When people look at me at first glance, they assume I am a Lululemon obsessed pizza lover who wears her “eat pizza for breakfast shirt” a few too many times a week. At 19 that’s an okay depiction. But at first glance, you can’t tell it has taken years to become this girl. I was not always a girl who leaves the party 2 hours early to spend $20 to satisfy my drunchies, in fact, I was the girl who didn’t even show up to the party because the energy to do so was just too much.
It took me a long time to feel comfortable writing these words down on paper. I constantly struggle between the comfort that two dulce de leche donuts might give me and looking like the models that cover my Instagram feed. But this struggle has become something I can control. I recognize now that I can unfollow someone who makes me feel shitty about myself and that a donut won’t kill me. Missing a day at the gym isn’t the worst thing in the world, but I didn’t always know this, and I think it’s important for people to understand that distinction. The struggle will always be there, but the love I have developed from the struggle is far more important.
In eighth grade, I was diagnosed with clinical depression. I could get into my whole story, and how life sucked me further and further down the drain, but I don’t think the negative aspect of my experience is worth getting into. Sure, my depression was anything but simple, but I like to believe that things happen for a reason.
At 14, my diet consisted of mostly Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and cupcakes. Although this wasn’t healthy, my parents encouraged me to eat whatever I was willing. I was already underweight and recovery seemed unattainable. I barely allowed myself eat a full meal each day, and on the days that I did, it was a celebration.
As time progressed, I continued to pick at my food. I was not happy or healthy, but I was skinny, and to me, in this world, that meant success. My parents sent me to an eating disorder specialist despite my insistence that this was, for sure, not what this was, but as they predicted, they were wrong. My starvation and ice cream for dinner habits were not normal, they were anorexia.
As high school engulfed me, I attempted to broaden my diet. I allowed for lunch and only began to skip dinner. I was still unhealthy and depriving myself, but the more I added to my diet, the more I progressed both with my body image and my depression. The support and love that I was introduced to these first years of high school guided me to stop depriving myself and instead learn to love and accept myself.
I eventually began to see a therapist who helped me in a different way than any previous therapist had before. Instead of acting as if I was diseased, she talked to me as if the thoughts racing through my head were okay. She taught me to understand the problem and how to find a way to pull the root of that problem out. She also taught me to find things that would help me feel calm and less destructive even when in presence of the root of my problem.
In my case, many of my problems were internal. While externally, there was often disaster occurring, my body image and self-hatred came from thoughts that derived solely in my head. I still try, to this day, to blame it on my hormone imbalance.
As I began to approach some type of recovery, I searched for a solace. I desperately needed something that I could love more than I hated myself. I needed to convince myself that I was worth a life, that my body deserved the weight that it needed to gain.
Cupcakes became my first savior. I chose to bake cupcakes as a mindful activity. For me, the act of baking was a stress reliever, a distraction. Days upon days were spent in the kitchen, and dozens upon dozens of cupcakes were handed out Monday through Friday at school. It was beneficial for everyone.
But what I began to realize as I began to gain my weight back and became healthier, was that it was not only baking that was my savior but an appreciation for all things food. In finding a love for food, I began to find a love for myself.
I am sure that there are dozens upon dozens of aspects of my life that I can thank for lending to my recovery. Had my family and friends not stuck by my side, had my medication and therapist not mended me in the most meaningful way, I would not be where I am today. I would not be able to allow my scars to settle. But in finding the true passion that allowed me to find solace in this world and allowing me to push my depression and eating disorder away, I found a love for food.
As my depression ceded, I began to understand that while my body image would never be perfect and that I know that I will never be 100% content with my body, what I put in my body is incredibly important for my health, both mentally and physically. Indulging myself with one bowl of ice cream each day after skipping the two other most important meals of the day seemed okay when I was 14, but I know now that there is nothing more important than getting the best of every one of my meals.
What I learned during my recovery was that food is not the enemy. In fact, food became my medication. Through baking, restaurant exploration, and searching through foodstagrams, I have found a passion and love for the thing that once haunted me day and night.
People around me now tell me constantly that their favorite thing about me is my “love for food.” I now aspire to be a food journalist when I graduate college. While I still look in the mirror and find things that I wish I could change, it does not even compare to the years where I would look in the mirror and find a million.
Change is hard, but often, change can bring positivity. Change can bring strength. I am now 19 years old. My favorite thing to do is spend the weekend in Manhattan eating at least three meals (but usually five) and taking 50 pictures before I even take a bite of the cupcake, the donut, or the cheeseburger spring rolls.
My story is not incredibly notable and I realize that. But I think it is important for everyone to know that just because they have a hate relationship with something now does not mean that one day, they can’t have a love relationship with that same thing. Life goes one day at a time. The largest part of recovery is hope that it will get better. Everyone is beautiful in their own way, despite what the media might portray to us today.
Depression may have left countless scars on my body. But it has also molded me into a stronger person. It is incredibly ironic to think that just a couple of years ago, I starved myself, and today, food is my passion. Take that, depression.