2018 hasn’t been my year. It wasn’t all bad, but the bad things stick out more than the good. My eating disorder popped up again making me relapse into horrible eating habits. I’ve had two nervous breakdowns this year. My uni work suffered as have my friendships, my blog (you might have noticed it from March onward with a break in June and July) and many other things.
I don’t even know why I am writing this all down, I guess I am just hopeful that it will help me in any way. In order to understand where I am right now in terms of my mental health I have to start from the beginning.
I have always been thin and small, or petite as you could describe it. My mum was like that and her mother before her (and her mother before her, you get the picture). So, nothing wrong with that. Only that other people did not see it that way. Ever since I was five years old, people, mostly strangers on the street, have told me that I am anorexic, have an eating disorder and look sick. None of this was true. My parents constantly told me that I am okay the way I am and that nothing is wrong with me. However, at that age I could not comprehend any of this.
As a result I never liked the way I looked, especially my thin wrists. All this strangers on the street gave me body image issues. The real problems started after my 18th birthday. That was six and a half years ago, in case anyone is wondering. After I was sexually assaulted, I started starving myself for the first time. I wanted to forget and punish myself and my body at the same time. Punishing myself because I didn’t do anything to stop it, I just froze and while I know now that that is very common and nothing to be ashamed about, I am still grappling with forgiving myself.
This all happened during my Matura (Austrian A-Levels), so everyone myself included blamed the stress for my eating habits. No one knew about the assault, my family still doesn’t know. I went to a doctor at that time but all they did was tell me it would go away after my Matura and I shouldn’t worry. The doctor happened to be right. After my Matura was over, I started eating more normal again and by the time I moved to England to be an Au Pair, like I always dreamed, I was almost back to normal. During my nine months in England, I developed a habit of bingeing. I ate more than I normally did. After the months of starving myself, my body needed it. After I moved back to Austria, I got into a somewhat normal eating routine. No starving and no bingeing.
During the next years I was mostly fine. Nothing major happened. Until in March 2016 I started to get threatening text messages. We later found out they where from my former roommate. At that time I was back in England (Au Pair again). Apart from the death threats I was getting, think along the lines of “I’ll kill you, you whore”, I was also not treated nicely by my host family. Something that unfortunately happens to Au Pairs. I quit in May and went back home. That is when I applied to my current studies, I was ecstatic when I got the news that I got to study my dream.
The death threats eventually stopped, no criminal charges, even though I took the matter to the police, but I got a new phone number, so he has no way of contacting me ever again. I’m still wary, though, every time I am close to my former flat in Vienna and know that I never want to live in Vienna again. Sorry, Vienna, I know it’s not your fault. My eating habits were messed up again during the turmoil I call 2016. In 2017 it got back to “normal” again.
After the #MeToo thing flared up on Social Media (rightfully so), I started thinking back if something horrible like those stories ever happened to me. Believe it or not, at first I couldn’t think of much. A couple of cat calls on the street, getting slapped on the butt in a club. All horrible, don’t get me wrong, and all things that should never happen to any woman. It took me a little bit to remember my own assault. I had buried it so deep with all the starving, that it took me some time to remember.
And that’s when things seemed to get worse again. I started starving myself again, I think I got depressed as well (I have no diagnosis, so I don’t want to use the term wrongly, but the signs point to it) and my life started to suffer again. This time I couldn’t blame the stress, my life was not more stressful than it had been the previous year. Later while on my study trip I had another traumatic reminder of my assault. A man came into our dorm (11 girls sleeping there), where he started to pleasure himself before trying to climb into my bed. He never got in, but it was enough to trigger me even further.
I had to accept my eating disorder, my body image issues and the fact that traumatic experiences seem to be the trigger for me. In my review of Portia de Rossi’s memoir Unbearable Lightness, where she talks about her eating disorder, you can read that I talked about almost having an eating disorder myself, the operative word being almost. There is no almost. There only is. I have an eating disorder.
I know this has been depressing to read, but it feels liberating to write it. And because I want to leave this on a brighter note: I am going to therapy now. I am working hard on myself to accept me the way I am, thin wrists and all. So far recovery has been an up and down, but I am hopeful that I will get better.