Megan: Stuck in Neutral. (A girl’s struggle w/ depression and anorexia)

An excerpt from my book, Girl Talk: Boys, Bullies and Body Image

I see self-esteem as how I perceive myself in relation to others and if I see myself as pretty or fat or smart. It has to do with whether I’m confident or not.

For me, my biggest issue is weight. I was obese, clinically. I also struggled with depression and went to a therapist who gave me medication. It didn’t help that I was teased throughout school. Like in sixth grade this guy I thought was my friend asked me out, but then on the bus he told everybody it was a big joke. He told them that he thought it was funny I said yes. Can you imagine how much that crushed me? You don’t just get over something like that.

I lost like 40 pounds the summer between eighth and ninth grade. I started swimming and ate healthier, but then I began to exhibit all the textbook symptoms of anorexia. I mostly ate trail mix. I would eat those all-natural bars – Think Thin bars – but I would eat them as a whole meal. For dinner I would have an apple with peanut butter. I would count calories and keep a food journal. At the end of the day I’d look through it and be like, “Oh, I had too many of this.”

I don’t do that anymore. I know I can’t go back there, but I think about it every time I eat. Can you imagine struggling every single time you’re hungry? Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks – wanting food so badly, but not wanting it at the same time? Now I have healthy eating patterns, but people have to talk to me or distract me so I don’t know how much I’m taking in. The hard part is as I gain the weight back, I see myself as I was before. Even though I’m a healthy weight now, when I look in the mirror I feel like I’m obese compared to where I was when I was anorexic.

I think about body image a lot subconsciously, and I shouldn’t. Hopefully when I get older I won’t be surrounded by people who talk about stuff like that all the time. I feel like if they wouldn’t talk about it then I wouldn’t fixate on it so much.

When I think of what makes me happy, eating is the first thing that comes to mind. Isn’t that sad? In fact, during this whole conversation, the mention of food is the only thing that will make me smile.

Literally.

Unfortunately, I’m the person who loves food but it doesn’t love me. Then I have no choice but to hate it back. Food helped me through some difficult times though. When I was younger, I would “eat my feelings” if I was sad. Now instead of eating a lot I just have like a spoonful and dip it in ice cream, just to taste it. But there’s still this fat child within me that has that feeling, that longing. It’s the fat child that just ate and ate whenever her parents fought.

My mom and I are close but I don’t have a relationship with my dad at all. He leaves early for work, gets home late and eats dinner in a separate room. We just never really had a good relationship.

I guess he never really cared.

I don’t know.

I just accept it now.

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The story of Cindy: As Perfect as Possible.

Excerpt from Girl Talk: Boys, Bullies and Body Image 

The story of Cindy: As Perfect as Possible.

Like a year ago – I never really had anyone to talk to so I would bottle things up. That’s really unhealthy and I would explode and have really bad mood swings and really bad, um, depression. I’ve been struggling with depression for like eeeeever. Lately I had my worst depression – my WORST. I call it the “depression abyss.” I realized I really needed help from my parents. I think they knew I was sad sometimes, but not THAT depressed. I mean, I come off as really bubbly and positive when I’m just hanging out or having a conversation.

When I told my mom and dad, I was shaking. I didn’t know what their reaction would be. I was always scared to tell them because I thought they would send me to a mental hospital and get all crazy. But they didn’t. They were really supportive and so now I go to see a therapist every week (or more!). Biiiiig, big step.
What knocked me down enough to seek help? Um, well, I was actually dealing with an eating disorder and a drug issue. Now I’m being treated for both of them. Yeah, that was a HUGE step too! Oh my God, that was craaazy!

Even though I get depressed, I am like the fun party girl. I’m the one that’s like, “Heeeey everybody! Let’s go party today. I know this place.” Like I’m the girl pulling everyone else in. I’m not the one feeling peer pressure; I’m the one passing it around.

All that fun and partying got serious on New Year’s Eve though. I was dealing with bad family issues on top of everything else. I was in the middle mood-wise and then I just dropped. I overdosed. I don’t remember much. I was seizing and my eyes were rolling back. My friends were like, “OK, we’ll give you ‘til 5:30 am and if you don’t snap out of this then we’re going to the hospital,” and by 5:30 I was sleeping. Crazy, right?!

My drug of choice? Um…probably ecstasy. But I used to do like five different drugs at the same time. And I’m tiny. That’s another thing – I don’t like it when people assume the anorexia is because of my body. I’ve always been really skinny. I know I’m really skinny! The anorexia was definitely a control thing. It was like counting calories because I can control counting. It’s mathematical. Anorexia is so tangible. It’s right there………..

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Teens and Body Image- Why we Don’t Always Like What we see in the Mirror

Body dysmorphic disorder is defined by the Mayo Clinic as a type of chronic mental illness where you can’t stop thinking about a flaw in your appearance — a flaw that is either minor or imagined. But to you, your appearance seems so shameful that you don’t want to be seen by anyone. So, let me say that again in teen language. You think some part of your body is so hideous that you need to hide it constantly, obsess about it, and stare at it all the time.

Don’t get me wrong, all teens are concerned with the way they look. That’s just part of being a teen. Now, don’t confuse being a “typical” teen with having body dysmorphia. When a teen struggles with body dysmorphia, s/he focuses in on one or two particular parts of their body and obsesses over that area specifically on a constant basis. Like, “My nose is so crooked, I can’t go out in public!” Or, “My feet are huge, I could never wear those shoes!”  Usually, in these cases your friends will not understand what you are talking about because they don’t see it.  This can cause you to feel even more alone because no one sees what you see when they look in the mirror.

I’ve encountered many teens who have shared with me stories of their own body dysmorphia. For example, some can rationally identify that their present weight isn’t considered clinically overweight; however, their brains still tell them that they are obese. Some will honestly look in the mirror and still see that young girl who was overweight, or had braces, bad acne or glasses (usually in 4th, 5th or sixth-grade.)

One factor that always seems to go along with body dysmorphia is name-calling or teasing.  You were probably sensitive to your weight, the braces or being taller than the rest of the class and a bullied honed in on that.  The experience was traumatizing and you were never able to let it go. Being so young, you wouldn’t have the tools to deal with those feelings and most kids don’t tell their parents either, which is a huge mistake. Parents can help you process the experience and give you advice or tools to deal with the teasing and to let it go. Unfortunately, many teens carry the painful scars from being teased into high school.  Although in present-day, they know that they are not overweight, those nicknames still stick in their heads. The trauma from being teased doesn’t just go away and when they look in the mirror they still see their overweight self from a painful time.

I’ve never agreed with the saying “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names can never hurt me.” I’ve seen the opposite. Damaging name-calling that carries over to the teenage years.  Names that teens can’t get out of their heads and hear over and over like a broken record.  Some start to believe the name-calling and see themselves in a negative light.  Many teens have told me, that although they’ve lost the weight and the name-calling was years ago, they are still waiting for it to happen again. They walk down the halls in high school feeling like a fraud.  Scared that those names will come back to haunt them because maybe they deserve it. To me, that’s much more painful than breaking a bone because when you break a bone, you set it and it heals. For some of these teens, since the scars aren’t visible, no one else sees the pain, and they didn’t know how to release it to heal.  One thing is clear, if they don’t deal with the root of the problem the pain will remain and they will continue to be challenged every time they look in the mirror.