Everyone feels the need to fit in, right? All of us have issues with self-esteem and self-worth, and so did I. Most of my younger days were spent being involved in activities that included popular approval and criticism. And no one likes the latter, do they? I strove to be the best in everything I did and pretty much succeeded for a long time. The fact that I was my own worst critic further helped me nip most of my faults in the bud.
I had always wanted to be a superwoman. I was already into gymnastics and football, and I was planning on taking dance lessons too. But when I did not qualify for the finals of the dance selection camp, I was hurt. And I began feeling extremely inadequate and unworthy. I began wondering what could’ve caused this unexpected rejection, and finally decided that it was my weight. I had always been on the heavier side of thin, but now I was convinced I was overweight, and that I needed to get rid of all the extra fat if I was to attain that success I had always chased.
Thus began a downward spiral that turned my life around forever. I began competing again, but this time I was fighting myself. I began to reduce my portions of food, and my mind began try beating my body at this game of fat versus fit. With every meal I skipped, I felt a sense of triumph, for I was beginning to succeed. In short, I was well on the way to becoming what the dictionary defines as ‘anorexic’.
In the beginning, it was all very rosy. I felt great about myself- attractive, strong and successful. I was powerful, almost superhuman- for I could do something that other people could not. I could go without food. I had broken the very rule that had governed mankind since its inception- food was no more an essential in my life.
Some months down the line, my friends began to notice my weight loss. They started becoming concerned. “You’re losing too much weight!”, “At this rate, you’ll disappear”, they said. But obviously, the fox who does not reach the grapes call them sour- that doesn’t mean the grapes really are sour. I chose to take their comments as a compliment- they reassured me that I was succeeding, that I was getting closer to ‘perfection’. My physical appearance was now my priority.
I kept cutting back on what I ate, until breakfast was a cup of skim milk and an orange, and dinner consisted of a small bowl of fruit. That was all I ate on most days, and eating a bite more than my allotted ‘morsels’ meant strenuous gymming.
In a year, I had reached a phase where I had had to stop socializing almost completely. I couldn’t go out with my friends- what would I eat if I went to lunch; for it had been months since I’d eaten something in the afternoon. Dinners out were impossible. If I ate out, wouldn’t my little bowl of fruit keep waiting for me in futility? I began scheduling my days around my meals, and started avoiding my friends. What if they decided to tell me how awesome that loaded breakfast was, this morning? Besides, what would I wear? Now that I had a fantastic body, I’d wanted to wear amazing clothes. But none of my older clothes fit, and I couldn’t but new ones because no store stocked clothes my size. I’d shrunk, and I’d shrunk big time.
But you always sow what you reap. The body that I had worked so hard for a year began to rebel. My poor nutrition started causing me to lose sleep and concentration. I began feeling stressed out and fatigued as I worked towards burning those calories that I had not even consumed. My friends and family tried to help me, but I denied I had a problem. But I could not live in denial forever.
One night, like many others, I couldn’t sleep. My heart was pounding against my ribs and it threatened to beat its way out of them. I tried to relax, but I could not. Breathing was beginning to get difficult, and finally, after a year and a half of warnings and symptoms, I realized my folly. I now knew I needed help. Had my mom not seen me palpitating that day, I would not have survived to tell you this tale.
Thus began my long, ardours journey to recovery. A week of hospitalization and months of counselling later, I figured out what really mattered, and a new sense of reality struck me. A series of hospital visits later, I was a strong and healthy as I started off with.
Anorexia, for me, represented all that I wanted to achieve. It was a yardstick I used for measuring my self confidence. For a while, it had defined who I was.
Now, I am committed to being healthy. I use not an eating disorder, but my intelligence and talent to show the world who I am. This is who I am, and I’m beautiful- it’s not about the size of my body. I had tried to achieve perfection on the exterior, but I sacrificed the idea of who I really was. I promise, I will not walk down that lane again, for it leads me to the wrong destination through a difficult terrain. Take my word for it, do not take that route to success. It almost always will mislead you.