I was fourteen years old when I developed an eating disorder. I had recently lost a loved one to cancer and was performing in multiple musicals a year. I had already been diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety at the age of eleven, and all of this began to mash and meld into a weird, horrible little ball of perfectionism and self-hatred.
I started to believe that my talent did not matter unless I was thin. I had been performing since the age of five, but who cared if I was a good singer? I was half an inch away from my ‘’ideal waist size’’ which would make me super talented and pretty and popular – and that’s all that mattered to me.
Being measured for costumes became a nightmare, and I would vigorously exercise and refuse to eat in the days leading up to each fitting. I would go hungry at cast meals, claiming that I couldn’t eat anything on the menu. I couldn’t let my fellow cast members see me eat. They’d think I wasn’t driven enough to look perfect onstage.
Almost six years later, and my eating disorder has remained a looming figure in my adolescent years. There have been recovery attempts and relapses, days where I had hope and days where all I wanted was to rip the fat from my bones.
My weight had been 96lbs at my worst (extremely unhealthy for someone of my 5’6 height) and then fluctuated between 105 – 125 throughout the following years depending on whether or not I had relapsed at the time.
My hair began thinning and I would isolate myself to avoid any probing questions from rightly concerned friends and family, but also from the fear that they might notice if I had gained 2lbs. I permanently damaged my health and missed so many opportunities due to my eating disorder, something that I now view with so much regret.
By this point, the start of 2018, I had just turned 19 and was now the lead singer of a band, and the pressure to look and be perfect crept further to the forefront of my mind. I refused to eat in the days leading up to each gig and would feel so faint onstage that I would be more concerned about not passing out or throwing up than I would be about putting on a good performance.
In mid-2018 I gave up performing.
Most likely on a temporary basis, but I decided that it was finally time to put my mental health first and take away one of the biggest causes of my eating disorder.
But I was now at a loss. Who was I if I wasn’t performing? If I wasn’t spending hours everyday attempting to look as close to perfect in the eyes of people who I barely even knew? At fourteen I had forced the ideal of the skinny goody-goody theatre performer upon myself, then at nineteen I was forcing the ideal of a skinny alt-girl rocker on myself – neither of which were me. Neither of which were attainable if I wanted to be truly happy.
And why the hell did I need to be skinny to be a goody goody or rocker anyway?
Around this time of feeling lost, I discovered #IWeigh.
I first took note of the movement on Emmy Rossum’s Instagram then, upon looking it up, discovered that it was started by all-round-awesome-person Jameela Jamil (who I absolutely adore in The Good Place). I was intrigued, and immediately felt inspired by an amazing amount of women who valued so many beautiful things about themselves other than how they looked/how much they weighed. Everyday I would look at these women’s posts and aspire to be more like them, even if it was just little by little.
I would like to say that I had a magical lightbulb moment where I was straight away recovered and life was perfect, but that’s not how real life works.
Over the last few months, little by little, I have been able to make small improvements on my little path to recovery. I began eating my ‘fear foods’ again. I threw out my scales. I started eating three healthy meals a day (with plenty of sweet treats), and ever so slightly started seeing an improvement. Jameela Jamil and #IWeigh provided the hand that I needed to gently hold mine and guide me towards recovery. Seeing somebody so honest and human took the fear out of the concept of recovering from my eating disorder. I no longer felt alone. I was finally surrounded (virtually) by so many amazing people who acted as a reassuring support system without even realizing it.
I still check Jameela’s twitter almost everyday. Her messages of self acceptance and love, as well as her fight against bodyshaming, photoshop and more continuously empower and inspire me to want to be the strongest person I can be. Not the skinniest.
#IWeigh constantly keeps me motivated. The women I see give me hope. Not only for myself but also for the future.
I still have the occasional slip up and bad day. I’m taking this whole recovery thing in baby steps. One day at a time.
I am gradually learning to value myself for my talent. For my intelligence. My core values and kind heart.
I am gradually learning that my happiness and self-worth have nothing to do with my weight.
I am gradually learning that I am not perfect – and that’s okay.
Because I am so much more.