There is no single reason that HUGstronger came into existence. It was more like six or seven, circling my head on a night in December when I couldn’t fall asleep.
But if I am honest, you know this website is meant for more than just chatting about the bickering with roommates or missing the public transit bus and having to walk to class in the rain.
The real reason, the one that had me up at night, is a big one: I learned to hate everything, and everyone, that wouldn’t let me shrink away.
And maybe that seems funny, coming from a small girl — 4’11” and 96 pounds, before the scale dipped lower. But the first year of college taught me two of the worst lessons:
- Don’t fall in love and need someone.
- You can lose fifteen pounds without trying, you know.
Ultimately, both of those thoughts terrified me. But it’s what I did with that information that broke me every time I went to put something in my mouth.
I ended the relationship because needing someone who doesn’t need you back, or doesn’t act like he does, hurts more than missing someone from 500 miles away. And, with that, I decided staying thin was mandatory; having energy was optional.
It would be easy to blame anorexia on someone else, to tell you how I was smaller than all those around me, but it was me who decided that needed to stay. It was me who decided growing bigger wouldn’t give someone else a reason to love me.
With those lost pounds went my self-confidence and self-worth. Down went my creativity and my will to think about my mother and aunt, crying on the other end of the line, begging me to please, God, just eat enough to wake up tomorrow, okay?
None of those lost feelings and emotions came back to me easily. It took months of therapy, denial and one spiraling weekend in which I lost five pounds, to hit me. I had people who loved me, who were willing to drive three hundred miles in the middle of the week to keep me alive, and I was sitting in a hard backed chair in a nurse’s office, shrugging my shoulders at the thought of getting better. The thought of committing to eating enough to keep me alive.
When I resurfaced, none of what I did felt okay. It was a long winter and a burning spring and, in the thaw of realizing what I’d lost, my recovery hurt even worse.
When HUGstronger was just beginning, a local reporter ran a feature story on us. There is one quote, pulled out at the top of the printed page, which scares me and makes all of this forever real:
“I come from a family where we enjoy good food,” I told her, my voice cracking even before the words were out. “If I had an eating disorder, how many other girls are going to fall into that same trap?”
I was lucky enough, stupid enough (or so I thought, at the time) to say the words out loud: “I have an eating disorder,” I whispered into the phone, on a Wednesday just after dinnertime. I said it because, at that time, I was more scared of my heart stopping than my legs thickening. It got worse before it got better.
It was the biggest gotcha of my college years, and it is with that knowledge that I kick off July’s focus on eating disorders, body image, self-love and our relationship with food.
There are days when I wake up and wish we had a reset button or a time machine, allowing someone, God maybe, to never let the first person learn to diet or binge or pinch their love handles or shove a finger to the back of their throat.
But since that is impossible, this website is my answer. This is my commitment to you: it is important that you whisper those words, while you have the courage, to someone other than yourself. Someone who is invested in your tomorrows.
I hope, in the month ahead, you find what you need. Want to join in? We’d love that.
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