The associations of teenagers come along with back talking, door slamming, and the battle of the curfew conversations. Although I was not the average teenager, I was one of those who failed to stray away from that stereotype. But, my door slamming had a different root; I slammed my door to keep my secrets from others. Along with these teenage associations often come the problems of self love. Some teenagers have too much and some don’t have enough; I was lacking it.
During my first two years of high school I struggled with an eating disorder. No one caught on. I starved my body from the nutrition and sentiment it was craving. I gave no love to my family, and accepted no love from them. The affection I gave was minimal, a creaking smile, an eye brow raise; during few occasions I would let out a giggle. Whenever my family would try to hug me I would dread the embracement with a groan or submit myself to their arms while leaving mine by my side. I couldn’t care less if someone said “I love you.”
What would have been a normal experience for other high school girls was one that nearly drove me to the end. This happened when at the mall in search for a Homecoming dress, there was a model casting call outside of JC Penny. I couldn’t keep my eyes off their thin legs and showing collar bones. The sight of these girls helped me visualize what I was striving for and gave me encouragement to press through the dizzy spells, constant aching stomach, and the weakness. My parents suspected that I had a problem, but whenever they asked I responded with a slamming door. This all changed the day I came home to find my parents sitting on my bed with my measuring tape in hand. They knew.
The next day I laid shivering on a gurney with an IV in my arm, heart monitors hooked up to me, and the diagnosis of Anorexia Nervosa written on my chart. My heart rate was so high, the doctors expected me to have a heart attack at the age of 16. As the doctors briefed my family as to what would happen if I continued on with this lifestyle, tears started flowing down my parent’s faces. I decided then that I was going to live differently.
I finally recognized that if someone could love me that much, I should too. For the first time, I believed that I was worth more than a pile of bones and worth more than a coffin. Rather than slamming the door in the faces of those who love me, I now open it more. I believe the love I began to feel for myself, opened the door for love from others to be accepted by me. I believe the way I began to appreciate myself gave me not only the gift of life, but the gift of love as well.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.