Editor's Note: This article first appeared in Issue 11 of Holl & Lane Magazine.
Words by Trinity Murray // Images by Genesis Geiger
I was thirteen the day they told me that I had been eating less than enough to keep a two year old alive. The doctors said I would not live to be twenty years old. It isn’t as if I didn't enjoy food, because it was practically an obsession. Twenty-four hours a day for over half of my life I had counted calories, restricted my intake to incredibly low amounts, and calculated how many calories I had burned in my Physical Education classes, gymnastics practices, and after school at the gym on my free days. I wrote down my weight each morning, as the other twenty-nine times I weighed myself throughout the day were not as record worthy. No matter how far I pushed myself it was not enough. I was not enough.
I was diagnosed with EDNOS or Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, which is basically an eating disorder category they throw misfits in. If you do not quite meet the criteria for Anorexia Nervosa, this is where you end up. It’s a terrible place, really. As if I didn’t already feel like a failure, it was as though I couldn’t even starve myself correctly. Too often, I was told that I did not look sick which only worsened my state. When you are given this diagnosis, treatment centers will not typically accept you until your severity reaches a certain point.
Most people picture skeletal figures of nothing but simply skin and bones when they hear someone speak of eating disorders, but those who are affected by such mental illnesses come in all shapes and sizes. That is the deadliest part, because many individuals with or without a diagnosis tend to hide their eating habits from those around them until eventually they die of heart failure or other various complications related to the problem at hand.
I could not afford to receive treatment if I wanted to, but by doctor’s orders I spoke to a nutritionist and psychiatrist only one time. One of the professionals I had spoken to for assistance had told me that there were people who had worse cases than mine, and that I was wasting their time. Again, I was not good enough.
At my lowest, though I do not like to talk about it much, I was about seventy pounds underweight. In my mind, it was still not low enough. When everything else in the world was crumbling rapidly around me, I knew that I at least had control over the stance and deterioration of my own body. My hair began to thin, my clothes never quite fit right, I passed out nearly every day, my teeth were lacking the minerals they needed to stay in one piece as well as the rest of my body, and it was all I could do to muster up enough strength to get up each day and face society all over again. The same society that told me I was not pretty enough. I was not smart enough or talented enough. The world had told me that I was not thin enough or good enough to make something of myself. Little did I know that I was about to prove everybody wrong.
A PART OF THE BACKGROUND
My entire life had been spent in the background. I was in several theatrical productions in school - as the lights and sound crew. I had competed on the gymnastics team in high school - as the clumsy, weak, and easily bruised bench warmer who was better at cheering everyone else on than doing the actual sport. I took my singing skills from the chorus to the more elite dynamics group - as the clueless girl doing the Macarena in the back row on stage during a Bon Jovi medley. I even brought my passion for writing into the mix as a member of the journalism club and yearbook committee, having publications in both the school newspaper and several yearbooks - the only indication being my name in tiny print at the bottom of the pages. I was involved in so many things! Yet I was not present for most of them. I was there, of course, but I never felt like more than just background noise. That is until I started modeling.
I wanted to change the way people viewed each other and reshape the mold that society had cast by proving that people could be any height, any shape, and come from any walk of life and still be beautiful. I held benefit photo shoots in my hometown for those in my community to have the chance to feel as amazing as they were inside. Being the founder of Operation Spread the Love, an organization that raised awareness for eating disorders and thousands of dollars to donate to a treatment facility called Timberline Knolls, I felt like a huge hypocrite. I was making others feel great about themselves! Radiating positivity out of every nook and cranny I could, but saving none for myself. I preached body positive quotes left and right, but none were aimed inward. A few years had passed since my diagnosis, and not much weight had been restored. I was already sixteen years old at that point, and if the doctors were right I only had four years left. I would never make it to my high school graduation. There was no future for me at all. No going to college, no obtaining a successful career, no making a family or buying a house… nothing.
It took a few weeks from that moment for everything to set in. I had almost accepted the fact that I would have no future. That is the point that I guess you could say I had hit rock bottom. Several photo shoots and outfit changes later, I had somehow convinced myself that I deserved better.
A good friend made me see that it was okay to be selfish sometimes. It was alright to take a moment to myself and work on bettering who I wanted to become. We had girls’ nights where we would watch movies, do our nails, make snacks, and just be our silly selves. That truly helped me the most, as she opened my eyes to what it was like to be a typical teenage girl. I tried yoga and loved the way it made my body and mind feel. It was nothing like the strenuous cardio I had forced myself to do before purely for the burn. I had so much more energy to do even the smallest of tasks that once took everything I had out of me. I did an insane amount of research on living a vegan lifestyle the healthy way, and made the transition in a snap. Many of my friends and family thought that it was another way for me to lose weight, but in all reality veganism was my way of learning to fuel my body with good stuff to get good out.
I started to mend friendships that had dwindled down because of my eating disorder, and even began new ones! I met my soul mate, graduated high school with honors, was accepted into my first choice college with scholarship offers that went solely off of my grades and determination, and actually became proud of what I had accomplished through all of my hardships.
Though the struggle continues to be real, I have learned so many valuable lessons to carry with me on my way. It is absolutely okay to put yourself first sometimes! Take a moment out of each week to do that thing you are passionate about. Even in the shortest amount of time, you can clear your head and refocus your attention on what's important to you on your journey. A healthy mind and healthy body equals a happy life! No, not every day is going to be rainbows and butterflies. But there are far better things to do than fill your mind with negativity and run yourself down doing tasks which will not better you in the future.
You cannot forget that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes! Whether you wear makeup or a messy bun, dress in business casual or sweatpants, or have that cake for breakfast that was calling your name when there was a banana sitting right next to it, you are beautiful because you are who you were meant to be. You are your only restraint! Yes, society can be very cruel. You must be willing to accept that you can't please everyone, and that this is your story to write. It's alright to be stuck; to have writer's block is completely normal at certain instances in life. Being able to move past that and take on challenges is what will make a good read in the long run.
And lastly, if there is anything that sticks with you after reading this, remember just one lesson. No matter where you start from in life, you can do great things! Because every day is the beginning of the rest of your life.