“Still care about your hair and the car you drive//Doesn’t matter if you’re 60 or 35.”
-from “High School Never Ends” by Bowling for Soup
So I might not be 35 or even 30, but I did just attend my 10 year class reunion over the weekend. (Yes, that makes me 28 for those of you who are now thinking about my age.) From the start of the reunion all I could think about was this song by Bowling for Soup because that is exactly how I felt. Initially everyone who attended separated into their high school cliques and they met every stereotypical clique in the book. Then, as everyone began drinking (perks of adulthood), the cliques began to mingle and the awkwardness subsided…for the most part. However, we still fulfilled our “roles” from high school and, for the better part of the evening, my mind focused on just that.
Once the food was set out and people began to eat, I found myself falling back into my role rather quickly of the eating disordered girl. I was one of the last people to get food, feeling anxious the entire time, and only eating half before tossing the rest in the trash. It wasn’t until I found myself sitting in my “usual” spot among my friends where I sat during lunch in high school, (on the end, just like the photo, so I could easily leave to purge) contemplating purging the inexcusably small amount of food I ate when I realized high school never ends. As I sat there drinking my beverage watching my friends eat their food and get seconds with nothing in front of me, I realized while I have made some significant changes and movement into recovery I still have a long way to go. I still greatly care about what others think of me and my body.
I realized when I was getting dressed for the reunion that I was extremely concerned about seeing people from school. Not because of anything other than I am roughly 80 pounds, you read that correctly: 8-0, heavier than when I graduated. That’s right, in 10 years I have gained 80 pounds. Initially I was not going to write the number, as I try to refrain from numbers at all costs because they can be triggering, but I decided it was pretty important for my mindset prior to the reunion. For those of you thinking, “I thought you don’t weigh yourself” let me just say, we all have our vices and mine is that dang number. I am always trying to see what my dietician writes down after weighing me and, sometimes, I succeed. (Sorry, Anne!) I tried on probably six shirts before I decided what to wear and even then I thought it made me look terrible. My body acceptance and body image was pretty low when I went to the reunion. I was so afraid of what people would think of me or say about me. So concerned they would only see the weight I have gained and not the person I am.
My weight gain might be shocking to some, but to me it signifies my struggle but also my life being lived. In those 10 years I’ve received my BA, MSW, found the love of my life, been an Army officer, had a beautiful baby girl, lived in three states, entered and completed eating disorder treatment, been at unhealthy low weights and as high as my current weight. You know what ALL of that says about me? NOTHING. Just as my self worth is not defined by the number on a scale, I am also not my accomplishments. While my accomplishments are something of which I can be proud, they do not define me. My weight does not define me. In that respect high school never ends. Both in high school and now I am a Christian. I love Jesus. My morals and values define me. I am a dedicated wife and mother. I love and respect my husband and want to be an example for my daughter of a woman who is body positive and strong. I am compassionate and seek to serve Christ by serving others. I have my faults, my vices, but each day I strive to remain in recovery and to become stronger in my body acceptance and my faith. That is what defines me.
While my eating disorder did come up in three separate conversations, it wasn’t about how much I gained; people were glad to see my eyes looking bright and that I finally entered recovery. (The cover photo shows my sunken eyes with dark circles despite wearing make-up. Most of my high school photos sport this look.) My eating disorder was not a secret in high school. Several of the people in the above photo tried to help me by telling teachers who would listen, as well as trying to get me to eat or following me to make sure I didn’t purge. There are some great people in that photograph who saw the real me when I was sick and who saw the real me at the reunion. I’m fortunate to know people who looked past my low weight and my high weight to see the real me.
“And I still don’t have the right look//And I still have the same three friends//
And I’m pretty much the same as I was back then…”
High school never ends. We are all pretty much the same ten years after graduating. The eating disorder is still a big part of my life but in a different way. Instead of being obsessed with not eating I am obsessed with eating what is on my meal plan. Body image is still a concern but body acceptance is even bigger than body image worries…most days. And you know what, regardless of how much weight I’ve gained I still had fun and my friends are still my friends. In the end I spent a lot of time worrying about something that does not remotely matter because if my weight matters that much to someone then they weren’t really a friend at all.
With Body Love,