Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A ten year old secret

I've been so welcomed into the online community--not just by writers and publishing people--but by teens, tweens and all types of fabulous people I never would have met without my blog. :) I consider you all friends, and I think it's time I share a ten year old secret with you.

I felt the need to do so now because of the volume of mail I've been receiving from wonderful readers who "want to look like me." I feel like a total fraud. Like I am portraying a false image of what they should aspire to look like. Readers who sent me this mail do not know what I've done to my body to look how I have in the past.

I've been struggling with anorexia since I was fourteen. Maybe even a little before then. For me, it was never a "I want to be skinny and then I'll be pretty!" it was a control issue. My home life was chaotic, I had no control and with food, I had the power. I chose what I ate, when, how much.

Over the years, my weight fluctuated depending on how things were at home. I reached my lowest, scariest weight in April 2009.  By then, my body was severely damaged. My hair was falling out, I was growing soft, thick hair on my arms in an effort to keep my body warm, I had more cavities than any religious teeth brusher should have. I fainted. Several times. I was freezing all of the time. Nosebleeds were part of my day. I had no energy.

I moved to NYC, determined to change my habits. I tried and failed. I tried again, failing. Finally, last fall, I saw how much it was hurting someone I loved. She told me she was scared that I'd have a heart attack, that my organs would start shutting down, or something worse would happen. I'd known, all along, that this can happen with anorexia, but I was deeply in it. Those options didn't seem real. But hurting her did. As my best friend, she said I had to change. I had to fix this--either one more try on my own or check into a treatment center.

I was terrified. I didn't think I could do it and I balked at the idea of treatment. But I went online, ordered a dozen Ensure weight-gain drinks, forced myself to start eating meals, and veeeerry slowly, a change happened. I worked so damn hard. You'd think gaining weight is easy.

It isn't.

I had a couple of minor set backs, but nothing even remotely close to the weight I had been. The weight I'd been while standing outside a bar in 2009 and a man walked up to me and said I needed to eat a burger.

Now, it's not a daily struggle. I think about it from time to time, but I will never go back to the place of making my already ill best friend worry that I'm going to starve myself to death. If I'm feeling like old habits might be creeping up, I talk to her about them. Honesty is saving me. My face isn't hollow anymore. My hair stopped falling out. My premature wrinkles stopped forming. I went from a barely A-cup to a C-cup. (And I love it!!) I love my body and feel so confident with it. There's no going back.

I wanted to share this because I know so many young girls, guys, and women are going through it. Mostly, I want to say to my readers--you do not want to look like me. Maybe the me now who is healthy. But not the old me. I will never go back. I say that with absolute certainty. If you're struggling, know that you can make it. We can--and are--fighting this.



Anonymous said...

You are an awesome, brave person to post this. :) You are inspiring! Thanks.

Shari Green said...

So happy for you that you're healthy & not struggling with this all the time now -- awesome! And an important story to share... thank you.

Joni said...

Your courage in your honest writing is always inspiring. Thank you.

I've been through some anorexia struggles myself in the past, though not as extreme as your case.

For me my turning point was when I got tired of feeling sick/weak/tired/depressed. Yes, I was "thin" but I felt like it had taken any life I had away from me. I decided I wanted to be able bodied- I wanted to be "fit" to live out my life! Not walking around in a frail, dizzy fog without energy to do anything...

"Those thoughts" still come back sometimes. (My stomach isn't flat, my thighs are giant, my face is round...) No, I no longer have the figure of a model- but for me this is my healthy weight. I feel good, ready, energized.

I feel alive.

And anyone who is struggling with this, know how lucky you are to be able to CHOSE to be HEALTHY. People get that choice taken from them all the time. So choose to live your life strong and to the fullest.

Jessica, thanks again for sharing.

Jennifer Rummel said...

Thanks for sharing your secret! I'm glad your BFF was able to help you! <3 your books!

PS. Also sharing your letter with the teens at the library because I think it's important that they see their role models have struggles too!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing!
As a model, I worry that what is natural for my body-type may hurt others, but the bottom line is, you need to be healthy.
If I can be in shape, thin, and feeling great, good for me.
But the second I have to start starving myself or making choices that compromise my health and the health of others around me, I'm out of it.
You are so brave for sharing. I've known many girls who struggle with eating issues, and until they can admit something that isn't their fault, no one can help them.
It makes your story even more successful, and the more I read from you, the more I respect you.
Thank you for being such a role model!

Anonymous said...

You are an inspiration to all your readers and everyone around you! I'm sorry that it took your best friend to worry herself sick about you in order for you to change, but I'm glad you listened to her :) I'd hate to see what would've happened if you didn't.

PS I'm insanely excited for Initiation :D

Olivia said...

god bless you...i'm so sorry about your condition.You should be REALLY proud of yourself!That's great you are getting help and your best friend is helping you throug this.

Kacie Farris said...

Jessica, you are so brave to confess a secret like this after ten years. I probably couldn't.
And, Sometimes, when I am in state of my migraines. (usually once a week, if I'm lucky, every two) the puking makes me feel like I'm at risk too.
But still. I am a strong 12 year old, 5 foot nothing 70 pound chic.

Again, thank you for confessing.

~Kacie Farris~

horse_crazy said...

Jessica, you're a role model to your readers. You're such a strong person. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Omigod, I had no idea. I thank you so much for sharing this. I have been struggling with self confidence with my weight but after reading your post I know that I am healthy for my age. Thanks again. God bless.

Anonymous said...

Omigod, I had no idea. I thank you so much for sharing this. I have been struggling with self confidence with my weight but after reading your post I know that I am healthy for my age. Thanks again. God bless.

DancingQueen [Bridgit/Brea] said...

:( You are so brave for posting that. I constantly worry about my weight, pondering if 97 lbs is normal for someone who's 13 yrs old,and 5'7. I mean, i'll go a week eatting normaly at regular meal times, than go a month trying to barely eat nothing. My weight often drops from 75 lbs to 100 lbs, and i always get sent to the nurse or guidance counsler at my school to talk about it, but I feel as if I can't help it. You are truly an awesome person to being able to admit that Jess :)

SixLover said...

Thank you for posting this. Your courage shows through. You have just shown other anorexic teens that it's good to speak up. Thank you very much for sharing this. <3 <3 <3

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing this!! You are really inspiring. It is so great that you took control of your life and that you have such a great friend.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much of sharing this! You are a really inspiring and strong person. It is so great that you took control of your life and that you have such a good friend to help you through that.

Anonymous said...

wow. I'm sure that i'm not the only one who feels that way, and i'm sure that everyone is behind me when i say this but, CONGRATULATIONS!!!! it takes a lot of courage to say that you have a problem so i want to tell you that if you thought people looked up to you before this post, they do about 50x more now <3

Anonymous said...

Very brave of you to post this. Congratulations on your change!!!

Adina H. said...

OMG jess that is such an amazing person, u r so brave and dedicated an awezome. I'm so happy you got through it and that you're healthy now. I feel like i know u on a more deeper level, you are just awezome, keep it up!

Kristen Alexander said...

Jess ur an amazing person you are truly an inspiration thank you for being you :D

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