I'd like to shine some rays on a shadowed truth. In a nutshell: humans are more than meets the eye. We are complex individuals with more hidden stories than adornments. This is a beautiful truth. It also makes it difficult to understand anyone without knowledge of their circumstances, their connections, their context. I would be wildly thrown if anyone out there had gone their entire life without feeling misunderstood. I'd like to share my story of misrepresentation. With it, I hope to support the notion of unconditional open- mindedness.
When I initially transitioned into anorexia, I was a healthy sixteen year old with curves. When the first pounds fell off my frame, I was complimented. My soft edges became hard lines; my collar bones protruded ever so slightly. I didn't appear sickly, just smaller. I received so much positive feedback that I believed I was doing the right thing. What people in my life experienced: a girl becoming increasingly athletic and nutritionally knowledgeable. What was actually happening: tormented restriction. Even those closest to me were unaware of the full story.
Much of this was due to intentional deception. I didn't want anyone becoming concerned and interfering with my militaristic self- shrinkage regimen. This deception was easy, however, because people respond to what they see. My trick would have been much harder to pull off had I appeared gaunt or unhappy. So, I proceeded uninterrupted until I lost my period. This is called amenorrhea, and occurs in many females with ultra low body fat percentages. It was at this point my mother insisted on taking me to an OBGYN. She didn't yet recognize the eating disorder, but was concerned about my health.
Let me preface this chapter by saying that medical school requires exactly ONE class in nutrition. While doctors are experts in the physiological workings of human bodies, they are NOT trained to focus on food's health impact. Thus, the OBGYN I saw plotted my BMI on a growth chart and told me that I was not at a dangerous weight. I had dropped significantly in percentile, but she explained that so did many girls who became athletic in adolescence. She prescribed birth control to "rebalance my hormones". No therapy, no nutritional counseling, just one awkward question: "do you have an eating disorder?" As if I was going to say yes, with my mom sitting right there. I'm not even sure if I knew at the time.
My period was absent for the next six years. I felt unvalidated and unseen by that OBGYN. It was a confusing time: I was successfully fooling the people around me, but no longer wanted to be. I had to speak my struggle in order to be heard. So I did. I told my friends and family, and I began seeing a therapist. Those I loved supported my recovery, and I so needed that. However, the 6 billion other humans in the world? (or the minute portion that I encountered) They had no idea how challenging my every day was.
All of this to say that it is impossible to know what is storming beneath anyone's surface, unless they tell us. All characteristics- defensive, cold, self- deprecating, ect.- are manifestations of a lifetime of experiences. Let's allow this to make us forgiving towards each other. Let's humbly acknowledge that there is so much we don't know about our fellow earth- travelers. Let's hold space for story sharing, such that we might come to know each other better.