Ever since I was a little girl, I loved going to the grocery store and getting a treat. Some days it was a cookie, some days it was bubblegum and other days I would get a Kids Cuisine. As I grew older, my relationship with food and treats grew stronger and I started to affiliate food with happiness. Anytime something went wrong, I would eat and feel better. In addition to my eating habits, all of my favorite celebrities looked about the same. I loved Miley Cyrus, Britney Spears and Ashley Tisdale. All were very skinny, blonde, blue eyed women that I looked up to. When I would play Hannah Montana or High School Musical, I was always the one who played Hannah Montana or Sharpay because I had blonde hair, blue eyes, clear skin and a thin body. I also went to a religious private school and the things I was taught were misogynistic and wrong. I was told that a woman without a husband has no value. I was raised to believe that my only goal in life was to become a wife and mother and a career was just a safety net. Women were and still are not allowed to become pastors despite, at the time, my interests in preaching. My mother had a career and even though a lot of people thought it was inappropriate for a Christian woman to work, they deemed it acceptable because she was “just a nurse,” as I would hear from the room moms. Girls and women were not allowed to wear bikinis because the church found it as “seeking sexual advances.” That rule applied to all girls in the K-8 school.
As I grew older and entered middle school, I started getting acne and gaining weight. This caused me to feel self conscious of my body even though what I was going through was normal. In sixth grade, I tried to overcompensate with a loud and funny personality. In seventh grade, I bleached my hair bright blonde because my natural hair started to darken. I wore a lot of makeup and covered my body. This was also the year that I made the transition from private school to a public school. In eighth grade, I dyed my hair black and only wore black clothing. While this is very normal for eighth graders to go through and embrace, I didn’t shower for weeks and never washed my clothing. I didn’t brush my teeth or hair despite having braces. I tried my best to become what I thought was invisible. I didn’t want anyone to acknowledge or notice me. I was depressed. I started sneaking food into my room and eating all night. There were nights I never went to bed because I would eat all night and feel sick. I drank about one liter of soda a day and grew a dependency on caffeine. So, I would eat all night and sleep all day, often missing school.
I went into high school in a little bit of a better place, my hair was my natural color, my wardrobe diversified and clean and I showered more regularly; but, the eating habits and staying up all night didn’t change. I would make myself feel so sick and get no sleep that I would stay home from school a lot. On average, I probably missed about 50 days of school every year. I would go to school and make up excuses such as fake deaths in the family, fake doctors appointments and fake college visits. I was suffering a lot and I didn’t want anyone at school to know. I had this persona at school. I was a lead actress in theatre, top student and the yearbook editor. At high school, I felt like my past self, the little girl, would have been proud of me.
When I feel angry, sad, stressed and even when I celebrate something good happening, I eat. Now that I am receiving professional help and am on my own, there will always be that doubt in my mind that if I am without a man then I am useless. Although, I know this is not true the things I was taught as a child have remained with me for better and for worse. I still want to remain invisible in some aspects of my life. Now, when I go grocery shopping, I feel embarrassed and that I am not getting a treat but instead a tool to become overweight. Sometimes, I think everyone in the store is judging me off of what I am buying. Logically, I know this is not happening, but I still have that voice in my head. I am learning to quiet that voice and to embrace my own body. I need to find ways to realize that my past self would be proud of me no matter what.
All my childhood I thought that I had to look like someone else. I thought I needed to look like Miley or Britney for me to one day be attractive to a man. But, myself with blonde hair, a lot of makeup and pretty pink dresses aren’t the route for me. I can assign blame to a lot of places if I want to. I think Disney should stop glorifying and putting blonde white wealth on a pedestal. I think I shouldn’t have been rewarded with food as a kid. I know I shouldn’t have been suppressed and put down at my elementary school for just being a woman. It is my fault that I didn’t tell anyone about my depression for five years and admit to all the food I was eating. But all that blame doesn’t really matter anymore that I am living with these problems. I am starting to rebalance my life and begin to love myself more. Something I should have been doing since the beginning.