So now I am going to bare my soul even more. On some level, it feels good to get all of my secrets out there, especially if it helps someone else in any way. It’s also really difficult though. Even though I know it’s not good for me to bottle things up, I naturally tend to do just that. I find some sick kind of comfort in my sorrows, I like to poke and prod at myself, hitting all of the tender places over and over again, just to be sure to feel the maximum amount of pain possible. I take my sharp criticism and blunt words, and I probe around for a while in one area, and when that place is split open to the point of utter anguish, I move on to a new region, leaving my wounds gaping and seeping behind me.
I never speak about my problems unless I am first asked about them. And even then, I find it hard to get my feelings across. I write much better than I speak. After all, when I write, I have the freedom to go backward and erase the bits I don’t like, before moving forward. So many times in the past I have had a conversation, and lain awake at night obsessing over what I spoke and how I said it. What I didn’t say and why. But today, today I come clean.
Over the years many people have asked me when and why my eating disorder began. For the longest time, I acted as if I had no idea. In reality, I had a pretty good timeline set down. I went back through my journals and used post-it notes to mark out a memory of counting calories here, inspecting a label there. When I began to exercise more than I had ever before. When I began to make a plan to insert more control in my life.
Oh, control. At first I was in denial. A psychiatrist asked me of I thought my problems stemmed from me feeling like I had a lack of control in my life. “No, I don’t think so” I answered furiously, as my mom shook her head beside me in agreement. Nope, I didn’t feel like I had no control. All good there. Or…maybe not. Looking back, I see so many signs pointing to control as an issue.
I was almost thirteen, and had finally started to shave my legs. I didn’t have a real bra yet, because I was too shy to ask my mom if I could choose one from the slim pickings at Walmart. Every time I walked by those racks of candy sweet colors and soft cups with bows between, I swore to myself I would ask my mom if I could buy one. But I never did. Instead, I snatched two hand-me-downs from a bag of clothes a friend had given us, and hid them in my pillowcase (I’m pretty sure my mom found the a few weeks later when she washed my bedding, but she never said a word about it). One day I finally asked her if I could wear a bra, all my friends were wearing them, and lo and behold, the bras I had stuffed into my pillowcase made a re-appearance from a box in the basement.
Though I finally had begun to shave and owned a bra and began to wear it, I didn’t feel comfortable with the changes that were happening here. My little buds of breasts astounded me, but they also scared me. The rate at which my leg hair grew back was SO annoying, and it was so coarse and dark. Ew. The bras I had weren’t like the pretty kind I saw in the stores, instead, they were an off-white color, with a kind of undershirt look to them. I referred to them in my head as my “dumb bras”. It would be a year before I finally bought a brand new sports bra, and even though I adored it, it betrayed me by giving me a rash.
There is one other change that I as anticipating with wonder and horror. The beginning of my womanhood, apparently. My period. I had read books where the young girl starts menstruation, but nothing too horrible seemed to happen. If anything, I thought it might be cool to finally have a reason to buy the little sanitary pads and slender tampon tubes that looked so girly and fun on the boxes. They made bleeding every month seem less like a curse, and more like something to celebrate. But of course, I didn’t speak to my mom about what it would be like, or when to expect it. I knew next to nothing, except for what I read about in books. I didn’t know about the debilitating cramps and the underwear that would become soaked through with blood. I didn’t think that my periods would last for a week or two on end, only to start again a week after they ceased. Obviously, I was out to a rough start.