I’m a good person. I matter. I’m surrounded by people who love me. My life is worth living...
I recite these statements to myself, per my therapist’s recommendations, whenever I feel self-conscious or scared. I wish I were a confident, independent woman who knew what she wanted and who loved her body. But, I’m not, and I don’t know if I will ever be that woman.
There have been so many campaigns lately, encouraging women to love themselves as they are.
With each campaign I come across, I stop, look at myself and try to come up with something positive to say. Instead, I’m usually left criticizing what I see.
After several hours of reflection upon running into a certain article, I came to the realization something needs to change.
I need to accept myself for who I am and break away from who others want me to be. If not right now, one day.
Life is too short to live a life not your own.
Growing up, I lived with a family who demanded perfection, who put emphasis on appearances rather than intellect.
My issues probably began back in high school, when I first felt the pressure to be beautiful and thin. Daily weigh-ins were a norm, followed by a stomach tracing that makes me cringe still today every time I think about it.
I thought I had left these pressures behind when I headed to the West Coast in search of a new, exciting life. I was wrong.
It had always been my dream to move to California: the sunshine, the people, the classic California fashion scene and celebrities. It was lifestyle I wanted to be a part of.
Shortly after moving out west, I found an opportunity to work in the fashion industry, a field with which I have always been fascinated.
I loved the idea of being able to express myself through clothing. I couldn’t wait to dive in and soak up everything about the industry. I was ready to learn.
Nothing could have prepared me for the reality check that comes with working in fashion. After just a few days on the job, I began to criticize myself. For the first time in my life, at a size 2, I was considered one of the “bigger girls” in the office.
I began to curse my curves; I hated my bone structure, my freckles, my hair, my height, even the size of my fingers and toes. Lunch had become a battle. It was a test of wills: Who can last all day without eating?
Birthday parties and holiday celebrations were always a charade: Buy adorable cupcakes, snap a pic, post to Instargram with a witty caption illustrating how we’re going to eat the whole box, and then throw them all away.
Success seemed to be measured by how many times you could turn down food.
Searching for models to recruit for photoshoots became a nightmare, with each comment on a young girl’s appearance cutting into my soul: "She’s too thin; she’s too fat; she’s cute, but look at her nose."
These women were gorgeous, and if they didn’t make the cut, who was I to think I was pretty?
With each mile I run, each serving of food not eaten, I tell myself I’m being healthy. I even give excuses for why it’s healthy to use laxatives.
I’m willing to do anything to become skinny and beautiful. I measure my success and worth by how large of a gap I have between my thighs, and the inches around my waist.
I cancel on plans with friends for an extra session at the gym. I’m no longer interested in date night’s out with my husband because navigating a dinner menu gives me high anxiety: How many calories are in this? Is that high in sodium? What do you cook your meats with? Where do you buy your produce from?
I have transformed into a walking calorie counter.
Appearances, food and fitness were, and still are, the only three things I care about. I have stopped doing things I once enjoyed because they take time away from the gym.
My relationships with friends and family have suffered. I no longer have to cancel on plans because I’m no longer invited.
I have lost my sense of self. I'm no longer excited or happy. Instead, I'm flooded with thoughts of ending the pain for good: How easy it would be to slip into the abyss and let my worries and frustrations melt away? How easy would it be to no longer be tormented by my thoughts of feeling worthless?
When I finally accepted that I have a problem and visited a doctor last year, I was officially diagnosed with an eating disorder. I was excited.
I felt like I had finally made it. I felt like I was part of an elite group of people who are "disciplined" and have the "unique ability of self-control." I’m finally worthy of their acceptance.
Now, I feel ashamed I ever felt this way. A disease like this should not be something to aspire to, yet I can’t shake this feeling of success for having made it to this point of madness.
The magazines lied; this disease is not glamorous, it wreaks havoc on your body, mind and relationships. I’ve lost hair, have a string of vitamin deficiencies, neuropathy, hallucinations, psychosis, loss of clarity and have ultimately lost myself to the throes of depression.
I have become someone I hate and no longer recognize. I’m a liar, always sneaking off after dinners to throw up quietly in the bathroom -- a skill mastered after hours of watching YouTube tutorials.
I thought I could stop counting, stop running, anytime I wanted, but when I finally tried, I found stopping isn’t an option.
I cry if I miss a session at the gym, or if we run out of almond milk for my cereal (regular milk is forbidden). I know I’m in a bad place, but don’t know how to crawl out of this darkness and let go of my obsession.
I’m like a cancer when it comes to relationships, turning my husband and friends into shells of their former selves.
At my hand, they're walking zombies who rarely feel happiness. I have broken them, and I don’t know how to repair what I have destroyed.
While I've started down the path to recovery, it's a tough road. The path is much harder than I ever realized.
The good days are beginning to outweigh the bad ones, but I still can't shake the voice inside my head telling me I can't eat certain things if I want to be beautiful.
It takes strength to push those thoughts aside and convince yourself you're so much more than your looks. You deserve to be happy and healthy.
Stop punishing yourself for things out of your control. Celebrate the little victories and the big wins. Surround yourself with people who value you and who care about your well-being.
I know we are strong enough to fight this, and while these thoughts and feelings may never truly go away, we can learn to manage them and persevere.
I’m ready to be myself again. I don’t want to be a Marilyn, or an Audrey; I’m ready to go through life as Brittany.
Who is she? I don’t know yet, but I can’t wait to find out.