Stories are written by people who don’t necessarily work or study in fields related to sexology. They convey emotions, perceptions, and subjective perspectives. Opinions voiced in the stories are those of their authors, and in no way represent Les 3 sex* position.
Translated by Karolina Roman
I was always cold, even when it was 20°C outside; I wore sweaters, that’s all.
I was irritable; I was stressed out because of university, that’s all.
I couldn’t sleep anymore; I watched YouTube videos, that’s all.
I couldn’t focus anymore; I didn’t study anymore, that’s all.
I didn’t spend any time with my friends; I exercised, that’s all.
I counted every single calorie of the day; I was watching out for my health, that’s all.
I was a shadow of myself; I was obsessed. That was too much.
At the time, my eating disorder consumed me entirely. Yet I always had an excuse not to face the problem. In this testimony I will not name the eating disorder I suffered from, because that does not change my experience. I will also not reveal how much weight I lost, because I do not want anyone comparing themselves to me or glorifying my weight loss in the name of “health.” I used to take perverse pleasure in telling others just how many pounds I had lost, so that I could use their congratulations and surprise to justify my problem. Their reactions were, to my eyes, bittersweet eulogies.
When I hit rock bottom, I suffered from acute body dysmorphia. I avoided my reflection at all costs; I showered with the lights off and broke my mirror so that I wouldn’t see myself crying in the mornings. I weighed myself several times a day. I was obsessed—I couldn’t live without my scale. It controlled my life, prescribed my daily dose of “happiness” or sadness. I stopped wearing the clothes that I liked because I was certain they made me look “fat.” When I went into remission, I stopped wearing jeans and undergarments altogether. I could “feel myself gaining weight” when I wore them; I could “feel” my clothing getting tighter on my body.
I think there are many factors that contribute to the development of eating disorders. I also believe that there are people who are more vulnerable to them by nature, be it due to genetics, an anxiety disorder, or something else entirely. This is obviously not to say that one will necessarily develop an eating disorder if these conditions are met.
In my case, I believe the culprits were my anxiety, my perfectionism, and my low self-esteem as a teenager.
I never got to be a “girly” girl. At 14, I was already 5’8”; I had pimples, braces, frizzy hair, and an annoying voice.
It didn’t take me long to figure out that I was taking up too much space in the world.
“Real” girls weren’t supposed to attract that much attention. I realized that I was undesirable— both in appearance and personality. Seeing myself in this way at such a young age had a… destabilizing effect.
After a year, these unhealthy thoughts got the better of me and pushed me over the edge: I developed an eating disorder. At first, my weight loss finally allowed me to feel “normal” and “girly.” But the more time went on, the more unsatisfied and insatiable I grew.
I became obsessed with every bite of food that entered my mouth.
Tormented by the calories I had to burn, I alternated between running and chewing on celery sticks.
Even now, though I consider myself “almost completely in remission,” I sometimes have to mentally hold myself back. I have to stop when I feel myself slipping into unhealthy thought patterns.
“Maybe if you skipped breakfast, you wouldn’t look so awful.”
“It wouldn’t kill you to exercise more. Maybe you could even work on that beach body.”
“Do you really deserve that slice of cake? … Are you sure?”
“Aaaand STOP! Take a deep breath. That cake does not determine your worth, Sophie. Healthy people do not torture themselves over cake. They eat it and think of how yum-yum-yummy it was.”
Sometimes I’m even able to ask myself if it would really be so bad if I got fat and ugly. Aren’t there worse things in life?
Body dysmorphia challenges your feminist side.
I would often get angry at myself, telling myself how pathetic I was to want to conform to beauty standards and gender stereotypes. I must have reminded myself at least a thousand times that women are not meant to be objects of desire, to be sexy. I was under no obligation to be beautiful or desirable simply because I had been born with a vagina.
It’s one thing to say it, but another to put it into practice.
When your whole life revolves around food, exercise, and your body, you don’t get very many opportunities to think about your sexuality. Having an eating disorder is akin to living in survival mode. Everything else becomes secondary. I didn’t want to be intimate with my boyfriend anymore, never mind being alone in my own bedroom. It didn’t matter what he said, there was no way my boyfriend could make me feel beautiful or desirable. Even when I was able to focus on something else for long enough to have sex, my obsessive thoughts would resurface halfway through.
When I went into remission, I allowed my emotions to burst through the dam I had erected to contain them. My eating disorder had been a way for me to avoid my negative emotions for the last 8 months. But once the dam had burst, there was no going back. I was forced to experience all of the emotions I had repressed over the course of those months. Let me tell you, it wasn’t long before I was drowning in panic attack after panic attack.
Over time, I learned to take the flood of emotions in stride and to make peace (kind of) with my hypersensitivity. It might not always be easy, but it is much better for us to fully experience our negative emotions. Moving on becomes quick and easy. But most importantly, it makes space for positive emotions. Sure, when the dam stands tall, we don’t feel our negative emotions, but the same is true for the positive ones. I had deprived myself of love, pride, wonder, sexual pleasure…
It has now been over two years since I put this nightmare behind me. I have now been on this healing journey for long enough to realize that neither my disorder nor my body dysmorphia actually had anything to do with my physical appearance. Rather, they were projections of my issues with self-esteem and anxiety onto something I could more easily “control.”
Some people do not want to talk about their tortured past. I feel like I need to share my experiences to help others who, much like I was, are in the grips of an eating disorder. If you are reading this and you are living with an eating disorder or if you think you have a difficult or anxiety-inducing relationship with food, exercise, or your physical appearance, listen to me carefully. I know it’s difficult. You likely feel alone, stuck in your head: as if it were Groundhog Day. You may be under the impression that you will never break out of this cycle of distress, but believe me. Listen to me. You can get better. It won’t be easy. It will be tough.
I didn’t understand when my counsellor told me that my eating disorder was my worst enemy. I didn’t understand when she spoke to me about restoring the balance in my life. These things made me furious; I “needed” my eating disorder.
Given time, the disorder will rip apart your friendships and family, derail your education, etc.
It destroys everything in its path. Even the person you are.
You probably feel like you are your eating disorder—that, without it, you will be nothing. That’s the eating disorder talking. It needs you to believe that so that you don’t leave it behind. But you are somebody without it. And life free of your eating disorder is worth it.
Right now, you are living as a shadow of yourself. There is no room for you in your own self, your disorder is taking up all the space.
But you are not alone. The people who love you are there to help you. There are organizations and people who can understand and help you. When you are ready, help will already be on the way. All you need to do is stretch out your hand.
Ask yourself: Do I want to wake up in six months, a year, 10 years, still miserable and empty inside?
Listen to me. Believe me. You deserve to get your life back. And I deserve it too.
Listen to me. Believe me. You deserve to live life to the fullest. And I deserve it too.
Listen to me. Believe me. You deserve happiness and self-love. And I deserve it too.