How Negative Body Image Impacted my Twenties

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WHEN I was 20 years old I was severely depressed. I was eating around 900 calories a day and running around three miles, telling myself if I could just get under 120lbs, I would be happy; I would be confident. I could start living the life I wanted to live. I was obsessed with the gap between my thighs. I wanted there to be as much distance between them as possible. I’d avoid my mother’s dinners, convinced they would ruin a shape I was working so hard to control. I would sleep into the late hours of the afternoon sometimes approaching the early hours of the evening, both a symptom of my depression and the lack of nutrients I was giving myself. I stopped menstruating for months; I fainted three times. None of this mattered to me. All that mattered was my pursuit to decrease the number on the scale.

I began restricting for the first time after my sister died in 2006 when I was 16 years old. So much had changed in my household. My parents sunk into their own depressions, too consumed with their own grief to notice how little I had started to eat. I’d only allow myself fruit, run around my neighborhood and end the day with 100 sit ups in the darkness by my bed, too ashamed of my body to do them in the light. If a day passed and I felt like I’d overeaten, I’d panic and skip two of three meals the next day. I was fascinated by how easy it was to drop pounds. How my dedication to eating next to nothing for just one day paid off instantly when I’d wake up and weigh myself the following morning.

This cycle continued off and on through the end of high school. I’d go through periods where I wouldn’t think about my weight to periods where all I could think about was my weight. Still, in the comfort of the house I had grown up in, surrounded by friends in the town I had lived my entire life, my eating restriction happened mostly in spurts around the time near big life events (prom, graduation). It wasn’t until after my parents lost their jobs and we got evicted from my childhood home that my sporadic restriction became a full-fledged eating disorder.

In 2009 my mother, sister and I relocated to Florida where I became completely obsessed with controlling my weight. A few months after moving to Florida, I had been the one to discover and break the news to my mother about my father’s infidelity, ending all hopes of a reconciliation between them. Our new life was a life of uncertainty. My mother’s depression worsened along with her health and my locus of control felt like it was shrinking day by day. In the depths of my depression fueled by a hoard of sudden life changes, I clung to the one thing I had success controlling in the past – my weight.

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Nothing to Prove.

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The need to prove myself has been something that has plagued many of the relationships throughout my life. Instead of coming as I am to foster relationships founded in authenticity, many times I have found myself pursuing relationships that don’t quite fit and in turn, I have found myself in an endless saga in which I continually seek the other’s approval. This has looked different in different relationships. In some it has meant overextending myself to make sure they know I’m dependable, or likable or that I am “good”. In others it has meant overexplaining myself and my actions to ensure that I fit in and I’m not judged.

For much of my life this felt like a normal relationship balance to me. Sure, there were times when it felt like some of the people I continued to seek relationships with didn’t quite understand me… and sure, maybe sometimes I felt myself overthinking before contributing anything in fear of how I would be viewed… and yeah, sure, there were the other times in which I’ve felt pressured to contribute or to explain myself, because maybe if I can make them understand, then they’ll like me … But was any of this really that big of an issue?

Did it matter if I felt misunderstood?

Did it matter if I felt out of place so often?

The answer is yes, but I didn’t realize how big of an issue it was until I encountered a situation in which I found myself hurt by the people I kept trying so hard to prove myself to.

I was angry. I was embarrassed. I was hurt. I felt both rejected and disrespected. But mostly, I felt annoyed with myself, for ending up there in those emotions despite everything, despite all of my efforts.

Here I was after having tried so hard to keep myself safe in these relationships. Here I was after trying so hard to say the right things and to be the person that I thought people needed and wanted. Here I was after having held so much back to be accepted.

Here I was after having tried so hard to prove that I am worthy and that I deserve love.

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Your Feelings Matter

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Something I’ve been focusing on lately is really allowing myself to feel and becoming my own source of validation for those feelings. Too often I have found myself looking outwards for validation that my feelings both matter and are warranted in a situation.

Don’t get me wrong, feeling validated is important. Everyone likes to feel like they are being heard and seen but when validation becomes something you need to justify your feelings, that is when seeking validation can become problematic.

In my post on Tiny Buddha, I talked about coming to the realization that I am a people pleaser. One of the ways I’ve seen this play out in my relationships is through the discounting of my own feelings. Whenever I’ve felt a strong reaction or emotion to a situation in one of my relationships, I’ve talked myself out of these feelings. I’ve lessened the importance of these feelings. I’ve dampened them and, on most occasions, neglected to even mention how I’ve truly felt. But during my journey into true self-love this year, I’ve seen just how damaging this can be.

Just recently I was in a situation where I felt very angry and hurt. I hadn’t felt this way in quite some time, and immediately I found myself questioning what I was feeling. Should I be mad? Was the reasoning behind my anger valid? Does it even matter that I am upset? I went into this questioning without even allowing myself to simply feel this feeling, without even allowing myself to acknowledge my anger. I went to friends and asked them if I should be mad. I went to my husband and asked him if I should be mad. I went to my sister… and the list goes on, I went searching for permission to feel what I was feeling.

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Getting Married, Motherless

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Just a little over a year ago my mother passed away. I grew up witnessing my mother fight a chronic, painful disease called Sickle Cell Anemia, but about four years ago she was diagnosed with Pulmonary Hypertension. Although the doctors all expressed the gravity of such a diagnosis and how short it would cut my mother’s life, her death still came as somewhat of a surprise to me. The problem is, I had grown up watching my mother battle sickness. She would enter the hospital and come home again…. go in, come home, go in, come home. But she would always come home, eventually. Her sickness became a normal part of life for me and my sisters. Even when my older sister passed from complications from her own battle with Sickle Cell, I never pictured the same fate for my mother.

In her twenties, my mother was told she would only live until she was 32 but I was born when she was 33. Birthday after birthday we would watch my mother get a little more worn, but still live… a walking, talking, FIGHTING miracle. When I was told about her Pulmonary Hypertension diagnosis and how many years the doctors predicted she would live, I didn’t believe them. And for some time, neither did my mother. “I am fine,” she would tell me, “I don’t feel like I’m dying!”. And for some time that mindset worked for all of us. She was wonder woman; she wasn’t dying.

She was strong.

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Walking Down the Aisle Alone – Unpacking the past & making peace with my father

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Last Saturday I got married to my boyfriend of nearly 7 years, the man who has shown me what a healthy functioning relationship looks and feels like. We decided to have a small, off-beat destination wedding meaning we skipped out on some of the events weddings are typically known for (bouquet toss, first dance, tons of drunk guests). During our ceremony, I also skipped out on a tradition that touches my heart every time I’ve witness it – the father giving the bride away. My father and I are in an okay place considering our past, but it has been quite a long, complicated journey.

When I was around 15 my father was transferred to a position a state away. The plan was for my mother, me and my sisters to stay at our home in GA, wait for it to sell and then join my father in FL. This was not a separation, but a decision my parents made together. It was during this time my father abandoned our family – for the first time. In one of my previous posts, I discussed the toxicity of my parent’s relationship, but at the time I regarded their relationship as just a way of life. I did not consider my father did not want to be with my mom, with our family but during these months apart, my father became increasingly difficult to get a hold of reaching the point where we had not heard from him in months. We discovered he had left his job and we stopped receiving support from him; my mother, whose health was declining, became the sole supporter of our family. It wasn’t until my oldest sister finally reached him and talked to him that he was finally convinced to return home. When he returned there were many fights, but we were never given an explanation as to why he left and what had happened in his months away.

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Use Your Outside Voice – An Intro

Why start a blog?


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I remember my first journal well. It was a Hello Kitty covered, wide-ruled, seven-year-old’s dream. I wrote in it every single day – all of my second-grade hopes and dreams on paper penned in colorful gel ink (remember those bomb ass gel pens?!). I found great comfort in writing. When I wrote I could say whatever I wanted to say; I could write about whatever was important to me. I didn’t have to ask anyone’s permission. I could just be.

As time passed and my journaling continued, I found more ways to use writing as my outlet and began writing poetry and songs at age 13. There was something about artfully combining words that was therapeutic to me. When I wrote I didn’t think about what people would think of me if they read my words. They were mine, from my heart, things I was too shy to express through speaking but felt so freeing to see on paper. It was the one outlet where I felt entirely myself. I wasn’t trying to make someone like my writing nor was I trying to win something. I wasn’t overly conscious about how my words would be received because they had always been just for me.

When I was 16, after the passing of my older sister, my attitude towards writing changed. While my love for writing persisted, what I wrote became heavy and writing started to feel less like a hobby and more like something I needed to do to stay afloat. This prompted me to share my first song when I was 17 – a song about my sister, the day my family and I lost her, and the pain the loss had left us with.

Although up until this point in my life I had never before shared my writing, my decision to share this song felt necessary. Losing someone so suddenly had left me with so many overwhelming emotions, ones that felt too heavy to keep to myself, I could no longer pretend I was not feeling. I did not expect much when I shared this song with my friends and later with the attendees of my school’s fine arts showcase, but the response I received was truly eye opening. People I had never met were brought to tears by the lyrics of my song. Strangers revealed to me their own struggles with grief, the secret pain they held close inside.

It was at that moment my feelings towards sharing and vulnerability changed. By sharing my truth, what I was truly feeling, I realized I wasn’t alone. The emotions that were overwhelming me, the pain that left me feeling so isolated – they were not secrets I had to keep to myself, and they were actually felt by the people around me too. While I had spent so much time believing my vulnerability should be something I keep to myself, sharing my most vulnerable words turned out to be one of the most powerful and freeing feelings I have ever encountered. I finally understood that there was an entire world looking and hoping to connect and by simply sharing what I had wrote, I was able to do just that.

While I learned this lesson and felt this feeling many years ago, it wasn’t until recently I have really started to put this into action and USE MY OUTSIDE VOICE when it comes to my writing about the things that make me feel vulnerable. I am hoping through this blog whoever reads will feel more inclined to share their own truth, to open up and relate and to be vulnerable and real in a world that is becoming increasingly fixated on perfection. So please join me as I navigate this new (to me) world of blogging.

Thank you for reading! Sending love & light to you wherever you are.

Continue reading “Use Your Outside Voice – An Intro”