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*Trigger warning*

            I was sexually assaulted by someone I looked up to for a few years at a young age. A naive and young age. I am not going to go into detail with that but rather the after-effects. It was not until when I grew older that I realized how wrong it all was and how my mind registered it, but it was not until recently when I realized that it played a part in my body issues. I haven’t been happy with my body for as long as I could remember, I’ve dealt with binging and purging, starving, over-exercising, non-stop calorie counting, fad diets, etc. I have been vegan, vegetarian, raw vegan, paleo, keto and low carb. I have tried the military, diet, juice cleanses, detoxes, fasting, not eating after 7 p.m. and meal replacements. Even on a daily, I have done apple cider vinegar shots and if not, then ACV pills after each meal. I have done so much and honestly; it wasn’t until now that I have realized just how much I have done. It started ever since I could remember- picking at my body and not only from a physical perspective but a mental perspective. 

            I remember years back, I was making my plate for dinner and my sister commented, “Don’t you think that’s a bit much?” I instantly felt insecure. She’s always had a smaller frame than I, I have more broad shoulders. But after that comment, her boyfriend questioned “So what?”, I was thankful for that. Sometimes I can’t help to think that if that didn’t happen, would I have eaten so much afterward? Would I have gotten adjusted to eating so much?

            I stare at my body now; I have stared at it for as long as I could remember. I pick out everything. I see the growing stretch marks, the bigger arms, wider waist, a more noticeable chin and chubbier cheeks. I keep the mirror standing up straight to get a proper view compared to how I would look in it if it was leaning slanted against the wall. I take pictures, I graze my fingers over my skin, and I feel the stubs of hair on my legs because I do not have enough motivation in me to shave. I google about how long stretch marks last and why people get them, I see that the pinker/more purple they are, the newer and growing they are. That means I am getting bigger. It makes me not want to eat, but there’s a voice inside of me telling me to eat away the feelings of pain, how good it’ll feel to stuff my face. It’s disgusting but I do it anyways, only to chug down three bottles of water afterward to help puke it all away. Sometimes I feel satisfaction from the burning in my throat, other times it’s this sadness that won’t go away.

            I stashed snacks at night, when everyone would be asleep, I would quietly take a bag of chips, cookies, anything I can get my hands on. I would bring that into my room, and I would stay up all night watching Netflix and would just eat, it was my personal snack spot tucked away on the side of my bed, stuffed animals hiding it in view. I was a bored eater.

            I told myself to do better, that I had a problem. Numerous amounts of times I told myself that everything I was doing was not healthy, but I studied it. I studied my habits and I studied habits to make my problem stronger. I cannot tell you how many photos I have on my thinspiration Pinterest board or how many blogs I followed, or movies, or even books I have read to encourage my unhealthy desire. I went to the gym to push myself, I worked out at home and saved so many workouts on my phone. I would follow them, but it didn’t last long. 

            My hair started to thin, I stopped wearing makeup, and it was a struggle to get up without getting dizzy. My focus should have been on school but all I could think about was what I would eat next or how many calories are in the banana that I just had and how I shouldn’t have eaten it, I should have had cucumbers or shredded lettuce instead since they’re even lower in calories and are mostly water. I was distracted. My stomach growled and I loved the feeling of drinking water and how it felt filling. I loved it growling more and more, wanting hunger but ignoring it to the point where it stopped asking for food, just water. I had to hide it all. 

            It all was an obsession, a nonstop cycle of eating and not eating, of telling myself to actually do better and take initiative, and then telling myself, “If you juice cleanse for five days before the beach then you won’t be bloated, and you’d look skinnier despite losing only eight pounds. That even though you are wearing a shirt over your bikini, it matters that your body won’t show as big underneath it.”

            I feel that a piece of me now, believes that possibly some of this started up from feeling uncomfortable in my body whenever I had thought about some of the memories. Sometimes I still get vivid flashbacks and I cannot help but to instantly tense or curl up. It hurts what you did, but it helped shape who I am today. Every day, I am growing stronger and becoming freer. Every day I am working harder on myself than ever before and sometimes it gets quite rough, but I get through that. Yes, you were a part of my life but write now this is my story and I am the author, I will not let you write any of it anymore.

My name is Leandria Hercules and I am currently a sophomore at the University of Scranton, I major in Journalism and Electronic Media and am such an animal lover. I absolutely love art, writing, travelling, graphic design, hanging out and overall going on adventures! Feel free to add me on Instagram at leandria_ev831
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