By Erica B
For a highly intelligent woman, I have made some awful decisions. I treated myself with a complete lack of respect and love that almost led to my demise. I had anorexia for seven years, from ages twelve to nineteen.
I spent the formative years of my life not in the closet regarding my sexuality, but in the closet regarding my entire self. I writhed with insecurity as a child, and by age twelve, I decided to change that. I took each of my flaws and obliterated them until I was just a carcass. Then, I took that carcass and forced it into my idea of my best self. I worked until I embodied my personal opinion of perfection. I was well-mannered and respectful. I was a straight A+ student. I was a rock in the tumultuous lives of my friends. I was a nationally-ranked athlete. I was striking to the eye.
The only thing I wasn’t, however, was a person. I was all but dead. I locked my body and my soul in a dungeon together and fed neither, so they ate away at each other until nothing of either remained. And no one noticed because, why would they? How could someone performing so well also be killing herself from the inside out?
You see me, my accolades and my easy-going personality and sarcastic sense of humor, and assume that you know me. You assume that I am the perfect person I present to the world, just like you assume of everyone else. And that makes you feel insecure.
You know what I’m referring to—think about that person you stalk on Facebook and think, “God, why is his life so perfect and I can’t even get a text back?” You look at everyone as though they are their Facebook profiles.
I wish anorexia upon no one, but I vacillate between resenting it with every fiber of my being and regarding it as a blessing. Recovery brought me insights that most 19-year old women don’t have, and I’ll shout these realizations from the rooftops if I think it’ll make a difference in even one person’s life. So, listen up:
As humans, we are not one page of a book, nor are we one lone book—we are libraries. Our bodies are shelves upon shelves of the books that make us, us; the fiction and the nonfiction, the memoirs and the encyclopedias and textbooks and diaries. Some have dusty covers and that new-book smell, and others have well-worn covers and dog-eared pages. However, we all make the mistake of thinking of others as just one single page, whereas we are the only library in the world. So we hide our libraries deep inside and only show others that one piece that we’re proud of, the one epic page with the perfectly polished sentences and appropriate metaphors. We keep the worn and the poorly written and the dark and the embarrassing ones for ourselves, bringing them out only at night to read by candlelight stealthily, as though we commit some mortal sin by even recognizing their existence.
This is absurd. Everyone is multi-faceted. We ostracize ourselves when we think that we are the only library in a world of single pages. We think, “I am the only one facing this challenge, and so I must hide that, because there is something wrong with me.” Gather a room of one hundred random people, and ask them if they’ve ever thought, “There is something wrong with me, and I feel alone.” Nearly everyone will raise their hands. You will be shocked. Everyone will be shocked. If everyone feels alone, is anyone really alone?
You are not alone.
I know I am not alone. After nineteen years of reading just from my perfect novel with the pristine cover, I have read aloud my dustiest and darkest and saddest volumes to others, and they have read me theirs. I don’t advocate for transparency; I don’t open my library to the public now and invite random strangers to read every volume. Far from that. But, I no longer deny the existence of my library. It is no longer guarded by rabid dogs and several padlocks. I reveal the whole library to select people, carefully and slowly; I reveal certain sections and volumes more freely than others.
As I reveal more and more, and others reciprocate, I find myself in stronger relationships than ever before. I never believed that it was possible for me to connect with others, but I was wrong. Authenticity is not an attribute of a relationship—it glues together relationships. We believe that flaws repel us from others, but they really draw us together. Everyone has their imperfections and insecurities and if you think you don’t, do us all a favor and call a therapist because you’re the most messed-up of us all.
You take the first step to healing when you recognize that struggle is an inevitable part of life. So if you have learned anything from my ranting, let it be this: struggling does not mean there’s something wrong with you. Struggling means that there’s something right with you—you’re a person. So, embrace it. Welcome to this planet, where everyone struggles every day, because that’s what makes us people.