TRIGGER WARNING: CONTENTS BELOW INCLUDES RAPE, SUBSTANCE ABUSE, EATING DISORDER, AND SUICIDAL REFERENCES.
My message isn’t just about body positivity. Though it is something I deeply believe in, I do know that our struggles with our bodies (especially as women) are so, so interconnected with our stories. Much more so than we give credit to. I want to share mine, not for sympathy, but for the hope that I may help another woman feel less alone. Our stories may not be exactly the same. But my strength IS the strength of other women that have shared with me and helped me so incredibly much. Now I guess it’s my turn.
My story started young. I was a toddler the first time I was raped by a family member. And then, through preschool and kindergarten I was routinely molested by a school employee. These were seeds that were planted so early on, that I truly didn’t know the impact that they had on my life. I didn’t even start to pay any attention to these experiences until I was subsequently sexual assaulted by a coworker just after my twenty-first birthday. I was sexually assaulted by two more men in the years following, before I was drugged and raped by my music producer’s best friend. It was at this point that I was basically forced into facing what had happened to me. I had lived a life full of self doubt, constant disassociation from myself.
My first memories of body dysmorphia and disordered eating were when I was six years old. My mother and grandmother had eating disorders of their own, as well as lifetimes of abuse, just like me. It felt like I was born into it. It felt like I had no choice but to hate myself and hate my body. I started cutting myself when I was eleven years old, just after my family had moved from rural Montana to Los Angeles.
It was around this time I was diagnosed with depression. By the time I was thirteen I was already drinking and smoking weed. By the end of high school I was using Ecstasy regularly, smoking weed every day, binge drinking every week. I was also taking pills whenever I could get them. My eating disorder had been normal for a long time. So I was just continuing a pattern of restricting, bingeing, and purging, though in my second year of college I was so overcome with the irrational fear that my boyfriend would leave me because I wasn’t losing weight, that I began exercising obsessively and restricting my diet to an insane degree. I received praise abound from family and friends that had no clue what I was dealing with. Every time I dropped weight, I was validated.
See, I made it through high school with almost straight A’s. I got into almost every college I applied to. To others— I was smart and bright and headed down a great path, maybe a little depressed, but nothing that medication couldn’t help. That’s how I hid my battles. There are SO MANY WOMEN that do this EVERY DAY. It amazes me, the raw strength that women have.. we have an ability, for better or for worse, to shrink our struggles until they are so small that we can focus on functioning. It’s a survival tactic. I recognize this now and I refuse to invalidate my own pain, just to live by patriarchal standards.
After I was raped, I went into shock for a few months, I could barely admit that it had happened. It got worse before it got better. I started using cocaine more and more. I wanted to die. Not because I didn’t want to live. Because I COULDN’T live with the pain anymore. I wasn’t me. I was a shell of myself. Ultimately I found myself leaning out the window of the sixteenth floor of the recording studio I was working at in Manhattan. Alone. Waiting to jump. I don’t really know how I pulled out of that or got myself home that night, but I can honestly say that was the beginning of my healing. I think I decided in that moment that I would either live or die, no in between. And if I choose life, then god fucking damnit I’m going to learn how to live. For the first time in my life.
The past two years since then, I have been dedicated to my healing. It started slowly. First, I had to recognize that what I’ve been dealing with isn’t just depression, or substance abuse or an eating disorder.. but PTSD. It’s taken alternative treatments, unbelievable patience, and a hell of a lot of compassion for myself. It has also taken courage. So. Much. Fucking. Courage. Just to reach out and let people that I love know how hard I was struggling. Some days are still incredibly hard. I’m working through so much and I still consider myself in recovery. But, something deep within me has shifted so much so, that I know there is absolutely no going back.
Once, I was fearful of falling back into that hole, barely able to get out of bed, and now instead of judging myself for that, I have love and compassion for the younger me that was hurting so bad. Every day I try to take myself out of my own ego, see my body and my life from a different perspective, free of negativity. I make progress in every single moment. Even in my dreams. The care I have given to myself, the validation I have given to myself.. all these gifts from MYSELF— have allowed a new relationship with my body to blossom.
My vessel, what was once a heavy, ugly burden in my eyes, is now my chariot to freedom. I see strength. I see power. I see a woman who has overcome great pain, whose body is radiant and pure and beautiful as ever. I see someone who is loved dearly and loves deeply. I see a woman healing herself so she can help heal the world.