Every single week I look forward to Friday because it means we get the share the voice of a community member. A voice that has her own story. This week brings the voice of someone I consider to be a friend. Tracy of Sellabit Mum is a beautiful, intelligent, wickedly funny woman I had the honor of meeting last year at BlogHer. She is a mom, a fashionista, a skilled photographer, a runner, and she has a heart of gold. And today, she is here, sharing a VERY personal story.
At 4:45 am on a warm September morning I ran into my neighbors quite by accident. It was a somber and private scene that I wanted to run away from, but that would have made my uninvited presence even more obvious. So I picked up my jogging pace and sped by them making neighborly eye contact with the daughter ducking into the backseat, giving a nod to the mom digging her keys out of her purse, and I watched silently as the dad came out of the house with one suitcase that belonged to the daughter.
One by one the tears started down my face, releasing into a full-fledged sob as I reached my house. And I stopped running and turned back to them, and as they pulled away, I considered stopping them and yelling “WAIT, wait – I want her to know that it does get better!!!”
I wore jeans this week. Size 2 jeans that do fit. I hated them the whole day. The way they touch my skin and pull at my thighs and ride down my muffin top. I can feel the seams along the legs and feel the zipper when it touches my soft stomach.
I’d catch a glance at myself in mirrors all day long and see my large backside accentuated by these jeans, how my thighs were too close together and how the baggy shirt I chose actually looked like a tent over my midsection and now did everyone think I looked pregnant?
I barely ate that day for fear that even eating an apple would add to my ample thigh, and then I realized that my size 2 jeans – while uncomfortable – were actually a brilliant diet aid.
But I hate jeans – the way they touch my body. Give me a swishing, forgiving skirt to hide my womanly shape and all of my flaws. And when I wear jeans I become a horrible mother. I snap at my kids and don’t want to play on the floor. I don’t want to take them places for fear of ridicule and stares at my figure, and I get irritated easily. Damn jeans – a reminder that I have curves and bumps and squishy places and saggy things and they make me angry.
I had an eating disorder in high school. I starved 30 pounds off of myself and when I couldn’t starve any longer I found the beauty that was throwing my food back up, popping laxatives like M&Ms, and learning that diuretics could help you loose a quick 5 pounds.
And while I was basically ‘cured’ by my mid-point in college, no one prepared me for the lifelong illness that this really is. At 43 and the mother of three kids here I am still feeling like that 17-year-old caught simply licking an apple and crying herself to sleep for that sin.
I don’t starve myself or practice any form of bulimia and haven’t for nearly 20 years – but here I stand at a healthy 5’7″ and 122 pounds and I’m still not cured.
So how do I tell her that it will be okay? How do I tell her that yes, you can stop the unhealthy and physically destructing habits, but the mental ones will stay with you just like with any addict. How you will still think about almost everything that enters your mouth, how you will still see only your flaws in the mirror, and how your size 2 jeans will feel uncomfortable and angry at you. Food is a daily requirement for survival and when it’s your ‘drug of choice’ it makes just daily living sometimes painful.
But I can tell her that things got better for me when I became a mother. How I had to give my body completely to my baby when I was pregnant the first time. How selfish the person with the eating disorder is when they watch their body grow with a baby.
And I can tell her that things got better when I had a daughter. How I go to bed nightly praying that my daughters don’t see me glancing in mirrors or trying to hide my flaws. How I teach them to eat healthy and shower them with love, yet how I hope they never find out my secrets. How I hope I’m not the parent at 4:45 am driving my anorexic daughter to a place that can help her because I couldn’t.
But through all of the pain that is living with an eating disorder your entire life, I do want her to know that there is so much joy and hers is a life worth living. I want to tell her to throw away her jeans and look at all of the beauty she is missing while she is staring in the mirror.
I have bad days. I have bad jeans days. I do. But those days have become fewer and fewer as the happy swishy skirt days have taken over. Motherhood has given me a joyful outlook that I never thought possible. I want to raise strong, happy, loving, accepting daughters who will love themselves their whole lives and not travel the road their mother did. These small people have given me so much hope that I never thought was possible.
Motherhood has given me a second chance to see that my physical imperfections are the ones that made it possible to bring a new life into this world. That the squishy parts of me are their favorite parts and I thank them daily for healing my heart.
So I’m yelling down to you now, sweet neighbor: “It does get better. It really does. It will never, ever be the same, but it does get better once you can share just a little bit of your heart with someone else.”
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