The unbearable weight of being recovered

It’s been six years since you were raped.

It’s been four and a half years since you received your official diagnoses: 307.1 (anorexia nervosa) and 309.81 (post traumatic stress disorder).

It’s been three and a half years since you earned your gold star of being ‘weight restored’ and were rewarded by only having to see your shrink twice a week in outpatient care. 

It’s been two years and ten months since you last saw the man who raped you. 

It’s been one year since you made yourself throw up. 

Congratulations, you’re better now. But you don’t feel it. Sure, you’re not slowly killing yourself from the inside out anymore, shrinking so small with every bite that you are too disciplined to eat. You’ve acquired a comfortable layer of fat around your stomach, your hips, your arms, that your doctors assure you is just fine—very normal!. Four years ago--maybe even one year ago--this would have been enough to send you over the edge, to get up the courage to stop it all. But today, you sit with it. 

It’s not that you don’t care, that you don’t feel each pound like newly poured cement dripping off of your fragile, hollow bones, it’s just that you’re tired. When your shrink asks you how you’re feeling about your body you tell him that you are “fat, but accept living life as a very, very fat person” without a twinge of irony in your voice. He rolls his eyes and says something about fat not being a feeling. He doesn’t have to convince you of this, you know it all too well: fat is not something you feel, fat is something you are. You are fat. You are average. But you are not dead! So, congratulations.

You think about how people don’t give you much credit anymore. After four and a half years, you are no longer a sob story. When you do tell your story, others take it like a badge of honor and applaud you for things like bravery and strength. But the longer you’ve been recovered, the less time people are willing to spend telling you that you’re a very brave girl because everyone has a story to tell and bad things also happened to XYZ and look what beauty they made of it—where is yours, where is your beauty?

You don’t have any beauty to show for what happened to you. You scroll through your social media for hours on end reading the next big story of the very sad girl or boy who overcame something so horrifying and went on to create art or start a nonprofit or change the world, because out of pain comes goodness! You sit for hours on end wondering where your goodness is, if it’s expired completely or maybe, you pray, the pain just hasn’t ended?

You hop from job to job working at restaurants or big name department stores or parenting other people’s children and the only common thread is that they aren’t ‘real’ jobs. People don’t take ‘I’m a nanny’ as a sign of success. They want to know what the plan is, what this job to pass the time will get you to one day. 

You’re too embarrassed to say that you don’t have a plan. Sometimes you have the energy to make something up: a perfect timeline of earning degrees and working meaningful jobs and finding your bliss or whatever. Sometimes you can even make yourself believe it. But the truth is, on a day to day basis, your only plan is trying to convince yourself to get out of bed. 

Being raped isn’t something that just happens, it is something that another person does to you. Another human, who you’re told has so much in common with you, who is maybe even good looking and talented and has his whole life ahead of him. Despite all of that, he still raped you. He dead bolted his door and covered your mouth and laughed when you screamed no and choked you until you couldn't breathe and forced himself inside of you. The bruises never healed and he never looked at you again.

It’s been six years and you haven’t made art or saved the world. The only evidence you have to show for your pain is a soft tummy and a heavy heart and the fact that today, you made it out of bed, so you find a way to live knowing that that is enough.

Why I will no longer be a passive bystander in a culture that hates body diversity.

As I’ve been reminded in various job interviews recently, I have tried out quite a few career paths since college. My most recent job is working in retail for an upscale department store where I spend my days trying to remain positive on a floor that reminds me of my days rushing a sorority, competing with the other saleswomen on my floor to steal customers and meet our goals (we work on 100% commission). Blah blah blah, sometimes people are catty, you get it, and that’s not the point, because there are parts of my job that I do really love. Let me start by telling you why I wanted this job in the first place.

As a recovered anorexic, I know all too well the anxiety that trying on ill-fitting clothes in a poorly lighted dressing room can bring. Albeit, my experiences may veer towards the side of extreme, but I’d be hard pressed to find any female friend/acquaintance who has never left a dressing room feeling badly about her body. This makes me angry. While fashion can be a fun way to express yourself and god knows I love putting together outfits and expressing my femininity with pretty, girly clothes, I have trouble accepting that so many of us have only negative connotations of fashion and clothing. Call me too optimistic, but I think that every person deserves the experience of having their clothes not only fit correctly, but be a positive, confidence-building part of their life. 

But for a lot of the women who come into my department, this is not the case (I am only focusing on those who shop in my department because they are the ones I have experience with on a daily basis). At least once a day, a woman comes in looking for something in particular: a pair of boot cut jeans, a top to go with a skirt for an upcoming trip to Vegas, and though her credit card is ready and willing, she leaves empty handed. Here’s how it goes: said woman comes in, tells me what she is looking for, I tell her to look around while I use my salesperson-expertise to make her dreams come true. We meet in the dressing room. She starts trying things on. She loves the sweater, but does it come in an XL? The large is a little snug. The jeans are just the style she is looking for, but she can’t quite close the top button — any way I could grab them for her in a 34? 

And here comes the really fun part of my job, where I get to tell her no. No, sorry, but it looks like you are bigger than what the cute little department I work in deems acceptable. Oh, but you love MY jeans? Thanks! If only your body were an appropriate size to wear them!

I tell her I’ll double, triple check to make sure there isn’t a bigger size hidden somewhere in our back stock, or see if I can order her size from another store, online even! But 9/10 times the answer remains: No.

The first time this happened, I figured my next logical move was to make the trek up to the separate corner in the store for women with not-normal-sized bodies (aka ‘plus’-sized) (don’t worry, you’ll miss this literal back-corner department if you aren’t specifically looking for it). I asked my colleagues what options similar to so-and-so denim they offered for my customer. I was first given a look (oh honey, you must be new!) and then informed that there is only one brand that carries bigger sizes. The brand’s pant is totally fine if you are looking for a stretchy, thin material that is more of a legging than a jean, but saying it even resembles any of the designer denim we carry in my department is a laughable stretch. 

But I brought down the pair, figuring one option is better than none, and my customer, standing in the tiny dressing room with what I can only describe as fun-house mirrors staring back at her, does just that: laughs. “Not what I was looking for,” she says, attempting to mend my feelings. 

She left empty handed that day, and every work day after, I’ve spent desperate hours attempting to find options for women who end up leaving with nothing because there is simply nothing for them.

The more times this happens, the more enraged I feel. I talk to my family and my close friends, my support system, and they confide in me their own stories of having trouble finding flattering clothes in their size or of being in a store and realizing that they are too big.

I spent so many years, wasted so much time, feeling like I was too big, that my body took up more space than it deserved. I am now 50 (plus!) pounds what I was back then, and work everyday to recognize that I deserve the space I take up in this world. 

But this, of course, is easier to do when my sizes are carried at most/all mainstream retail stores (though I will give a special shout out to my coworkers who made a point that they might have a special size 28 for me to try on because god forbid that at 5'9" I’m not a triple zero like the rest of them). But for the most part, my problem accepting my size is self-inflicted, not like the thousands of women who face the external invalidation that their bodies are too big, too much, too something, to dress in the same clothes that “normal” sized girls wear.

So what is the root cause of this? Most people will be inclined to tell me that the problem is as easy as supply and demand: if the demand for designer clothes in extended sizes were more visible, surely stores would supply it! I know this is basic economic logic, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that I don’t buy it. I don’t think it’s based on logic at all, but is one of the many consequences of the fat-phobic society we live in, where voices and images on every forefront of media remind us to skip that cupcake, to get our asses to the gym, to withhold self-love until we reach a certain size or shape or number or something, all shoving down our throats that we need to give up the joys of life in pursuit of looking a certain way. Masquerading under a guise of ‘healthy living’ we are told to try juice cleanses, to eat atkins/paleo/vegan/gluten free even if it means skipping going out to dinner with your family, skipping the holiday party with the friends you see only once a year, skipping out on your life in pursuit of ‘health’ (read: the pursuit of an acceptably sized body). The dozens of medical ‘studies’ with misleading and sometimes blatantly made-up statistics that shame anyone for being bigger than our mainstream society is comfortable with. The BMI chart, making sure that every doctor comes equip with an easy calculation to inform their patients when they are fat, never taking into account the individual’s muscle mass or general body composition and allows the fat-shaming to start at the earliest age (thanks, pediatricians, because a five year old really needs to know that they are slowly approaching fatness. Cue body hatred, now!). The TV shows that have only one purpose to humiliate anyone above a certain size (looking at you, Biggest Loser, my 600-lb life, I Used to be Fat, Extreme Makeover, and the list goes on and painstakingly on…). 

I get it, Americans are fearful. We are fearful of anything different. But really, if we really think about it, are we okay with being part of a society that blatantly hates somebody because of their body? I guess I understand it, in a way. People fear anything that threatens their beliefs, their credence in life. So of course a society that places more value on being physically beautiful than being, I don't know, smart or kind or funny or passionate, that stands behind skipping any and all food indulgence, a society that favors spending time alone in a gym until your body physically aches over spending time with loved ones, would hate anyone who threatens their way of life, who eats what they want to and who does not dictate every move they make out of fear of a growing body. Of course we shame these people until they realize that their bodies are unacceptable and they had better change so that the rest of us can remain comfortable in our super duper healthy, totally cross-fitted and kaled-up ways of life.

I could go on and on, and in my head, there is so much more I want to say but I can’t find a way to properly articulate. It seems that all I have, at this point, is a lot of anger, and the refusal to sit by and do nothing but hate myself every time I have to tell a customer that their body is unacceptable. I have wasted too much time hating my own body and feeling unacceptable, and I refuse to play a role in allowing other women to waste their lives doing just the same. But until I find a way to use my anger productively, I vow to myself and to anyone reading this that I will no longer be a passive bystander in a culture that harbors so much hatred for people’s bodies, and to both actively search for and create my own opportunities to be a change towards a society that loves and accepts all bodies.

"College will be the best years of your life" and why I'm telling everyone I was raped

College was supposed to be the best time of my life. I often found myself too lonely in high school and would pass the time by day-dreaming about what my life would be like when I finally got to college. When I did make it to the promised-land, my first semester filled me with hope that I’d finally gotten something right. I took courses in philosophy and ethics and read Socrates and felt like this was what I’d been waiting for all along. I stayed up until four in the morning during weeknights and drank coffee to get me through the days. I got drunk with friends and kissed boys who smelled like men and thought my heart was broken and wondered how I was allowed to be so miserable and so happy all at once. I made plans for my future, but stopped daydreaming because the ‘now’ was enough to occupy my mind.

But then my plan was interrupted. My vision for college was brought to a screeching halt when I was raped on a February night during my second semester. Immediately, the happy side of me was gone, and I was left with only miserable. I attempted to cover-up my growing depression with coordinated outfits, perfectly curled hair, and an ever-shrinking body. Nobody guessed that there was something wrong until it was too late—I had already fallen down the rabbit hole and was staring at the bottle that said “Drink Me” in hopes of becoming as invisibly small as Alice.

I was completely caught up in myself and my new-found addiction that involved watching the numbers on the scale go down each day. My boyfriend of the time (one of only two people who knew about the attack) often pushed the memory of the rape on me, but I wasn’t ready to handle it and I interpreted his overwhelming concern as anger which only made matters worse. I never reported my rapist, and in fact, I didn’t even know that I could until my best friend informed me of “various options for sexual assault survivors” during our junior year. But at this time, I didn’t want to deal with anything, all I wanted was to change my body so much so that my mind might be changed as well and I might finally find myself completely and utterly different from the girl who was held down in paralyzing panic that night in February. (My mission towards forgetting was only furthered by various college officials who discouraged me from reporting—one college counselor even told me not to tell my parents because it would be too much of a burden on them.)

As you know from my last post, I am now coming forward with what was my reality for four years. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted nothing more than to come out of college with a myriad of happy memories and a collection of life-long friendships. But that’s not what I got, and it makes me sick to my stomach knowing that reminiscing about my college experience will probably always bring me to tears.

Coming forward so publicly and saying “I was raped, and my school failed me in the aftermath” has been one of the hardest things that I’ve ever done (second only to pulling out of severe depression and recovering from anorexia). In the aftermath of coming out as a rape survivor to a room full of flashing cameras and questioning reporters, I have been shocked by the goodness of so many of you (some of you complete strangers!) who have provided me with supportive and encouraging words that have undoubtedly gotten me through the past two weeks.

What else has shocked me has been the lack of response of many who I once considered ‘close friends’.  When I think about the lack of outreach from these people, who were once so important in my life, it only further taints my memory of college. To those people: thank you for showing me your true colors. But I digress.

While it is painful to consider the memory of these four long years, it makes me hopeful for the future of both myself and of other women, as I am praying that things will only get better from here. And as difficult as it has been to be so vocal about an event that still fills me with extreme panic and overwhelming sadness, being a part of this national movement that I am convinced will create change for the collegiate women of the future brings me something that I can only imagine is very close to inner peace: peace that my experiences were not in vain, but that they have given me the tools necessary to one day be an advocate for survivors who, like myself, feel silenced by the larger forces of the rape-culture in which we exist. 

Why I've Been Absent

If you're curious as to why I haven't written in quite some time, the answer is that I've been a bit preoccupied (to say the least). If you have no idea what I'm talking about, I encourage you to read the articles below. I will be updating with my own, original thoughts soon, but for now your support is everything to me.

2 More Colleges Accused of Mishandling Assaults (NY Times)

Gloria Allred, Leading Civil Rights Attorney, Takes Sexual Assault Cases Against Occidental College (Huffington Post)


Since starting this blog, I’ve received a lot of applause for being a “recovered” anorexic. I won’t lie, I do love the positive encouragement, but I must admit that it always leaves me feeling a bit guilty, like I am being rewarded for being somebody who I’m not quite sure that I am (at least not yet).

I was having dinner with a friend earlier this week, somebody going through her own process of recovery, and found myself relating a bit too much to the day-to-day struggles that she shared with me. I know that I preach a lot about the importance of self-acceptance, about the necessity of being comfortable in your own skin, but how much do I actually live by these rules?

I still have days when I wake up, look in the mirror, and am genuinely startled by my reflection. I still don’t have a real sense of what my body looks like except that it is bigger than ideal. I still have weeks when I decide that I ought to work out for hours each day and skip a few meals in place for a cup of tea because my stomach is not behaving the way I wish it would. I still have trouble breathing when I anticipate having to wear a swimsuit in front of people and I still can't be friends with girls who are very skinny. I can’t hold back tears when someone makes a comment about my body, because I know that, whatever they say, the underlying meaning is that I am unacceptably fat.

So while I appreciate the positive feedback, I have to be honest and tell you not to look up to me as someone who has it all figured out or who has signed some sort of peace treaty with her body. I’m not that person, but I am somebody... I am someone who works hard. And that’s exactly what this whole thing is: hard work. I work hard to focus on what is positive, to remind myself that my self-worth has nothing to do with my body, to genuinely attempt to enjoy the food that I eat, and to feel proud when I go a day without thinking that I could/should be thinner. I have a long way to go, but I think that having a long way is okay, because despite the road ahead, I can't help but be thankful to be on the upside of this disease.