For myself, one of the reasons why my eating disorder developed was due to the feeling of being “too much.” In other words, I felt that there wasn’t enough room for me—that my existence took up too much space. These feelings occurred shortly after I entered middle school and I became a target for my peers. The wonder I once felt towards the world slowly started to fade and eclipsed feelings of self-worth, inner freedom, and joy. Comments were made about my appearance, and the shape of my body became a point of contention between myself and my peers. Even at the young age of 11 and 12, classmates began asking me if I was “anorexic,” which was often accompanied by a sly giggle. This was my first encounter with an eating disorder, despite the fact that this occurrence was years prior to my diagnosis. At the time, I did not know what the word anorexia meant or that the gravity of this insult would shortly become my new reality.
Throughout my life I have always had a small build, likely due to genetics and a late start to puberty. And although I was bullied for my body, I was also recognized and validated for it. Family, friends, and classmates would tell me I should model, simply because I was small. I started to equate beauty to thinness and thinness to beauty. Before I knew it, I was consumed with the idea of staying small in order to receive the validation that I could not give myself.
But of course, bodies change. And much to the dismay of the eating disorder, there wasn’t much that I could do about it—especially in secret. My desire to take up as little of space as possible encumbered many of my thoughts and behaviors. The inner-child in me that was in awe of the world soon became threatened by it.
My high school years were filled with inner-turmoil and pain, which gave the eating disorder a perfect opportunity to settle in. I’ve come to learn that an eating disorder may exist in a functional manner: a coping mechanism that arises to secure some sense of safety within a world that feels unsafe. This realization allows me to have compassion for teenage Isadora, who so desperately wanted to control something in her life.
As I continued on to college, my eating disorder exacerbated, and the thought of taking up space—both physically and emotionally—drove me to a place of utter hopelessness and helplessness. Eating disorders are often complemented by depression, anxiety, OCD, or other psychiatric disabilities. For myself, the eating disorder was one way for me to communicate my suffering. I spent so much of my life in silence dealing with my thoughts and my traumas, that behaviors such as restricting my food intake began to arise. By not taking up space emotionally, I began to shrink myself physically.
Unfortunately, I had to put a pause on my education in order to receive help for my eating disorder. But for many, this is not the case. I am privileged in that I was given the opportunity to take time for myself. Without it, I’m not sure where I would be in my recovery.