This one scares me.
This one hurts to reopen.
But this one is important as it has been on my heart for the last four years. So many times I have sat down to write this (eleven drafts- to be exact.) So many times I have backed out of publishing due to fear of being judged or misinterpreted. Due to fear of revealing parts of me that even some of my best friends do not know.
Writers will agree with me on this– if you have something deep in your bones that is calling you to write and you don’t write it… it follows you like a shadow. It wakes you in the middle of the night. Taps you on the shoulder when you least expect it.
I’ve written many times about depression and perhaps this will add depth to my prior stories. The parts of my depression I was not ready to write about are what will be written today: my prior battles with self-destruction and addiction.
I’m writing this because I know there are people hurting who need to read this. Who needs someone to relate to.
This is for the people who can’t get over something from their past. For the people who hate their bodies. For the people who are battling or have battled addictions. This is for you.
I want to note– after I share this story I want absolutely no sympathy. No praise on getting through it. No friends texting me “I had no clue” etc etc. It’s one of those things where I want to write it and then set it free. The only conversation I’m really open to is if you need someone to talk to. After this, I’m here for you. I feel confident putting this out there now because so much time has passed and I’m feeling the healthiest I ever have.
Part 2 will be how I got through it all and turned it around. Part 1 is to paint what was the picture of true despair- so that others can find solace in relating to someone who has also experienced great pain. Again… this is for who needs it.
So let’s start.
When I was a young girl, I experienced a sexual trauma that went on for years. No one knew, as the person doing this so perfectly covered his tracks and scared me into oblivion about not letting anyone know. I would later not tell anyone until I was in my 20s. To this day, maybe five people know. Even the very person who has encouraged me to write this doesn’t know the full story and she’s one of my longest, dearest, bestest best friends. I tell you this to make it a point that this has brought me so much shame throughout my entire life- even though I did not deserve it.
It’s a story so vile that anytime I have ever talked about it out loud I physically felt sick to my stomach afterward. One that most of the time whenever I had tried to open up about it, I would chicken out and change the entire storyline. Really, out of fear that the person hearing it would view me in an entirely different light. I also didn’t want sympathy. (Still don’t. I’ve grown so strong! And everyone has their own shit- you know?)
In middle school and high school, when girls would talk about their bodies, my thoughts went beyond “Am I skinny? Am I fat?” …. they were, “I’m disgusting. I’m broken. Completely tainted.” Sometimes it felt like my body didn’t even belong to me.
(***I do want to make a quick note: Despite my story: I had the most amazing upbringing and the BEST parents I could ever ask for. The best parts of me are from them. My Mom did not know about this until just this last year. My family did NOT know the person who did this to me personally. I know that had I told them from the start, it would have changed my entire life course. I wish so badly I would have told them. They always made me feel like I could go to them for anything. My story goes to show that you can have the “perfect setup” in life like I did and still… things can happen. My family is freaking AMAZING– and nothing bad from my past ever stemmed from them. I pray more girls go to their parents when things happen. I have no idea why I never did. To protect them, to “protect” me, I don’t know. But I regret it. Back to the story….)
At an early age (13) I realized that when I would go hungry (like if I forgot my lunch at school) I would be so focused on the hunger that it took away the focus on the pain. I’d use that as a coping mechanism for years until my 20s. Secondary to “helping me cope”… I did lose weight. And a younger me would believe that I was more desirable if I were thinner- and in my mind, because of what had happened, I needed all the help I could get to even be baseline attractive.
For the longest time, I did not feel worthy of true love. I felt f*cked up because there were times when that was all I could think about it and I knew, without even talking to people, that surely it had given me a warped perception of love, sex, trust, and my body.
Throughout the years (up into my 30s) friends would tease me about my near non-existent number and while I would play along, “I’m just a prude!” “I need to be in love!”.….. these things are true but they are not the whole truth. Anyone I was ever able to be intimate with, I really, really had to trust. The thought of a one night stand quite literally scares me.
There were other things in life that have happened that have greatly impacted me. A wild ride with illnesses, loss, betrayal… there were years I believed I’d never feel true happiness ever again. But yes, it all started with that trauma.
In high school, I used to try to convince myself that it actually didn’t happen. That it was all a series of bad dreams that merely felt real. But it was real, and sometimes the more I tried to run the deeper it would bury me.
In college, starving myself no longer sufficed as my sole coping mechanism, and I began abusing pills. Adderall, heavy anti-depressants, sleeping pills, anxiety medications… it got to the point where I was doctor shopping (completely illegal to do) and I didn’t know if I could turn it around.
It wasn’t until I nearly died one night (pills, drinking, weed… all to an excess, all on an empty stomach) that I turned it around. For the first time. (My healing path was not linear as I had a few relapses.)
For two years I was really strong and healthy. Got off the medications, was at a healthy weight. I actually really learned to love my curves and life felt bright. So bright.
You’d think that two years of health and happiness meant the dark times had passed. But what I still hadn’t done was confront what had happened to me as a kid. And I didn’t have the self-awareness that I do now to know when depression is looming on the horizon. Those who truly understand depression know that it is not a choice, and sometimes it will spring up on you unannounced. Even during good times.
One month living in San Diego, I fell back into it. Slowly. Taking pills here and there when I started to feel restless and uneasy in my body… until it began to really crash down. My years in San Diego would turn out to be my biggest and longest relapse. My darkest times.
Those years were different, I no longer felt happy about my body looking thinner. I actually felt I looked less attractive and even though I knew that- I could not stop. Starving myself had become a sense of control that I was so desperately after.
I was having such intense dreams of what happened that I would wake up feeling nauseous. I was being hit with waves of self-hatred. The idea in my head was I would never be normal. For three years, I’d look in the mirror and think “gross” “unworthy” “what an embarrassment”… my boyfriend at the time used to tell me he’d catch me looking at my reflection and shaking my head.
I felt dark.
And like I’d never get out. I would find myself fantasizing about death. Not killing myself, but wondering in my mind about how if I had a terminal illness, it would be more a relief than anything. I tell you this not for the shock factor, but to drive home how hopeless and trapped I felt. To tell you, if you are ever sinking, I understand that feeling.
What’s really crazy is that to the world around me I was positive and light. Super charming. Killing it in my fashion career. Concealing everything so so well. There was no way anyone knew what was going on. I was the ultimate liar. I knew how to dress and pose in pictures so that I didn’t look so skinny. I always had a “legit” reason not to eat. Because I worked 60 hours a week I was able to disguise most of my bad habits and behaviors. I had a system that I thought worked flawlessly.
I should note at this time that I really tried my best to hide from my family and close friends. I’m so regretful of how selfish I was during these years. My parents think of it as the years they rarely heard from me. My friends think of it as the time they really didn’t know me anymore. I purposefully kept myself hidden from those who would call me out. It was a mix of shame and also a reluctance to do something about it. To be fair, at the time I really didn’t think I could do something about it. Pills numbed me, starving gave me control…. two things I didn’t want to give up and for the most part, was able to hide it all perfectly.
Is this you ever? Do you cling to coping mechanisms, something that numbs you… a dark kind of control? It can manifest in so many different ways.
I understand that grip.
It got to the point where I couldn’t make it up my apartment building’s three flights of stairs without feeling woozy.
Where any free time I had was spent sleeping and not living.
Where my hair was falling out and my nails were constantly breaking.
Where my skin was dry and my eyes were dull and I always felt sick.
My spine was constantly a string of perfectly dotted bruises where my bones stuck out. Just from sitting in a desk chair for a few hours each day. My boyfriend at the time would beg me to eat. Sometimes with tears in his eyes.
I was the thinnest I’d ever been- and it did not bring me peace. It did not bring me joy. It did not make me feel accomplished or worthy or anything good.
Listen to me: Trying to control your body obsessively will never be a path to true health or happiness. Physically or mentally. It will impact your relationships. It will slowly crush your soul. It will add darkness to your light. You won’t be proud of who you are.
Past traumas, addictions, self-destruction… I hear people’s reasoning for not being able to let go. But eventually, you’re going to need to let go.
Be healthy, be dedicated, but do not fall into obsessive behaviors. They are high risk and can dig you a hole so deep you will wonder if you can ever get out.
But you can, and in part two– I’ll tell you how I did it. How I not only climbed out but went back in and packed it so tight with love and strength that I could never fall in so deep ever again. I believe you can do this too. <3
4 years later– best I’ve ever been.
Hang onto hope. x
(Photo by the incredible: @Eat.My.Media)