same struggle.

You should know that I’m not perfect.  Inside, or outside.  But I’m learning how to embrace that and love it.  All of it.

Writing here is exposing my ugly parts to the world, and while it’s tough, I also think that putting it here, for everyone to read, is part of my recovery.  My instinct right now is to say “but wait, there are all these other things that you should know about that are more important than knowing that I have an eating disorder” but I bet you already know that.  You don’t need that reminder, but I do.

Reading Ruby gave me hope. It reminded me that the person I most to need me, ugly parts and all, is me.

47 thoughts on “Come as you are Leave a comment

  1. I don’t think you have to worry about anyone loving the real you, they will of course, because I can tell how genunine and beautiful of a person you are just from a blog post. The key is getting you to love all of you, even the “ugly” parts, and I think even by calling them ugly we are just buying into the whole perfect thing anyway. I can relate. Those parts aren’t ugly at all, they’re just real, and that’s it! Great post 🙂

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  2. What a brave, beautifully raw and honest post. Even though I’ve known this about you, I can honestly say that I’ve never given it a second thought in relation to who you are as a person. If anything I have thought you stronger for confronting it head-on. Every person on this earth has something that they battle whether they admit it or not. The more we talk about these things the better we are as a society I think. Exposing and discussing these ‘things we don’t dare talk about’ takes the power away.

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    • Thank you. As one of my dearest blog friends who I feel like really knows me, it is so important for me to gear those words! Despite everything good that is happening in my life, I wonder if this is rock bottom. It sounds crazy, but I want to move forward from here!

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  3. This is gorgeous, and I am so grateful that you found the strength to write it. This may be one of the best posts you have written, ever. I so understand your desire to be perfect, and to feel shame for something that you are using in the effort to make yourself perfect, but that makes you imperfect at the same time. We will always fight those parts of ourselves that are the realest to us; I fight parts of myself that remind me of behaviors that I didn’t care for in others (I won’t say who, at this point)–because I am the most scared that I will turn out like that person. And we live with these fears, that we won’t live up the expectations that we set for ourselves. Unlike what I was talking about on Tuesday, these are true fears–threats to our life, our wellbeing, and to our relationships. True fear. I would imagine you find yourself in a similar situation that I do, where we realize what we are doing, but we just CANNOT stop–our brain clearly tells us no, but until someone calls us out on it (and I mean, voices the behavior) we will tend to keep digging. And that is just as scary. But this I know, and I know it because I was told this long ago when I voiced these fears to my mom and to Alex: we are already ahead of the game, we will never turn out to become that which we fear, because we are so perceptive of ourselves and our behaviors. And just as important, we are surrounded by people that love us and that we love, and that love will help to remind ourselves to love ourselves in the darkest moment.
    Always here for you. Call, email, text, or just show up. Margs and JBs are waiting for you. xoxoxox

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    • I so know exactly what you are talking about – and even as I struggle with wanting to control food so bad, the it get part of me rebels because I don’t want to be that person! I’m so so so glad I have people like you in my life for the positivity and support I need and hope I can do the sane in return for others!

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  4. No person is without their ugly parts. Please keep sharing your journey and experience so that you can help others who are not ready to speak out and ask for help.

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  5. Powerful words. We all have things that are ugly to us, but the more we open up about them, the less power they retain.

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  6. It’s difficult to write like this…from the heart. I commend you. So many of us do strive for perfection, but once we get to perfection…not that we ever will, what then? What happens once we get to perfection? Your post makes me stop to think about the many times that I have to make everything and everyone, especially myself be perfect. Great writing!

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    • Thank you so much – it was really tough and difficult to write, but I’m so glad I dud?,

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  7. I think that it is important for you to understand that having problems with food after being overweight and then underweight doesn’t make you a failure, it makes you human. That you are ashamed about having these problems also makes you human. That you are honest and open about dealing with them makes you beautiful.

    I have always said that I feel eating disorders are like other addictions and disorders in that they never fully go away. And as someone else wrote on a blog I read, eating disorders are especially difficult because we must face and deal with our demons every day in order to survive. I mean, we HAVE to eat, right?!?

    I look at my own history, and after eating to morbid obesity, then losing weight at an unhealthy rate, I spent most of 20 years with a ‘functioning eating disorder’ – I varied between restricting and indulging with enough running to keep myself at a good weight. It is really only over the last two year I have fully addressed my eating honestly.

    All of these things make up who we are – on my post today I am asked about what to tell 16-year old me … and the reality is if I went back and shaped my future, maybe started running or whatever …. who KNOWS where my life would be?

    I am the product of my experiences – eating disorder included. And so are you – you shouldn’t feel shame for that, any more than you should feel bad with some of the subtle (and not so subtle) judgment in comments on your posts these last few days. They have no idea how hard it is for you to say that your afternoon snack wasn’t a green smoothie or some kale chips, but a bowl of jelly beans that left you over-full. I get it … I really do. Leave the shame behind and embrace the wonderful person you are – who is built on the foundation of good and bad experiences.

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    • Thank you so much for all of your support – and you are right, it is hard to say that here, knowing that I’m going to get people who say “that’s not healthy, how COULD you eat that and still be great?” But I have to learn how to deal with and hopefully help others not to feel stigmatized by those words as well! I’ve said it so often today, but I really mean it – thank you so much for your support!

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  8. You are one of the most beautiful people I’ve had the pleasure to meet. I remember being struck by how kind and genuine you were from the moment I found your blog, and that feeling has only grown in the past few months. You attempt things I once thought were crazy and inspire me to follow in your footsteps (much to Joe’s chagrin haha) and that’s not easy to do these days, since I still tend to be very guarded when it comes to my personal life (minus my blog haha) and what I do in it. I know the struggles you talked about here all too well, too. While I hate that you understand the thoughts behind perfectionism and eds, I think you’re honesty about it is beautiful. I’ll never be normal where food is concerned either, and I’m to the point where I’d rather accept that and move on than try to pretend otherwise. Keep writing all parts of your life here, love. Always one of my favorite places to come 🙂

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    • Thank you so much – you don’t know how much that means to me, and how much your honesty in your blog allowed me to be honest here. I really appreciate it, probably more than you’ll ever know. And someday, we’ll run an ultra together! =)

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  9. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. You are more than your eating disorder. Like you said, you’re so many other things. Also, this really hit a chord with me: “The illusion of control. It’s just an illusion.” Yes, yes, and yes.

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  10. I don’t think that the term ‘ugly parts’ is fair; we are all the sum of all of our parts and all of our experiences, and I really don’t think that it is necessary to term anything about yourself as ugly; you are wholly loveable and someone will love all of you and all of the parts that make you you, and to them, nothing about you will be ugly. I hope that the more that you blog and share your story, the more that you heal, honey, and realise that your relationship with food, past and future, does not define you xx

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    • I know what you are saying – and while I have days where I don’t feel like these are “ugly parts” that wasn’t how I was feeling when I wrote that post (or honestly, how I feel right now, despite all of the love and support everyone has been sending my way). But I really want to get there. More than anything, and blogging about it is the most positive I’ve felt about it and recovery in a long time. Thank you, as always, for your support. xoxo

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  11. Wow! This is excellent. I haven’t become an expert at embracing my “ugly parts” just yet – but I will have to soon. It is unavoidable. Thank you for sharing your story.

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    • Thank you – and I definitely haven’t either. But I think (hope) that I someday will. Thank you for your comment!

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    • Thank you so much – I’ve appreciated your support so much over the last few weeks, it means so much to me!

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      • You are so welcome Laura! I really enjoy you, and feel drawn to your realness and vulnerability….those are beautiful things! We all have struggles….you are not alone! And I don’t doubt that you are blessing others by sharing so openly! I hope work has been going well!

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      • Thank you so much! And yes, going fine. Just counting down the days until the semester is done!

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      • Glad it is going okay! Yay! How many days till the semester is over? I remember those days for my husband and I…just a few short years ago. Hard!!

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      • As of today, only three days. But for all purposes, I’m done – just waiting for grades now and focusing on the marathon tomorrow. I have just a few days until next semester starts!

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      • Thank you! I’m taking the days between the semesters to completely decompress. No school thinking at all.

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  12. ditto what everyone else has said, but i want to add my awe at your courage!! it is so hard to look at our “ugly” parts, and accept them, and even love them. it is possible, but it’s hard. there’s not much support for really accepting ourselves, despite all the new-age, self-help language. we are judged by others (no way of getting around it, since we all know we judge others, too), and we judge ourselves. but we all need to stop. keep up your honest self-examination, and don’t be afraid to claim all of yourself!!

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  13. I believe that our ugly parts are what make our beautiful parts, so beautiful. You wouldn’t be who you are without the struggle and ugly, and if we were all perfect it would be a pretty boring world. Thank you for sharing such a raw part of your life.

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  14. Laura, I was so gripped reading that and went on an emotional journey with you. One thing I picked up is how you talk of ‘being normal’. Over the years I have tried to learn to stop saying and thinking and feeling that I am ‘not normal’. It just brings that question of what is normal anyway? As I grew up I realised that all of those people I always enviously assumed were so perfectly ‘normal’, had their own issues. Just because they were different to mine or someone else’s, but it didn’t make me think that they were not normal but question what the fixation I had with that word was. I’m not saying that an eating disorder is medically ‘normal’ but what I’m saying is that it doesn’t make YOU ‘not normal’. YOU are more than an eating disorder or anything else, you are an entire entity made up of many beautiful things.

    I hope that makes sense.
    You are doing great things!
    Poppy 🙂

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    • Thank you so much – and you are so right! What is normal anyway? I’m not sure that I want to be, although I would like to have the “normal” attitude towards food I think everyone else has!

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      • I hear you although if you dig deeper you’ll find that so many people have some kind of dysfunctional relationship with food. For me, I’ve been a serious comfort eater and binger my whole life which I’ve spent the last couple of years trying to address. I’m not making light at all of your situation but knowing you are not alone in struggling with food in some form is important! 🙂

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      • I’m so sorry that you struggle with that too – and totally know you aren’t making light of it. You have such a good heart, I know you would never do that! It is so good to know I am not alone – and maybe we can help each other to overcome it one day at a time!

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      • Thank you for your lovely words Laura! Definitely we can do that, one if the great things about blogging is the wonderful support group that gathers. Keep in touch and well done!!

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  15. I know you have probably received many comments and a LOT of support from everyone but I have to throw my 2 cents in because so much of what you have said in your last couple of posts has really resonated with me. I too have had an eating disorder. I was also never diagnosed and never had a “textbook” reason as to why I had one. I had a great childhood. But I too had an inner drive to be perfect and be something on the outside. I too felt like a fraud as I “faked” my way through life. I went from trying to restrict my eating and failing, exercising and failing and finally turned to purging which was my last straw. It’s been 10 years and I’ve learned the road to recovery is being open and honest about it because then you can’t hide behind it. It defined who I am today. And I like me today. I’m living life the way I want and not how other people think I should. Which took a lot for me to overcome. Sometimes the whispers in my mind come back and I have to squash them. But as the years go by, I have found my confidence and my voice and each year my eating disorder recedes a little further from my habits and my mind. Congrats on digging deep and being honest. I’d love to tackle someday on my own blog but don’t think I could do it as eloquently and thoughtfully as you have. Mel.

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    • Thank you so much for your comment – I really appreciate it and appreciate you sharing your story. I’m so sorry that you’ve had to struggle with it too, but it gives me hope (as I’m sure it does for others) to know that you have found your own way back, and it has helped you. I also love hearing that the eating disorder does recede for you – I almost can’t even hope that it’ll be the same for me because it has been so present and pervasive for me, but I want too. Thank you so much for commenting!

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