A short story time, prompted by this flashback!
*** Sensitive content warning: mental health, eating disorders, sexual abuse ***
I’ve cleared out a lot of meaningless stuff lately but when I found this red Calvin Klein dress from my Boston days I decided to keep it. This photo is from 2016, the year after I moved to Boston (and the first year I went to Scotland!) I remember the first time I wore this dress. I hung out with dear friends at a favorite bar in Revere, yelling at the football game on TV - because women in dresses are allowed to yell at sports too (and because if the guys would have a little discipline instead of killing themselves with penalties maybe they might win a game...me yelling might help get that through their thick skulls ) I digress...I found the dress at a thrift store because as a frugal Mainer I’ve always been a thrift store shopper. I’ve never felt shame in wearing second hand and love finding discounted treasure!
I tried it on so many times before I found the guts to wear it out. I almost didn’t buy it because I wasn’t confident enough to wear that much red. I was a frumpy country bumpkin, transitioning from a dog walking job to a corporate executive assistant position downtown. I was a fish out of water - what business did I have wearing Calvin Klein in the big city when all I could afford was a soda and a bowl of mac n cheese at the bar?
But the other reason I wasn’t confident was because I somehow still looked at myself and saw an overweight person. My tummy wasn’t flat enough, my arms not toned enough. I was just tempted to mock myself...imagine thinking I looked fat! I’ve come so far since then but my feelings were real, and residual of something I had recovered from in the past.
I’ve never shared on here that when I was a young woman graduating high school and starting university, (about 15 years before this photo) I was anorexic and bulimic. That part of my life is so far in the rear view mirror that I often forget about it. But when I started thinking about it today it seemed the perfect time to share. If you struggle with an eating disorder, I want to send you love and support. People can be so judgemental about the topic, as if eating disorders are the result of extreme vanity or narcissism or just a result of caring too much what others think. If you share that view, I encourage you to learn more about it. Why disorders develop varies by person. Mine was likely impacted by my childhood sexual abuse before I was adopted, and the lack of control I felt as a result growing up. Control was a big factor for me, contrary to popular belief it’s often not just about self image.
My parents started to suspect and intervened. They got me help and I had some counseling before heading off to university but the issues stayed with me for years. While insecurities about my weight and looks are never truly gone (as with most human beings!) I’m no longer battling the physical manifestations of the eating disorders and I often forget that I ever did. I carry the mental (and probably some physical) scars, but I’m a survivor. I’m fortunate to be alive, because others don’t make it.
Please note that I am not seeking compliments or reminders that I should be more confident or not care what others think. I do not write to seek validation or sympathy - I write to share a piece of my past so it might help someone else’s future.
I didn’t intend to write about this today, I just planned to share a flashback picture. But it felt like it was time to tell that part of my story, in the hopes that someone else might benefit. Breaking down the shame and stigma around mental health issues is vitally important. You’re not alone, there is help, there is healing and there is hope. If I can help you find any of those things, please don’t hesitate to reach out!