The Reality of Living With 'Anorexia Nostalgia'
Facebook can’t help but bring up old pictures. Three years ago, it says, with an image of who I once was. I can’t help myself, I click on it. Before I realize it, I have scrolled back three years to find more pictures like it.
Those pictures of my “perfect” body. I have looked at them so many times I am numb to the effect they should have on me. No matter what I tell myself about being healthier now, my body will never be as “good” as it was then.
This is anorexia nostalgia.
I have been in recovery for a while now, having a healthy weight for longer than I was ever underweight. Yet, it is that underweight figure that haunts me every day. Every body check feeling what’s bigger. Every glance in the mirror and shop window, not recognizing myself. Every picture someone has taken of me. Is that really what I look like? What do I look like?
I know it is never a good idea to look back at those images. I deleted them from my phone and computer, but they cannot be erased from my life. And I don’t want them to be, after all they are a part of my story, my journey. Yet will I ever be able to not idealize that girl I once was? The girl who excelled in all areas of life: school, music, fitness and thinness. How could I not want to be her?
Except, she was miserable.
The pictures don’t show that. They don’t show my shivering body that no summer heat wave could fix. They don’t show the hunger pains ignored for hours on end. They don’t show the 5 a.m. wake up calls to run every day. They don’t show the obsessive thoughts planning my meals. They don’t show the agony spent over social events that were supposed to be fun. They don’t show how I lost who I was.
I have been on a long road towards getting myself back. I still have moments of anorexia nostalgia. Maybe that will always be true. Gradually these moments are less and less frequent. In the beginning stages of recovery, it was all I could think about. Now, I have so many more interests than my eating disorder. I didn’t believe that could happen because my eating disorder had consumed my mind. Since being in recovery, I have found my passion for photography, started my blog and my YouTube channel, moved to NYC, became a journalist — and who knows what else will happen in the future.
I will probably still have these nostalgic moments for months and years to come, with potential slip ups and relapses at times. As much as I miss the thinness that we are taught to covet in this society, I have learned so much since then. Thinness keeps women submissive to the patriarchy, allows the diet, fitness, fashion and beauty industries to profit, and privileges and oppresses women based on their bodies. My body does not define me anymore. My mind is a powerful tool that has brought me to my lowest points but has also given me great passions and moments of being alive. Anorexia can never give me what recovery can.
Unsplash photo via Joel Valve