This post is a letter to my high school self when I was struggling with exercise anorexia severely. I talk about God in here because He is the strength that has brought me to where I am. Whether you are a Christian or not, I hope that if you struggle with this you can relate to the fact that we all believe lies about what will make us happy, and for those of us that have believed that controlling our food and exercise (or lack of controlling them) will bring us fulfillment and happiness are dead wrong. I truly hope that if this is a struggle you currently have, you will have the strength to stare it straight in the face and tell it that it will not control you anymore.
Dear teenage self,
The teenage years are hard. They start in middle school… and those 2 words alone send shivers down 99.9% of adults’ spines, because those are the most awkward and hard years of your life. They are full of body changes, friend changes, life changes, activity changes, and a lot of mean comments. Even when you are 27 almost 28 years old you will remember the mean comments. Let’s get real for a minute, the mean comments that you remember most are the mean comments you made yourself. While for the most part you are a gentle nice person, there are a few times you let your mouth run away from you. But let me be honest, this is something you will still be learning to control even when you are 27. The mean comments you remember from other people, thankfully have helped you learn to be a better person.
But what I want to talk to you about in this letter, my teenage self, is when you were 17. At 17 I remember life revolved around cheerleading, tennis, being social, figuring out what college you were going to go to, how you were going to be a nurse, and control. Control over the activity you were doing and the little food you were eating. Life looked really good on the outside… in fact despite the hard break up you had had and the fact that your best friend wasn’t talking to you… despite the fact that things in so many areas of your life were falling apart… you made it look like you had it ALL together on the outside. The scary thing though was this, that you were allowing the “you look so good you’ve lost so much weight” comments feed your unhealthy habit. You have all the lies down of “I ate before I came” “I’m not really hungry” “I haven’t felt well…”. You eat a bagel in the morning and go to both cheerleading and tennis practice and don’t eat anything else except maybe a banana the rest of the day.
Your senior pictures were bad, you were a size 0 for the first time since middle school, but it was a few weeks later when your cheerleading pictures for the year were taken that are the worst of all the pictures you have from this time. This picture is still up in your parents house and at the age of 27 almost 28 you will cringe. You will look at it and see how thin and straggly your hair is because of the lack of eating. Your arms look like sticks and your eyes are sunken in. Oh teenage self, your outside look does not define you.
It was shortly after this picture was taken that you look down in the drain to see all the hair falling out and you realize, you finally realize that this type of control isn’t helping all the other chaos and hurt in your life. In fact, this type of control is hurting you far more and will continue to hurt you for years to come. But in this one moment you make the decision. You make the decision to eat and to control the amount of exercise you do. And let me tell you something amazing, there truly is beauty that comes from these ashes and you will recover from all the pain you are feeling right now.
Undereating and overexercising is something you will still struggle with in your late 20s. But you will continue to choose to make a conscious effort to not do things that will put you in danger of this happening. And you wanna know the crazy thing? You do become a nurse, but it isn’t your first or even your second degree, it is your THIRD. Because before going to school to become a nurse God will take your ashes and help you get degrees in both exercise and nutrition so that you have the tools to help people who are struggling the way you once did.
High school self, you are going to learn that your worth and beauty are not found in your looks or in your control or in what you can or can’t do, but your worth is found in your Heavenly Father. So high school self, I’m SO proud of you for looking this struggle in the face and choosing to change because it was in that one decision that God was able to make a beautiful and incredible story and career path.
Sincerely and with love,
Your older self