** Once again, this is an ongoing series I’m doing every weekend about my story with eating disorders. If you’re just joining us and would like to catch up, you can take a peek at the previous installments:
Please take note that I am not an expert, and I speak from only my own personal experiences, and that not every person suffering from an eating disorder may have the same opinions as I do…which is why I would love if anyone could chime in and add more depth and levels to my words. **
Many times, I wonder…what the Year 2006 me was thinking.
Did I really want to recover? Was I actually fighting? What did I want? What did I expect?
And honestly, I don’t think I was thinking much at that time.
It wasn’t that I didn’t want to recover. Hell yes, I did. Especially when that summer after my high school graduation, my parents took me back to Singapore and Korea.
It was…incredibly shaming for me to go back. I was excited to return because I had not been back to either countries ever since I immigrated to America in 2001. But at that time, I was definitely not…at an ideal condition.
See, this was me in Korea with my brother, summer of 2006:
And that is actually the more flattering picture I could find. *Shudder*.
The first year when I first arrived in America, I missed my hometown so much that I would write short stories about my return back “home.”
They were extremely detailed—I even jotted down exactly what I was wearing, where I would go, the things I would say to my old friends. I also added a section in which I would totally mesmerize my old crush with my cool new American accent and fashionable clothes, and then totally snub him in revenge for choosing my best friend instead (yeah, total juvenile middle school drama).
Obviously, none of that happened when I arrived in Singapore in summer of 2006.
I had to wear loose, totally uncool clothes that covered most parts of my body to hide my emaciation. I only met a few of my friends because I didn’t want them to see me like this. And hell no, I certainly was not going to meet my old crush and prove how right he was to fall for someone else!
Anyway. That summer seemed in a way…a total waste of a trip. All I really did was make people worried for me. My grandfather started sobbing the moment he saw me. Seriously, I made an old man cry. How damning is that?
But…I clearly remember several instances when I felt a sharp prick inside me.
As I watched my old friends talk about their future plans, I noticed how much prettier they’ve gotten. I saw the rosy glow in their cheeks despite Singapore’s humidity. I also, excuse the superficiality, realized how much their fashion sense has improved. Nobody wore black strappy sandals or shorts with white ankle socks.
I felt distinctly, for the first time, a suffocation. I’m being throttled by ED, I realized with shock.
I saw, before my very eyes, what ED had robbed from me. I could have been like them. I could have come back to Singapore and Korea glowing with health, dressed like a smart sophisticated woman with happy news to share about her recent acceptance to Northwestern.
Instead, I was making excuses as to why I couldn’t eat certain things. I got antsy before every event, wondering what food they would serve. I smiled, but I wanted to burst into tears all the time.
I remember one time, when my family, and all the relatives at my dad’s side gathered together at my grandfather’s house. My brother showed a slideshow of my graduation ceremony. He even added a soft music into the background.
Slides after slides, there were pictures of me with my friends. I had several honor cords hanging about my neck. I was holding an honors diploma. I was ready to attend one of the top universities in America. I was, essentially, a Korean parent’s dream student.
But none of my relatives were looking at the honor cords, or the diploma. They were all looking enviously at my friends standing beside me. My healthy, full-figured friends, who might not have an honors diploma, but whose future seemed so much brighter than mine. Suddenly, the music in the background no longer seemed upbeat; it sounded downright tragic.
My grandfather turned and said to me, “One day you’ll be healthy too.” But I knew he said it out of wistfulness, and a gradually flickering hope as he watched me struggle with my parents in a silent battle during dinner an hour later.
That summer seemed utterly meaningless to me at that present moment.
But now, as I think back to it, I realize that it was actually a rare period when the cold truth of how much I was missing in life because of ED dawned on me in concrete ways.
It was a highly unpleasant realization. But it did effect a change…at least for a while.
When I got back home to Northern Virginia that summer, I started panicking that I did not have enough time to recover before college. I made a few changes. I ate a bit more.
But unfortunately, the impact made during my trip was not big enough. Slowly, as the days crept by and I found myself unable to make real drastic changes, the negative image of ED slipped out of my consciousness.
The problem? I lost sight of the enemy. Faced with the second-by-second obsessions and anxieties, I just couldn’t keep up my fighting energy against the enemy, who so cunningly became invisible at the times I most needed to stay focused.
Instead, the enemy somehow just became my parents, who exasperatedly warned me, day after day, that I needed to clean up my act before college.
They’re stifling you, the True Enemy slithered its deceiving tongue into my ear. They’re preventing you from recovering the way you want. But don’t worry. Once you’re in college…you can do what you want. Just persist till college…persist till college…
And thus, that became my mantra: Persist Till College. And by “persist” I meant give half-hearted attempts to recovery, because obviously, my parents didn’t have a clue what recovery should be like!
Once I get into college, I told myself, I’ll start “real recovery.”
I’ll eat what I want, when I want, how I want. And I’ll gain the weight. I’ll show my parents that all I really needed was some space. A change in environment.
That’s all I need to jumpstart my recovery, I was sure of it. Freedom. And change.
Well I can assure you. That’s not what happened. That’s not what happened at all.
Things to Ponder:
1) What has ED stolen from you?
2) When did you clearly started to grasp the fact that ED is a cheater, a liar, a robber, a wrecker, a tempter, and a murderer?
3) When is/was it hardest for you to focus on who the true enemy is?