The (Internal) Stigma

If you asked me to describe myself in several words I would probably say something along the lines of, small, loud, crazy, fun-loving, always laughing, confident, and happy. Mainly, because, for the most-part those words are genuinely a true description of me.

But that’s how I would describe myself to you.

If I were to describe myself to me, the words couldn’t be more different. Fat. Ugly. Weak. Unwanted. Shameful. Worthless. Disgusting. Scarred. Mainly, because, for the most-part those words are genuinely what I believe to be a true description of me.

Everyday I wake up and I go and stand in front of that mirror and, for some reason, I willingly say those words to myself. I stand there and look at every inch of fat on me and hate myself for it. I stand there wishing that girl was skinnier. Fitter. Prettier. I wrongly believe that everything, including my happiness, depends on my weight and I let that demon whisper in my head. I don’t try to fight it off, I listen to the whispers of, ‘you’re so fat, and ugly, and weak’. I let it tell me that I’m ‘worthless and don’t deserve anyone whilst I’m so fat’. I truly believe that when I walk out the house everyone I walk past is going to take one look at me and confirm that those words are true inside their own heads.

I know its not true but the fact of the matter is that, right now, it does not matter how many people tell me I’m beautiful, because I simply do not and will not see it. I’ve not felt beautiful since December, and I’ve not felt perfect since February.

It’s funny how the last time I felt ‘beautiful’ doesn’t coincide with the last time I felt ‘perfect’.

I felt beautiful because I was slimmer in December. Having shoulder surgery, however, meant that what was once a 36 hour training week became nothing at all. I inevitably gained some weight and I was so unhappy for it. However, due to my lack of training I was able, for the first time, to go out with my friends on nights out and I actually enjoyed it. Naturally, boys slowly came into the equation. At first, I thought people were messing me around, I thought I was that fat girl who was the inevitable joke. But I slowly realised this wasn’t the case. Some of my friends were genuinely interested in me and as much as I’ve never needed validation from a guy, it gave me confidence. It made me sit back and think that maybe, just maybe, I was alright. I wasn’t as ugly or as fat as I thought I was.

Yeah. I was alright.

But the weight kept increasing. And when I reached 58kg at the end of January I couldn’t handle it. The whispers became louder and I started skipping my meals and the purging slowly crept back into a regular habit. I began hating myself, I can remember sitting in front of the mirror and crying. I hated that girl starring back at me. She was so fat and it was her own stupid fault for gaining the weight. I remember wanting to smash it, I was in so much pain and my heart was breaking. I couldn’t stop the tears, I couldn’t purge because I hadn’t eaten and I couldn’t even bring myself to stand up because my legs were so weak. I hated that girl. I hated her.

I hated me.

And that was the first, and I am glad to say the only, time that I cut myself.

I felt as if I deserved it. As if I deserved to be in pain for being so stupid as to gain weight. As if I deserved to be as scarred on the outside as I felt on the inside. I felt like I had all this pain in my heart and I couldn’t get rid of it. I wanted it to leave so badly, I wanted to be that smiley, bubbly girl again and I hated the fact I was so broken. I wanted to be normal. But that girl had never been normal from the day she was born. I had all this pain and hurt and anger and I couldn’t get rid of it. The demon whispering in my head began to shout and I wanted it to stop. Even the fact I only cut the back of my hand, because deep down I didn’t want to seriously hurt myself, made me feel weak. I hated myself and cutting the back of my hand let me get that anger out. I felt like I was hurting that girl in the mirror because I hated her. It didn’t feel like I was hurting me.

I think the best way of describing it is that I wanted some physical pain to match the mental pain that was breaking my heart. Almost as if physical pain would draw away from the mental pain. You can do something constructive about physical pain; you can put a bandage on it, you can fix it. Mental pain is so much different and you feel so out of control, like you can’t fix it but surely you should be able to fix mental pain yourself? Just stop thinking all those negative thoughts.

I wish it really were that simple.

Although I cut myself I wasn’t truly fully relapsed then, as hard as that may be to believe. Over those two months there was something that helped me and yes, it involved a boy. Two boys to be exact. This was the time when I didn’t feel beautiful, but I felt perfect.

So, I had gained weight. But cutting my wrists forced me to open up to my family and best friends and they were there immediately to help. I felt stronger because they knew I was struggling and they were going above and beyond to help me feel better. To be stronger.

I met a guy and even though I knew things weren’t going ‘anywhere’ he made me feel perfect because when I was with him I was genuinely my normal loud crazy self, talking about the most random crap and the ‘banter’, for want of a better word, was great. For the first time since I broke up with my long-term ex I actually thought I guy didn’t like me because I was slim and, therefore, beautiful, but that a guy actually liked me for me. So although I was fatter than I was in December I actually felt perfect. He made me feel perfect.

It makes me smile to think about that time because I can remember how during that month I was genuinely so happy and me and my friends were having such a good time as well. I remember our girl nights out and they were hilarious. I remember the group chats that made me cry with laughter. I remember sitting with them at Piccadilly station whilst they were waiting for their trains simply because that was where I wanted to be; with them. To be with them made me so happy. For once I was happy with the way I was. I didn’t feel beautiful. I still wanted to lose weight. But for once I was happy.

I was happy because of the people I chose to surround myself with.

I didn’t know what ‘it’  was but I knew ‘it’ could never be serious but that doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt when this guy ended ‘it’.

But as one door closes another one opens and a different guy accidentally stumbled into my life. And I was genuinely surprised at just how much I liked him in such a short space of time.

If I didn’t know what was going on with the first one I most definitely didn’t have a clue with this one! Admittedly, I don’t think either of us knew what to make of the situation. Again, he ended it and he did so for all the right reasons. He told me that he didn’t want me to be ‘a bit of fun’, but then he didn’t want to lead me on either and end up hurting me a few months down the line.

That was a bit of a whirlwind that I’m not going forget quickly. Although I appreciated his honesty, I almost hated it. Its easier to hate someone than to accept their kind actions which happen to cause you pain.  However, for the very first time I opened up to a guy about my eating disorder. I thought he would run a mile, but he didn’t. The problem was that when he did end it, I couldn’t help but listen to that whisper of, ‘well why would he want to be with you anyway when you’re so broken.’

I know deep down that wasn’t the case. I know he isn’t the type of guy to have judged me on that and he was the first guy who made me feel as if there was nothing to be ashamed of. We didn’t talk about it much more, and admittedly we didn’t even hang out much more, but I never once felt as if he judged me because of it.

And that’s the thing.

I constantly believe that if I open up to people they’re going to judge me. I feel that they’re going to hear me say those words, ‘I have an eating disorder’, and they’re going to think I’m weak, disgusting, broken, worthless, fat. All those words I say to myself every day that I wake up and look in the mirror.

But that’s just it. There is no stigma with eating disorders. Well, there is, but its internal. Its me saying those hurtful things. Not my friends. Not the people in the street. Not those two guys, both of which turned out to be friends. Its me. I see myself that way and that means that only I can change that.

I always assume people will react negatively to my eating disorder and that makes me scared to open up but they don’t. I feel they won’t understand, and they might not, but they always try to understand. My friends can tell me I’m beautiful and perfect, and I genuinely don’t need a guy to make me feel that way, but until I see it, until I get rid of that internal stigma regarding my eating disorder, I’ll never become that happy girl I used to be.

And I want to be that girl again. And there are days that I am. I just need more of those days but I feel like I’m getting there. Slowly, but surely, because the days where I am happiest are when I am laughing with my friends and it is those moments where I don’t have a care in the world about my weight. I’m laughing because I’m happy. Because in that moment I am perfect, and I don’t need to stare in a mirror to confirm that.

It’s still raining but it’s a little bit lighter today.

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