I can’t believe I’m writing this post.
For the past 3-years, I’ve always been honest here…but that doesn’t mean I’ve always been completely transparent. That’s the beauty and the beast of the internet isn’t it? We can pick and choose which parts of our lives we want to share. We can be “open” and share struggles…but leave a few out. It’s easy. It helps your image. It makes you “more inspirational”.
Yeah, I’ve done that. And I’m done doing that.
So, this is it. This is the post that will lay it all out on the table and share exactly what I’ve gone through personally and continue to deal with. I’m done hiding the not-so-pretty parts of my life.
As many of you have probably noticed, I’ve jumped from job to job and career path to career path over the past 5 years and nothing has stuck. It has been extremely frustrating and confusing because, growing up, I thought I had my whole life figured out. Well, fate had other plans.
It has taken every minute of struggle, pain and loss to understand why nothing has ever felt “right’. The reason? I never allowed myself to just be me. I buried my flaws and poured all of my energy into fitting a mold (whatever it was at the time) and killed myself to achieve “perfection”.
But where did that begin?
In high school, I remember being happy. I’ve struggled with self-image problems for the majority of my life but the thoughts were quiet during those 4-years. I dreamed of being a famous actress and invested every ounce of energy in theatre productions, choir and the drama department at school. Did I really love it? I don’t know. I think I did…but it became more of a lifestyle than a true passion. I was the “drama kid” and, deep down, I loved being the best at something.
So, I did what any die-hard aspiring actress would do and auditioned for the Acting Conservatory of my dreams, was accepted and packed up my life [a semester] ahead of my peers and moved to Los Angeles– the city that was sure to make my dreams come true.
My desire to be the best continued. I spent 2 years giving that school everything I had. I never once missed a class, I was always prepared (except for one day in Shakespeare class which still mortifies me) and came out with a 4.0 and the ranking of ‘top student’ in my class. I was proud of that. Once again, I was able to work hard enough to be “the best”.
Unfortunately, another issue began to arise during those two years. I gained a little weight at the start of college (as most do) which made me uncomfortable. Was I unhealthy? No. Just average…and, sadly, that doesn’t cut it in the entertainment industry. So in an attempt to lose the extra pounds, I took on a bet proposed by a very influential person in my life– who could lose 15lbs the fastest.
That was all it took. In yet another attempt to be the best, I became obsessed. I went from eating normally to cutting out “unhealthy” foods left and right. My long-time vegetarian diet became a strict, mostly-raw vegan one. The more pounds that fell off, the more praise I received and the more determined I felt to be just a “little bit better”. I began skipping out on social events that included food and rarely (if ever) ate out. I prepped every, single freakin’ meal with this meticulous precision that makes me sick to think about now. I had to have my food laid out certain ways, on certain plates and consumed in certain areas of my apartment. I exercised excessively. I would literally get to the gym at 5am, run on the treadmill for 2 miles, take a 60-min conditioning class and then do abs and the stairmaster…then go BACK in the afternoon for round 2. What the f*ck? My OCD habits skyrocketed and I would freak out at the drop of a hat over nothing. Everyone annoyed me. And as disgusting as it sounds, I thought it was because I was better than them because I “had control” and they didn’t.
Looking back, I can’t believe that person was me.
I lost friendships. I pushed people away. I stopped caring about anything except food and exercise.
As you would expect, my weight plummeted and my normal, beautiful body became a skeleton.
I didn’t understand. I was doing everything “right”. I was following all of the diet and exercise rules and even going above-and-beyond and I still wasn’t happy. I was trying to be a fitness blogger and a food blogger (on my old domain) and preaching balance without taking my own advice and living it. I knew I needed change or I was going to deal with lifelong consequences…if I didn’t kill myself first. But I was terrified. Terrified of what losing control would feel like.
I can’t exactly pin-point when the shift happened because I don’t remember a good portion of this time in my life; partially because I was so severely underweight and partially because I chose to block out the darkest days. But at some point, I finally decided I had had enough. When my family life back home began to crumble, things started to finally come back to perspective. Starving myself wasn’t going to fix anything– especially not my family– and I had missed out on the last few years of my family being together because I was too pre-occupied with my body and maintaining control.
So, I started the process of recovery. I didn’t go to treatment or work with a therapist. I just did it.
It was hard as hell.
I have no words for how much I struggled. It was just hard. But I told myself every day that it was going to be worth it. That one day I wouldn’t have to think obsessively about every morsel of food I put in my mouth and every minute spent at the gym. I believed in my strength, more than I ever had, and I pushed through even when I desperately wanted to recoil into my life of comfort and control.
The stream of tears has been non-stop since I started writing this post…
Nearly 3 years after I hit rock bottom, I’m finally beginning to taste freedom. True freedom. Not the “freedom” I talked about in posts 2 years ago when I was obviously still in the heart of the struggle. At long last, I’m free enough to open up and allow all of my cracks and crevices to surface. To share how and why I lost all control in my desperate attempt to achieve it. To reach out and hope that my journey can help someone, anyone, get through theirs.
For the first time in my life, I’m learning to love myself…and that’s not something I could have honestly said 3-months ago. Sure, I was physically recovered by that point but, mentally and emotionally, I was still in pain. Depression has hit me hard time and time again and I’m here to admit that it’s something I’ll probably always battle. But I’m learning to love my laugh and my smile and my curves and my weird+sarcastic personality and my flat-as-hell hair and my social awkwardness and working out because I want to not because it’s part of my ‘image’. All of the things I spent years trying to hide are the very traits that make me, me. Imperfection really is beauty.
This post has nothing to do with being preachy or saying “look what I did, guys”…no. I still have bad days. I still feel ashamed of the past and I still fear the future. I still have walls built up that I’m, slowly but surely, chipping away at. I still have problems that I deal with every. damn. day.
But I’m real.
No metaphors or super positive, inspirational quotes or forced-smile selfies or whatever else…
This is Emily.
Of all the different paths I’ve taken, I finally feel like I may have found the right one.
I want to share my story in hopes that someone won’t have to feel another day of pain. Life is hard. Being vulnerable, letting go of control…it just doesn’t come naturally sometimes. Life can feel completely hopeless and tomorrow can look even darker than yesterday. But it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m here to tell you that you can smile. Whatever demons haunt the darkest corners of your brain can be destroyed by the light within you. Surrender your facade to the person buried underneath it and joy will begin to surface…a joy that you absolutely deserve. We all do.
You are not alone.
If you want to talk, vent, ask a question, reach out for support…anything…email me. Whether you’re struggling with an eating disorder, depression, anxiety, stress, self-hatred, ocd…I’ve been there.
Follow me on Instagram & Twitter @ missemmmysue