I was a sophomore in college and living in my parents’ house. I’d had my dorm experience my freshman year, but to save on expenses I moved back home.
I had made some fun friends and gained my freshman 15. I had played big girl for a year, choosing things like my own bedtime and dinner, but now I was back to where I started. Now, I felt cut-off from that world.
I wasn’t receiving the invitations to hang out with friends on campus like I’d hoped I would. I did a lot of going to class and coming home to an empty house (well, there was Cricket, the family dog). I watched Oprah and soap operas between classes.
I was in the kitchen when Oprah came on this particular day. She was talking about anorexia and among her guests were Tracey Gold, who had played the daughter on the sitcom Growing Pains. I had loved that show. I don’t remember her looking too thin, I thought. I was intrigued and went and watched.
As Tracey told more and more about how she would starve herself, I started taking mental notes. She and Oprah talked a lot about control issues and how Tracey had them. They said Tracey’s eating disorder was her way of trying to control her world. Whatever, just the facts, ma’am. She detailed how she would hide food. How she would hide her weight loss. It felt like Anorexia 101 to me, and I was a very good student.
I started implementing some of these newly discovered gems. I’d dirty a dish so it looked like I’d eaten when I hadn’t. It was a useless act, because no one was counting my dirty dishes, but that wasn’t the point. I was taking Tracey’s method of disappearing and following it exactly, even the parts that didn’t apply to me. The part I wasn’t good at was the actual not eating part. Nope, that part didn’t really stick. Food didn’t scare me. It could entertain me. It could comfort me, but as much as I wanted to follow the Tracey Gold “diet plan,” I couldn’t quite get my head to click with the no eating.
Maybe I was missing the control issues, although I doubt it. But my goal was a bit different than described on Oprah that day. I just wanted to disappear. No one interacted with me, anyhow. I had this body that had now overly developed in the boob department. This was a source of much teasing in high school, and now I was at this Christian university with a twisted sense of religious guilt because, I was somehow responsible if any guy lusted after me. Letting my body wither away seemed like a good way to be unseen.
After my recovery, I had thought that I’d never want to tell anyone how I binged or purged, you know the methods. I blamed that Oprah show, in a way, for teaching me, even though I never became a good anorexic.
Of course, that’s a moot issue today. I’ve learned there are whole websites and youtube videos dedicated to sharing how to have an eating disorder. I’ve learned new words like pro-ana and pro-mia, which is the promotion of disordered eating habits. So, my old-fashioned lesson via TV has nothing on the information that’s out there now. And it was never the information, anyhow. It was always the self-loathing. It was always the comparisons. It was always the failure to realize I’m enough and I’m loved, and it’s not conditioned on a floating head in the sky being satisfied that I’d done enough good deeds.
You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody. –Maya Angelou