The world is a chaotic place, to say the least. Relationships, jobs, friendships: everything is constantly changing and evolving, faster than my mind can comprehend. When I first developed disordered eating habits, it was a reaction to my chaotic environment, something to latch onto, to retain my elusive sense of control. My grandmother had just passed away, and my innocent 9-year-old self could not comprehend that people were truly mortal.
“Mom will one day disappear. Dad doesn’t hold all the answers to the universe.”
I was haunted by this realization. My universe devolved into a fragmented abyss, and I yearned to put the pieces back together, to remodel the shattered vision of my youth. And I found my outlet in food. No, I didn’t think I was “fat”. I didn’t idolize supermodels. Eating disorders are often misportrayed as a simple desire to be skinny and pretty. In reality, they are much more complex, and highly irrational. It pains me to understand how irrational my behavior is, and continues to be. But evolution designed our complex brains with numerous caveats. Evidently, self-awareness has its drawbacks.
Eventually, my 9-year-old self became obsessed with the color of my meals, and I only consumed beige products, like toast or cereal. This drastically limited my intake, and made it difficult to concentrate in school. I remember being brutally aware that a sudden shift had occured in my brain. I no longer existed in a state of passive consciousness, I was painfully aware of every thought, every image, every moment passing through my mind. The weight of perpetual self-awareness dampened my spirit, and infiltrated all aspects of my life. It wasn’t just food. It was school, hair, friends: everything had to be perfect, in control, without variance.
Yet of course, life does not come without obstacles and challenges. I quickly discovered this truth, as my grandfather passed away, despite my best efforts to pause the universe. After his passing, I further limited my caloric intake, hoping to preserve the dwindling remnants of my youth. But it was all for nothing. Days kept ending. The sun kept setting. I grew taller with every passing month. I was not in control.
And I was especially not in control when my parents sent me to the hospital. I remember my first night alone in the ward at age 12, “Safe and Sound” by Taylor Swift blasting at max volume on my sister’s i-pod touch before I slept in a cold, metallic room.
“Just close your eyes, the sun is going down. You’ll be alright, no one can hurt you now. Come morning light, you and I’ll be safe and sound.” -T.S.
But I didn’t want the morning light to come. A new day presented new hurdles to my regimented routines. And there was no “you and I”, only “I”. Everyone in this world faded away, eventually. I felt utterly alone, like an anomalous genetic mutation, incapable of properly being human. I was 12-years-old, and a prisoner of my own feeble mind. I wish I could say that I have all the answers now, as I’m close to 21, but I simply don’t. And honestly, I never will.
As chaos and uncertainty ravage our little globe, my mind instinctively yearns to shelter in the comfy cozy world of routine, habits, and work. Every passing moment, I struggle to compartmentalize these feelings.
“Nobody is perfect.”
“We all have our flaws.”
“You are not broken.”
“You are so fortunate to be safe and healthy.”
I recite these little mantras to myself, in a futile bid to retain a sense of calm. But some days, I have to admit, it’s a little bit easier to simply glide back into my former patterns, to nurture myself in the warmth of obsessive, compulsive ritual. It’s a tricky little disease, masked in the kindness of a mother’s face. But it’s not your mother. It’s a conniving little demon, intent on draining the spirit from your soul (not to be dramatic, or anything).
Truthfully, the only thing that keeps me afloat is the image of my liberated, 8-year-old self, marveling in the mirror at her princess-like beauty. Maybe I’ll never be that self-assured again (in fact, I probably should tone it down), but I think Princess Bri deserves a little love. She didn’t have massive hopes and aspirations; just an authentic desire to embrace every day with unbridled enthusiasm. And I think we could all learn a little bit from the unhinged glory of existing without boundaries. So maybe tomorrow, I’ll crawl out of the shelter of control, and try to be a princess again. For a moment, I'll allow my inner child to simply breathe, because she deserves a taste of freedom.
Written by: Brianna Rauchman