Be the person you need right now.
Teachers and diagnosticians labeled me: unrealistic, a conundrum, complex, odd, unmotivated, bizarre, and “screwed up.” In fourth grade, my math teacher asked if I was abused at home. In sixth grade, my parents asked if I was on drugs. None of them knew what was going on and I couldn’t tell them because I was just as clueless.
High school changed things. I was submersed in a new environment with new people that hadn’t grown up with my idiosyncracies. To me, my “habits” were normal. To them, I was a disorder.
Those girls couldn’t have predicted that their “jokes” would lead me to avoid the school cafeteria for three years.
After all, they were stating facts.
Except, I wasn’t a disorder.
I had a disorder.
I still have that disorder and I’m not ashamed to say that.
I starved myself.
The memories start in 4th grade.
On the inside, I was exhausted from living in a world littered with scales and calorie counting notebooks. I was heavily involved in school activities that I hated. They kept me busy so I could keep my habits hidden. I volunteered forty hours a week, taught bible class on Sundays, and found myself barely passing my classes. People used to tell my parents how well-rounded I was. They would tell them that they wished their kids could have half of my personality. My parents would laugh and say they “got lucky with me.” They knew those people were unaware of my failed classes, midnight panic attacks, and declining immune system.
My confession was not a willing one. My friends told me that if I did not talk soon, they would. Granted, I was a ticking time-bomb by junior year and had quit most of my activities besides teaching because my coordinator said they didn’t have any available substitutes.
Every day was a battle I didn’t want to face. If I managed to get to school on time, my mother considered it a good day. Ironically, starving myself to death was what I lived for.
Looking back, I cannot believe I made it. I remember coming home on the days before my confession; lifeless and tired from days spent in classrooms, head pounding, and focused on restricting.
The news was relayed and my crumbling façade was taken from me. My parents were quick to find help as soon as possible. They knew that I could not keep waiting for things to get better without the chance of things getting worse.
In the weeks that my parents and I were searching for the perfect treatment team, I was forced to miss my bible class. I assumed no one would notice. Evidently, once I returned to a normal routine with the addition of constant appointments, I started teaching again.
I was shocked when greeted with hugs and tears. Somehow, the children had missed me. I realized that despite their replacement teacher letting them watch movies the entire time, they would rather have me. After the class was over, I felt fulfilled.
Then, my youth coordinator came to my room with a huge envelope filled with notes from the kids and church staff. At the bottom of the envelope, there was a laminated notecard simply stating, “Be the person you wish you had when you were younger.”
I have my suspicions, but I still don’t know who sent it to me. However, I realized within that moment if I had any reason to continue, it was to help and teach people. Since starting recovery, I enjoy going to school and my truly teachers encourage me because I genuinely appreciate my education.
When I was aiming for an ambiguous goal of how I thought I should look, the results of my effort only made me miserable. Now I enjoy the challenge of studying hard and receiving the grade I earn.
Everyday remains a struggle and the statistics tell me it always will be. However, I do not care if I have to go to the doctor every week for the rest of my life if that means I can help a child realize their worth. If I could make any difference at all or make one kid not dread waking up in the morning, I will have succeeded.
The truth is, I did not get better because I woke up one morning wanting to love myself. I simply realized that getting other people to love themselves is the reason I want to wake up.