“Make sure you grab a uniform for senior pictures.” My heart sunk and my mind raced as I received this message from my friend.
“There’s no way. It’s way too tight. The tank top will show how big my arms are. What if I forgot to suck in during the pictures? I’d look huge.”
I quickly made something up about how I didn’t want to wear my uniform for pictures and changed the subject, but it didn’t end there…
Peer Pressure At Its Finest
A few weeks later we were on the phone. “Have you gotten a uniform top yet for the pictures?” I could feel the blood rush out of my face and I restated how I didn’t want pictures taken in my uniform. The silence over the phone was deafening. Then the guilt bomb…
“Yes, but we thought you’d be considerate and do it for us.” Tears instantly welled up in my eyes and my mouth dropped. Seriously? I began crying and hung up.
How can someone who knows I struggle with my body ask me to be considerate when they are the ones completely disregarding my own thoughts and feelings?
I could not wrap my head around it. They managed to turn it around, though, and guilt me into compromising for normal pictures. Dread filled me.
I Speak My Truth and Still No One Hears Me
Weeks went by and the appointment was set up. I was asked to pick out a few poses for pictures. I had no interest. Later, I was asked to pick out one dress. I had picked out one that wasn’t too tight and I was fairly comfortable in. It wasn’t good enough. My friends decided to go dress shopping for me. The fear and panic that engulfed me were unbearable. “What if they pick out a dress that’s too tight? I’m going to look like a whale. I need to try on everything. My sizes have gotten so much bigger.” I cried for most of the evening.
I became more and more panicked as picture day grew closer. A few days before the pictures, they wanted me to try on the dresses they bought me. I slipped them on and they showered me with compliments, yet I went back to my room and cried.
The Dreaded Picture Day
The night before picture day, disgust settled in and I went to the mirror as I stared at my body. My mind spoke harshly: You need to work off whatever you didn’t throw up last night. I ran, and ran, and ran. I had skipped meals. I was miserable.
The morning of pictures, I couldn’t pull myself out of bed. My throat burned, my eyes were red, my heart hurt. I had relapsed. I had been restricting an insane amount leading up to the pictures in hopes of looking a bit slimmer.
The person who planned it all came by my apartment a bit early and wanted to get lunch before curling my hair and getting me ready. I was starving and knew I couldn’t sneak by without eating so I settled for a salad. The guilt and negative self-talk were overwhelming. Did you really have to eat the whole thing? Now you’ll look bloated and bigger than you already were.
Oh The Irony
However, I became a pro at hiding my feelings and smiled pretty for the pictures. Ironically, I got injured during the end of taking pictures… and that was my breaking point.
My mind ran wild on the way to the hospital: I didn’t want these in the first place. I told you that. You wouldn’t listen. Now here we are. I hope you’re happy. I relapsed last night. That’s all I want to tell you. I want you to know how badly I’m actually hurt. Not my physical injury, but my mental and emotional deterioration I’ve experienced over this.
The pictures I took were finished and posted. I still can’t look at them without tearing up.
Listen Up, Loved Ones
I realize that many people who do not struggle with body image or eating disorders may not completely understand how certain words or actions might be harmful; however, it is up to them to listen, keep an open mind, and accept that even though things may not make sense to them, it does not mean their loved ones thoughts or feelings should be ignored and brushed off. I cannot stress this enough.
Recovery will never be easy. If things were perfect, the word relapse wouldn’t even exist. Let’s continue to be gentle and explain to our loved ones how crucial it is to listen. Let’s find ways to cope even when life gives us the most impossible problems to solve. Let’s stand back up, brush ourselves off, and be strong.
To the loved ones supporting someone going through recovery: listen, try to understand, be kind, and support them fully. We know this isn’t easy for you all, either.