The Spaces Between
By Alison Leigh Znamierowski--Going to college was a difficult transition for me. Everything I had known was shifting, in a way that felt unpredictable and out of my control. It felt like everything around me was in a volatile flux. The autumnal descent into winter had begun, and I found myself wilting and greying with the deadening leaves.
Trigger warning: Graphic descriptions of eating disordered behavior.
When the depression set in, my body anchored me to a world I didn’t want to be a part of. So I cut it away. I starved it away. I ran it away, until I was just a naked body with craning neck standing over a grey scale; until I was just a number in retrograde. I occupied my mirror like it was a world. I was a two-dimensional reflection, a warped representation—an outline, the spaces between.
“She’s too skinny. There’s something wrong with her,” I remember overhearing a family member telling my mom when I came home for winter break. My family’s comments about my weight were coming from a place of concern, but they were still directed at my body. I found myself feeling perversely affirmed by their comments. I took their concerns and warped them into positive feedback about my body aesthetic. At the same time, I felt ashamed, like I was being accused of a pathology. I felt more alone than ever.
I justified my actions by saying, other people have it worse. Other people eat less, run more, weigh less, puke more. It was not until I accepted that I had an eating disorder that I could finally get the help I needed to break the dangerous habits I had formed.
This is important: My family member was wrong about something. There was nothing ‘wrong’ with me. I was not exhibiting a character flaw or a personal failure. I was struggling, and I needed love, and help, and a compassionate space where I could learn about eating disorders from people who had them. I needed a toolkit for self-care/help/love. I needed resources, and I needed to hear that I wasn’t alone in this experience.
Stigma has a way of convincing us that we are alone; that we are wrong; that we are an isolated incident. I was incredibly grateful when I found a community of friends who spoke openly and unapologetically about their struggles. I found that the more I opened up to others, the more I heard, “me too,” from people all around me. The stubborn stigma around eating disorders opened up like thick, crimson-velvet theater curtains, and revealed a stage full of the familiar faces of people I love.
I wasn’t alone—I never was.
For recovery resources and treatment options, call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 800-931-2237.
About the blogger: Alison Znamierowski graduated from Wesleyan University with a B.A. in Sociology. She loves engaging with spontaneous impulses for adventure, picnicking with friends, wandering barefoot and making people look at photos of her cat, Luna. She is currently an intern at Hardy Girls, Healthy Women, a social change organization that is dedicated to changing the culture in which girls grow.
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