Author Archives: scaragher17@students.polytechnic.org

#MeToo

Me too.

One of the newest twitter hashtags, Facebook status, internet trends to come out is the #MeToo. As many of you may know, multiple recent allegations of sexual assault have come about against film producer Harvey Weinstein. In response, women (and men) around the world took to the biggest platform, the internet, to stand in solidarity as well as show the magnitude of the issue of sexual harassment, assault, and rape, and I have felt pulled to finally say “Me Too” as well.

It was never easy for me to acknowledge the violation that was forced on my body and mind at such a young age. I wasn’t aware of the size of my breasts, let alone the fact that they were a distraction. I had only seen talk of sex in textbooks or when we had gender separate meetings to answer any of our “pressing questions”. I wasn’t in tune with my sexuality, how was I supposed to be? I was only 13. Then my body and what it meant to others and how it made others feel and what it made others want to do was shown to me one day in a simple email that took away any form of innocence I had left. My body was made into an object useful only for a man’s pleasure and my mind struggled to comprehend the meaning of this boy’s words.

I became more cautious after that. No more tank tops or shorts, after all even the girls said it was my fault that I had provoked him. If that was true, I was the only one that could change it right? So I tried to cut my breasts off. That would solve the problem… It didn’t exactly work though, and left a scar that later added to even more self-hatred. My parents didn’t know what to do as they were frantically running around trying to figure out who the hell this perverted kid was and when we did, the school administrators let it go and gave him more attention and care than they did myself. So I went to therapy. I sat in a dark little box, across from a stranger I was quite literally paying to listen to me, and talking about how I hated myself… as a 13 year old. The boy that sent those emails and took a piece of my soul has moved on, as I did and am still trying to do. But he doesn’t have to live everyday with the words he typed out one morning constantly running through his mind and be in the body that was the target of those derogatory terms. I’ve forgiven him now, but won’t ever forget – as it was a big point in my life that led to my eating disorder, chronic depression and anxiety, and ultimately self-harm/suicidal thoughts.

You see, sexual harassment and assault doesn’t stop after the harasser/assaulter “apologizes” or is caught or punished (if at all). It isn’t over when they finally realize that no means no or if they don’t at all and leaves the room when they’re “finished”. It never ends for the victim. It is a constant memory that stirs fear, hatred, anxiety, pain, and suffering within the sufferer. I personally am not as angry anymore. I have learned and thankfully been able to grow, but here I am years later, still struggling from repercussions. That is another thing that people do not realize. The repercussions to sexual harassment, assault, and rape are endless. Every 98 seconds, another person is made the victim of sexual assault* While the number of sexual assaults has decreased by 63% from 1993, it is still an issue* It is not an issue that is selective only females, or whites, blacks, Latino(a), Asians, old, young, straight, gay, bisexual, transgender, fat, skinny, poor, or rich, it is a worldly issue that needs to be discussed, addressed, and solved. Yes, I have been the victim of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Yes, it was difficult and yes, it took a part of me. But, NO it will not define me, nor will it stop me from doing the things I love, with the people I love. It will not be a defining characteristic in my life but rather my life will be a definition of strength and perseverance.

So finally, here I am, saying #MeToo, for myself, my little sister, the girls that I babysit, my roommates, hall mates, classmates, for the women that have overcome rape and abuse, and for the women that are working hard to overcome their traumas. You too, can overcome it. You too, are strong.

 

* RAINN: Rape, Incest, and Abuse National Network https://www.rainn.org/statistics/scope-problem

 

Social Media: what does it really mean?

Social Media: followers, likes, views, comments, Snapstreaks, friends, shares, connect, status updates, notifications… what comes to your mind when you think of social media? What about, social media: anxiety, depression, obsession, fear, body dysmorphia, comparison, self-doubt, self-hate, pain.

 

I have every form of social media: Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram (a “rinsta”, a “finsta” or “spam” AND a “foodstagram”), I had a Vine (RIP), YouTube, and I’m not sure if there are any more but considering you can now be “friends” with people as well track your friend’s periods on period tracker apps, I assume that there is. Despite me having, and (very) actively using, every form of social media, I hate it. I mean I love it, I’m addicted, but I hate it. Over the summer I was feeling super strong about how bad social media is for development and growth, so I deleted if off of my phone… for 40 minutes, before I re-downloaded it because “I had nothing to do” and “I needed to know what was going on” In the 21st century it seems like almost everyone is on social media. In fact, when I meet someone that isn’t on social media * gasp * I immediately respond with How? Aren’t you SO disconnected? How do you find out anything? How do you know what’s going on with people? Well, the matter of fact is, you don’t, and I’m here to tell you that is a really fucking positive thing. One of the biggest promotions of social media is that it “keeps people in touch” Yes, you can post things about your life so that friends from far and wide know what’s going on. Yes, you can find people that you knew from long ago and reconnect with them. Yes, social media does allow for some “lost connection” amongst people. But how much of it is real? I was looking through the people that I followed on Snapchat and realized that I didn’t even know half of their last names. I knew they lived somewhere that wasn’t Los Angeles because we were “keeping in touch” for some reason, but I hadn’t even had a conversation with half of these people. Social media has become a thing of habit. It is customary to add someone on Snap when you meet them or give them a follow on insta, but are relationships truly forming? What kind of connections are these? (NOTE: lost my train of thought and spent 10 minutes scrolling through Instagram, snap stories, and facebook 3 times… looking at the Exact. Same. Thing.) Exhibit A noted? Yes, social media is a distraction from the real world. You all probably know that already though. “Duh, Shae! Our teachers tell us that at the beginning of each class!” or “We know! Life can’t be lived behind a screen!” So then why do we keep doing it? I mean I guess I could go into the science-y aspect of it and start talking about the nucleus accumbens and the reward center of the brain and dopamine and impulsivity and neurons and pathways etc. etc. etc. but I don’t have my degree and let’s be real, authenticity is key. But, that would be difficult for all of us, so instead, I’m going to make an obscure analogy that won’t make sense until the end, but we’ll all agree it’s really good. Social media is like a commercial jingle, but not just any jingle, like the most annoying jingles you can think of, I’m talking Kars for Kids level or Cellino & Barnes, or that Meow Mix stuff. No matter how badly you don’t want to think about it, it just pops into your head. You’ll be sitting in the middle of homework, or a conversation with friends, or reading a book, and either get that imaginary bzzzz of your phone or just have this instant need to look at your phone. Pops into your head, like the freaking Kars for Kids song. So why am I talking about social media on my eating disorder blog? Good question! Social media, while it was created to bring people together, has become another outside controller of your life. Think about it (unless you’re not a social media “addict”), how often do you check your Instagram in a day? How long do you spend on your captions? Filters? Choosing the perfect photo? How important are snapstreaks to you? Do they determine the foundation of a relationship (and hate to break it to you, if they do, then it’s probably not that strong of a relationship)? How many likes do you need to “feel good about yourself”? Do they determine your worth? Well, for me, my answer to all of those questions was a resounding YES! And I guess that’s why I’m writing this blog post. Because of the obsession, the anxiety, the depression, the invocation of self-doubt/self-hate within when I scroll past a skinny body on Instagram or wonder why my Snapchat was opened but not responded to. Did I say something wrong? Did I look weird or was I too annoying? I was controlled by my eating disorder for years. It took parts of me that are still being discovered or rebuilt and social media isn’t providing a strong recovery space for me. Yes, I follow some great instagram accounts, that post encouraging quotes, but I guess I could just buy a book with a daily quote, there are ways around it. I mean our parents survived completely without any of this, they had phones… attached to walls?! Isn’t that crazy (please note I’m being sarcastic here, I’m not that millennial-ized)

 

During my eating disorder, social media was almost like a physical form of my anorexia. I could find anything I wanted to. I fell asleep to videos of people cutting chocolate cakes or eating gooey lava cakes. I sat in front of mirrors pulling at my own fat as I looked at girls’ instagrams who had perfectly defined abs, whose legs did not touch, and not one line of cellulite. Social media let me stay in contact… with my demons, things I should not and did not want to be looking at, but could not control it… it was all at my fingertips. The likes defined me and the people that followed me affirmed my worth.

 

So today, I’m going to take a break from social media. I understand that I am spreading awareness of this blog post and this blog using social media but after, is when I’ll start my facebook freeze (and all other forms). I think there are so many other ways to talk to people. In person is great. If you don’t have the person’s phone number to call or text them the relationship probably isn’t that strong. I actually wrote a few letters, you know, with stamps and addresses, and will send those. Playing it old school! Social media isn’t needed to live, I don’t know if having it is actually living. So bye for now, hopefully it will last longer than 40 minutes. Until I can go on Instagram to look at actual friends photos and not just the people that liked mine. Time to focus on the important stuff! I’m going to go read a book now and have conversation with Real. Live. People!!!

Believing in others and believing in YOURSELF

I am currently driving on the 118 to the wonderful Santa Barbara, CA. It is 68 degrees, foggy, I am listening to Young Thug blasting through my earbuds, wearing a sweatshirt that is 3 sizes too big and hasn’t been washed in weeks, and completely content. I’m not anxious or depressed or planning out my meals or grabbing at my fat on my stomach or even planning my workout for the week. (note: the music has now changed to Lorde) (note #2: my music taste is very eclectic) No, none of that, I’m a “normal”(ish) 18 year old girl with a car that resembles a Bed, Bath, and Beyond store heading to college – something that didn’t seem to plausible not that long ago. You see, a year and a half ago I entered treatment for an eating disorder. I weighed way less than is healthy (but way more than I had wanted to at the time), I lived on plain veggies (EW) and 8 mile runs to sustain (not-so-much) me. So much has happened in a year and a half and I felt, being a Poly person and all, that a reflection period would be good. So, here goes… something!

 

Gathering from my journal that I started on the day I entered treatment, I was a seriously pissed off person. This girl was sad, scared, in pain, suffering, and angry – holy wow I felt for her! But it took me a moment to remind myself that the girl that I empathized with in this journal, was me. On February 24, I was notified by my parental units and a group of doctors, wearing blinding white coats, that I would be entering residential treatment (shudder) because I had an-or-ex-ia (shudder shudder). Um, NO! Apparently this idiot thought she could talk herself out of this one. Looking back, I remember not wanting to go, but I can’t imagine NOT ever going. Treatment, recovery, the eating disorder, the girls I met and came to love, the not being able to shave with an actual razor and learning to eat to a timer, the not being able to put our feet on couches and spending mornings doing trig homework for a class I wasn’t even in (craving normalcy), the solitaire, Contact, the tears, and the smiles, the trials turned to triumphs, the pain, the fear, the bloating, the constipation, the good and the bad and the ugly, the art projects, new patients and saying goodbye to old ones, and then finally getting to leave yourself, all of it became a part of my identity and who I was (I am so sorry Mrs. Leroy, that was the biggest run-on sentence ever!)

 

But before all that (and sometimes during), I thought I had the shittiest life ever. I thought that God had chosen me out of his 7 billion people he put together and said, “Yah, screw this one. This is the ONE that I’m going to ignore and give her just loads of crap to deal with” SELF PITY CENTRAL. (note #3: I hate self pity and playing the victim card so the fact that I actually did that was so incredibly ew for me to absorb) But you know what, God didn’t do that. He didn’t/doesn’t ignore me, nor do I have a shitty crappy life. People are humans (blanket and obvious statement, good job Shae!) But with being human, comes difficulties. Some people’s are harder than others. I’ve had friends that have lost parents to cancer or watch their fathers fade away into alcoholism. I then have other friends whose parents won’t let them drive the Tesla so they have to take the BMW instead, and according to them, that’s hard. But with that, I have learned that no one has a crappy life, rather everyone has crappy moments. Some of those moments last what feels like a lifetime. And I know, because I had the same thoughts, that it’s easy to let that over take your mind. It’s easy to convince yourself that you are the only bad thing in this world, or that you are the one person God (or whatever you believe in) neglects, or that you don’t matter or are unimportant. Well let me tell you something that took a LONG time for me to learn and that is that those thoughts are 100% NOT true. I’m reading the book Tattoos on the Heart by Father Greg Boyle (highly recommended) for summer reading and while I have read it before, it has a much greater impact on me at this point in my life. The Homies that Father Boyle spends his life with have it hard. They are considered low, despicable, and violent humans. They are not given a chance, not shown love, not told that they matter, not given any form of attention or affirmation… they are filed under “Lost Cause” and not given a second thought. But what Father Boyle explains in his book is that these are the type of people that Jesus chose to spend his time with. These “outcasts” so to speak are the ones that God craves to reach most, because after all he did create each and everyone of them and does not see them the way society and other humans do. They are not lost causes, they each have a cause and a purpose to fulfill, as does every. single. human on this entire planet. Back in September it was so easy for me to get anxious and worked up about the college process. I wasn’t going to get into an Ivy League school or one with an exceptionally low acceptance rate, the “name school” so to speak. After all, is that even what I wanted? Is that what I even needed to be “successful”? YAHHHHHH – my brain told me, as I was surrounded by people getting early acceptances to Harvard and Yale and Stanford and here I was, finishing my common application 3 days before my first application was due, with NONE of my shit together, goddamit my life was a freaking Nature Valley bar with pieces scattered everywhere and none of it ending up in the goal point… the mouth. But that, to God, and to my family and my friends was where I felt their love most. They did not push me aside and tell me “Yes, Shae, you are, in fact worthless” I know some families that do that, and honestly that kills me, so if you don’t believe in God or Allah or Buddha or have any higher power that you turn to, then I will be the one, I am here on earth to tell you that it is OK! It is OK to not be perfect at everything you do – even the bravery of attempting is so incredibly admirable. It is OK to not be the valedictorian or to be denied from Harvard (94.6% of the nation is) It is OK to be bad at English or science or math or art, there will be something that you love and isn’t that all that matters?

 

I’m heading off to college, something that I didn’t think would be possible. Not because of circumstance (you all as well as myself know that I am very blessed), not because my parents didn’t support me in it, or because I did not have the resources to go, it wasn’t plausible because of health. And the fact that I am here today, a year and a half after writing my first journal entry – angry at the world, but mainly myself, sad, lost, and frankly, half-dead – is a wonderful, amazing, and beautiful miracle that I will hold on to forever. So I’m off to study and learn and meet new people, at college. Go Warriors – perfect mascot for who I am trying to be!

I am NOT my ED: The difference between two big parts within myself

The difference between my eating disorder and me, Shae…

One of the most important things to learn throughout recovery is that you are not your eating disorder. It is something that I repeated to myself day after day to remind myself that I have a life outside of the hell that my ED gave me. I had dreams and aspirations that extended beyond just my weight and clothing size and I wanted a life with a full heart and wide smiles, rather than empty stomachs and tear stains. So, here is my comprehensive list of what my eating disorder wanted (past tense J) for me (well, for itself actually) vs what I want for myself.

GOALS:

Eating disorder: weigh x amount, fit into x size, eat x amount of calories, see ribs, eat nothing, not be able to grab any fat, and have total control

Me: go to university (check), marry the man I love, go to medical school, become a doctor, write a book, travel the world, be a good sister and loving daughter, care for others, and most importantly, care for myself.

FOOD:

Eating disorder: no gluten (excuse for no carbs), no lactose – especially cheese and it CANNOT be melted, no nuts (except for raw only), no soda, black coffee only, no sugar, no additives, no meet, no beans, no mayo, no condiments, no oils, no food made by other people (But also you can’t eat what you cook), no eating until 10 am and not eating after 6 pm, x amount of chews/bite, must cut food into x amount of pieces, must eat for a certain amount of time, only eat what is planned for the day and calorically acceptable… ok I feel like you get the point

Me: hi, yah, I don’t really like olives but if they’re on a pizza I can deal with it. Beets aren’t my thing but yah I eat EVERYTHING!

FRIENDS:

Eating disorder: talk to no one, don’t be the one to reach out, find excuses not to ever see people

Me: EXTROVERT! LOVE TO TALK! Reach out to people, ask to hangout, actually leave the house, go to restaurants, be social!

SCHOOL:

Eating disorder: must get straight As, hours to complete assignment so it is PERFECT (Every letter, every number, every line is in its place), no wrong answers (therefore don’t participate in class), don’t ask questions (without an apology for inconveniencing the teacher), asking for help is a sign of weakness, take the hardest classes and still get the best grades

Me: try your hardest but don’t kill yourself in the process, ask questions, ask for help, know that perfection isn’t a reality so just work hard!

FAMILY

Eating disorder: make sure they’re skinny by removing unhealthy foods from house, making sure they eat less, make sure they exercise, control them (in everything – yes, it’s pathetic)

Me: let them live their own lives because they’ve been doing it for a while so they probably can take care of themselves (seems reasonable)

These are just a few of the things (the main things that I have learned through treatment) and as you can see, it is definitely way more tiring/time consuming to have an eating disorder. It is a constant worry about what other people think or how I am presented to the outside world that it becomes neglect of internal feelings. This type of list can be helpful to anything: anxiety, depression, self-harm etc. I have used it in all facets of life. So with that, I am learning that I am most definitely NOT my eating disorder because I have my own thoughts, ideas, aspirations, and dreams for who I am and who I will become!

 

To The Bone: Punny, Painful, Pure

Last night I had the most amazing opportunity (thanks to the incredible Claire Dundee – much love to you!) As some of you may remember, my last blog post was centered around a new movie coming out called To The Bone. I approached the topic and discussion in a position of opposition to the many articles that had been published claiming that this film glorified eating disorders. Based solely on the trailer, I saw this film as not a work in praising eating disorders, but rather starting a conversation about them (which is what we want and NEED!) On Monday night I had the opportunity to go to a preview screening of the movie at USC School of Cinematic Arts and then have a Q & A with director (Marti Noxon) and lead actress (Lily Collins) afterwards. Now to give you some perspective, I do NOT cry during movies. I was a stone rock during The Notebook, I remembered The Lion King for the way it made me dance and laugh, The Last Song left me remembering how cute sea turtles are, and UP did not bring out a drop of tears in me. This movie how ever, had me sobbing, I’m talking ugly crying, loud heaving, mascara-running-down-the-face-snot-coming-out-of-the-nose type crying. (Apologies to Haley for probably getting copious amounts of mascara and tear duct boogers on your shirt). It was everything I had imagined, wanted, need, and supported in my previous blog post. This movie did not glorify eating disorders in any way. I can see and completely understand how it can be triggering for people that are still in treatment or have recently recovered (note: there is diet talk, calories mentioned in number, talk about sizes) but this is all used to display the life that people with eating disorders are living. It shows the pain of the disorder and then couples it with beauty of recovery. After the movie was over and we began the Q & A, I was one of the (3!) people picked to ask a question. I was so flustered I honestly could not tell you what I even asked. I probably rambled on for a few minutes throwing I a couple (hundred) words that did not belong in the sentences I stringed together. BUT, with all that, Marti and Lily both understood my question and gave a beautifully poised answer that filled me joy and fullness (you can be filled with fullness, can’t you? – eh, challenging perfectionism!!!) I got the amazing opportunity to talk with Marti afterwards (who let me just say is an incredibly talented, gifted, and beautiful woman and visionary) about my recovery and blog and thank her for this movie. Even though I was in treatment just a year ago, I do wish I had something like this film, just to know that I was not alone and that this is not a silent disorder. Eating disorders kill its victim slowly. It slowly sucks the life out of you until you are a silent ghost flooded with lies, false goals, and self-hate. This film’s main aim was to not start, but rather continue the conversation about eating disorders. This film may not be for everyone but it is up to YOU whether or not you watch this film. No one is going to force it on you nor should they persecute you for your decision to or to not see it. For me, it was therapeutic, moving, emotional, powerful, and just incredible. For others it might not be – BUT the beauty of this world is that everyone is different and you really only need to stay in tune with who you and what you need as a human being, not what others will say. I hope that you all (if you choose to J ) will get the opportunity to watch this film and please let me know what you think of it! (It was made by people who have been there and get it – so essentially with good and pure intentions). More to come soon!

Dedicated to Marti Noxon and the men and women that are working to talk about it

The Portrayal of Eating Disorders

It’s almost a year since I left treatment and I honestly could never have imagined making it this far, but boy am I grateful. I was at an appointment with my therapist today when we started talking about portrayal and understanding of eating disorders. She mentioned that there was a new movie coming out on Netflix called To the Bone. Well, obviously I had to know what this was about! The very first article that popped up was titled “Is Netflix’s new movie To the Bone glorifying eating disorders?” I clicked on the trailer and started sobbing. This movie, I thought, is going to be amazing. For the lucky people that don’t suffer from eating disorders, it is impossible to understand what an eating disorder is, what goes on in the mind and body of a victim, and why treatment is so dang hard. Granted, I have not seen the movie in its entirety but eating disorders NEED to be talked about. The world needs to understand what an eating disorder is so they know how to love and support one another. An eating disorder does not just affect the person suffering directly, but it affects everyone involved in that person’s life. So to answer the article’s question, no, this movie is not glorifying eating disorders, rather, it is working to stop the glorification of them. In the media, people see the assumed “positives” of having an eating disorder (I use that term lightly as there aren’t any) – the abs, the thigh gap, the defined cheek bones – things the media use to portray strength and beauty, but are really signs of death and decay. This movie shows the reality of an eating disorder. The constant, 24/7, never-ending (I realize these are all the same words, it’s just emphasis) voice in your head telling you are unworthy; unworthy of love, self-love, happiness, the basics of life (food), or even life. It is the everyday battle against yourself because you cannot see your enemy as you are fighting another being inside of you. It is the deprivation of your ability to speak, think, breathe, and live as your body breaks down from the inside out and outside in. I look back on my life not really knowing if I’ve lived or not. I feel fortunate because I was able to recover at a young age and therefore I have a life to live ahead. So much of my life, or at least the time that I can remember, has been consumed by fear, self-hate, self-harm, depression, anxiety, and thoughts of suicide. Honestly, that SUCKS! I look back at pictures of me as a child and crave that innocence that I once knew; the capability to eat a piece of cake without knowing every single ingredient and each nutrition fact to the decimal. So to wrap up this entry, no, this movie is not glorifying eating disorders, rather it is showing the demon that they truly are. We can’t let men, women, girls, boys, young or old, straight or not, black or white suffer alone and in silence. So it’s time to know what an eating disorder is and NOT by experiencing it yourself.

Denim Day

This post is dedicated to all survivors of sexual assault and rape, as well as those who have experienced any form of sexual harassment or violation.

In 1992, a woman in Italy was horribly raped and violated by her driving instructor. She was brave enough to talk to her family and eventually the authorities about it and made the decision to press charges. The rapist was originally sentenced and convicted of this terrible crime until the case reached the Italian Supreme Court in 1998 where it was overturned. Why was it overturned, you ask? Because her jeans were too tight. I’m not joking. That was their reasoning. Her jeans were too tight for the man to take them off himself so therefore it must have been consensual. I am sure this is shocking to all of you reading this. But people did not stay silent about that case, or any of the other cases that plague America and our world. Today is Denim Day, a day where women and men across the world unite and speak out against sexual violence. Peace Over Violence, a phenomenal organization that promotes this work says it best, “Wear jeans with a purpose, support survivors, and educate yourself and others about sexual assault” Sexual assault and rape is not a joke. It is not something that only happens in the bad parts of town or just to one race or age group. Sexual assault and rape is on college campuses, among friend groups, on high school campuses, and in the safest of neighborhoods. Every 98 seconds an American is sexually assaulted, and that is just in America. That does not include the millions of people on this earth being forced into sex slavery, constantly having their bodies violated and choices stripped from them every day. That does not include the women that live in the 195 other countries on this earth. As someone who has been the victim of sexual harassment as well as sexual assault, I can say that wearing denim today is more than just a fashion statement. When I put on my jeans this morning I was able to do so with pride in myself as well as others for surviving the horrors that they have experienced. When I put on my jeans this morning the person that sexually harassed and the person that sexually assaulted me, lost. They did not have the power over me. Yes the words of the boy that sexually harassed me are forever ingrained in my mind, but he does not have to win. I am proud to be a survivor and I am proud to wear these jeans. Last year I almost missed denim day as I was locked up in treatment and my eating disorder told me I was too fat to wear jeans. But I did it. I did it for myself and the women in this world that do not have a say and that have not found justice. I put them on and I will continue to do so each year, not just on denim day, but any day. Because I am a woman, and I happen to have an ass, and my body is not an object for men’s pleasure; because I am proud of what I have overcome and because I know there is a brighter future for me. The simple act of wearing jeans is a phenomenal encouragement and reminder that we stand united, as women, our body, our choice. There is no excuse and NEVER an invitation to rape. So next time you slip into your jeans, think about the impact that they have, think about the importance of them, think about the power that you hold to make this world a better and safer place where women are not constantly worried about their safety or walking down the street.

 

Denim Day – Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Peace Over Violence:

http://www.peaceoverviolence.org/

http://denimdayinfo.org/

 

Common Application: Being Vulnerable to people I don’t even know

I’m not going to lie, the college process sucks. For months I sat hunched over my computer staring at a blank word document trying to figure out what the heck I was going to say to these people that I don’t even know. I had to be vulnerable, but couldn’t show that I was “messed up”, I had to show my strength, but not come off as too cocky. I had to display what I was proud of, but also maintain humility. They told me to brag, but in a respectful way. They told me to show them who I really was, so I did. Considering I got denied from my top 9 choices, I don’t know if I did something wrong or if this is just how the college process is nowadays. Now don’t get me wrong, I will be going somewhere next year and with my positivity I will make the best of it, but what about all my work? My tears that I poured into each word of my essays were tossed out of the window due to a “low” (but actually really good GPA). My thoughts and ideas were dumped because I couldn’t score as high on my ACT as the statistics wants to maintain. I was angry. I cried more tears because I just received denial after denial after denial – just more reinforcements that I was a failure. But I’m not a failure. I am proud of the work that I did so I want to share it with you. Here is my common application essay. I sent it to 7 seven schools, got denied from all but 1 one of them but I am still proud of my work! So here it is. Completely vulnerable and raw (oh and under 650 words!) Please enjoy 🙂

Landing at LAX, clutching my US passport, I began to cry as I walked out of the terminal and saw my parents sprinting towards me; I didn’t know my mom could run so fast! My parents cried too, but for a different reason. They could see it in my face and eyes: I was sicker than they thought. My first stop was home, but quickly after came the doctor’s office. My time in France was supposed to be the greatest nine months of my life. I would finally find fluency in the language to which I had dedicated four years, make new friends, and of course eat the delicious French pastries. Instead, I got sick. I sat in the doctor’s office as the word “anorexia” rang in my ears, combined with the sounds of my mother’s sobs. Then the doctor said an even scarier word that left a sour taste in my mouth and a knotted feeling in my gut: treatment.

Entering high school, I had a plan. I would go to school, do my work, become president of Young Life, and go to my dream school. I would wake up, succeed, and learn. I never anticipated the way high school actually was. I did not expect that I would study abroad and I especially did not imagine myself in a treatment center or missing class for therapy appointments. After sophomore year, my life took a turn. I embarked on my year abroad in France where I would learn another language and appreciate a new culture. Inspired by my school’s Global Initiatives Program, I chose to pursue a path that involved four years of language study, service learning, and discussions on global conflicts. When I started my year with SYA, everything seemed lined up for success. Struggles with eating cut my “year” abroad short. Initially, all I could think about was my plan. It did not matter to me that I had almost died nor did I recognize that my mind and body were suffering greatly. I wanted to be back in school, taking classes, and preparing for college — just like everybody else. That was the problem though, I am not like everyone else and my high school experience wasn’t going to be like everyone else’s. At first, I viewed this as a setback. I sobbed in my first college counseling meeting, thinking that success was eluding me. But talking to other patients about their experiences and observing their varied responses, I realized my options: succumb or use my experiences to help others. I chose the latter, and my parents’ love and my faith sustained me. I worked for my recovery because it was important to me that I be my healthiest self — I had dreams I wanted to see through. In treatment, I came to understand the importance of a healthy body and healthy mind to fuel a healthy life, full of hope and anticipation. My eating disorder was the hardest thing I have gone through, it was an uphill battle with no breaks or room to breathe, but I would not change it. Through reflection, I proved to myself that I had not failed; I had not allowed the “bumps” in my journey to derail my plan. In treatment, I (re)gained a sense of worth and purpose. I learned things about myself that I would never have learned otherwise, such as the strength, independence, stamina, resilience, and perseverance that I possess. As a senior, I returned to my school, friends and teachers, and I chose to turn my struggle into something positive. I started a body image club at my school where boys and girls talk about society’s affect on how we view ourselves. As I look ahead to college and moving away from home, I know my grit, personal growth, open-mindedness, compassion, and fascination with languages and global engagement have prepared me for great experiences.

To the people who hate themselves…

To the people who hate themselves…

If I asked you who told you all these lies that run through your head, the terrible comments and putdowns, the hateful words, that flood your mind when you look in a mirror or walk down a street, could you give me a name? I’m serious! Who is creating the standards that are forcing men and women into eating disorders in order to feel accepted. Who is the person that is making your only way to cope cutting yourself up, until your skin is raw and bloody. Can you tell me why you don’t think you’re beautiful or why you think your butt is too full of cellulite or why your stomach has a couple too many rolls or your legs are too jiggly? Who created the standards? Who says a size 2 is the only one people can wear? They make size 14s and 16s and 18s and beyond because HUMANS wear those sizes too. Because every human on this corrupt and brainwashing planet is goddamn beautiful. Because living your life munching on kale is no way to live. To the people who hate themselves, can you tell me why? My best friend in the whole world is the most loving, thoughtful, attractive, caring, and wonderful human being – so why does she hate what she sees every time she passes by a mirror. My other friend works his ass off all day long – no room to breathe, no space to relax but each goal that is missed, each grade below an A, each note not perfectly hit, each plan gone wrong, it’s himself he hates. Tell me why no matter how many times someone compliments me I will only continue to hear my own internal dialogue – society that has plagued me and made me its own robot. To the people who hate themselves, can you give me ONE reason not related to a grade, or a weight, or a body type, or an event that really wasn’t your fault but you think it is, one JUSTIFIABLE reason for you to hate yourself. Perfection is a lie.

According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary “perfect” adj: having ALL the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics. (and) verb: make (something) completely free from faults or defects, or as close to such a condition as possible.

I don’t know about you, but do you know anyone on this entire PLANET that fits that description? If you think you do, wrong. But it’s ok to be stubborn! Perfection is unattainable but you already exist. You all, yourselves are phenomenal people. You don’t need societies standards (or fulfill) them to be human, you already are human. So finally…

To all the people who hate themselves – there is no formula where you can plug in a, b, or c and BAM! conclusion reached! No one deserves to hate themselves. We came into this world and were handed terms and conditions that we really did not agree to sign. But fortunately there is no legal binding to this bullsh*t! So to all the people who hate themselves – it won’t last forever. Perfection is not real or achievable but you are already AMAZING the way you are.

So folks, it is better to be YOU than to be PERFECT. That would be boring anyways wouldn’t it?

This post is dedicated to Leaky, JL, and Bling 2. Couldn’t live without you all!

The Descent Down and the Climb Back Up: My lifelong journey of happiness, self-love, and utter confusion

For my English final this year we were asked to write about our journey through Poly. This is my story. Please enjoy!

 

6 am is the earliest I had woken up in a long time. The sun was not up, the birds were not chirping, and Oswald wasn’t even on yet; was there a point to being awake? My mom rushed around the house trying to get my sister to stop crying and attempting to get me to wear something that matched; apparently striped rainbow pants and a polka dot t-shirt doesn’t go together, but to my four-year-old mind, I looked great! I walked out to the kitchen sporting my outfit proudly and grabbed my orange bucket hat off the table; this completes every look! My mom let out a big sigh, but what was she going to do? It was my first day of Pre-K and man did I look good; there would be no getting me to change my stubborn mind. I sat down at the table fully expecting my daily plate of heaping pancakes with syrup on the side but instead I was greeted with toast. “TOAST!” I screamed. My mom obviously couldn’t deal with my complaining because she shot me a look of death and next thing I know the toast was in my hand and I was gladly eating it. I was shuffled outside mid-bite to take my first day of school picture. I hated pictures and my mom hated that I looked like a wreck in all of them, “Just one decent one for the grandparents, please?” I didn’t know what she was talking about; my frizzy hair and sleepy eyes were beautiful. That is the last compliment I remember giving myself. It seems like the day I started school was the day that I began the descent into self-doubt and self-hate. Each day the compliments that I gave myself dwindled and the flaws I saw in my body, my mind, and my actions became more apparent.

My first day at Poly is a vivid memory. I sat on a bright rainbow rug (the green row, obviously) and we read a book about animals. I ate my peanut butter sandwich (with no crusts, of course!) and was the tagger in PE. So young and innocent, an authentic smile plastered across my face, and real laughter shooting from my mouth. As time went on, however, that smiled faded and the laughter became forceful. As I made my physical journey from Pre-K to kindergarten to first grade and finally to second grade, I was also making a mental journey as well. A few days ago I found my journal from second grade and wow did I have awful handwriting. That’s not the point though (even though it seemed like I was decoding the Rosetta Stone), one of my journal entries went like this:

Dear Dairy (commentary: yes I called my diary “Dairy” it was her special name and I felt hilarious for coming up with it),

I am already in second grade. I am getting so old! So basically I have learned a lot about states and Indians wait no native americans (sorry Mrs. Ganter) and puffins too they’re a bird which is cool (I’m a very deep child, can’t you tell?) (due to privacy I have removed her name) (she was a girl at my school who I was utterly jealous of) is still the prettiest girl. I’m just the fat one so we need to figure out something to do about that. My legs spill over the chair in class and my belly jiggles when I play tag with the other girls. I eat too much chocolate. I’ll only eat one piece a day instead of four that’s smart. Ok well I Hannah Montana is on so I have to go now!!! BYYYYYY (I really didn’t know how to spell “bye” but I do know so at least we made that progression).

I was shocked. Not actually that shocked but I was sad. Had my seven-year-old self really had those thoughts? Has it really been ten years of hating myself? Second grade flew by though, as did the rest of lower school. I kept to myself most of the time. I didn’t eat as much chocolate and made my mom buy wheat bread. I navigated through school by hiding in classrooms and bathroom stalls. I conversed with teachers instead of students and read stories of people’s lives instead of living my own; I was too scared of what might happen. I cringed through fourth grade as my test scores were announced in the front of the class, and no it wasn’t because they were good, and my papers were handed back to me with sad faces on them. I powered my way through fifth grade year just hoping that middle school would be better and spoiler alert, it really was not.

I entered sixth grade with a sense of excitement: free dress, a new schedule, different teachers, and new friends. The first month was fun but those feeling quickly dwindled as girls in my grade started bringing in fresh pressed juice, had skinny jeans that hugged their perfectly thin thighs, and my incapability of doing math became blatantly obvious. I found myself making daily trips to my mom’s office so I could have someone to talk to. I was alone and I thought I didn’t mind it, but I realized more and more over time that being alone is not “normal”. Sixth and seventh grade were blurs, and I’d prefer to keep them that way. I got braces (which were not as cool as I thought they would be), my boobs got so big I was nicknamed DD (for my size, later changed to GG, not my proudest moment), and I had this knot in my hair that forced me to wear a bun everyday with a bow on top; I was basically a Flintstone!

Eighth grade is not so much a blur but rather, it was a series of unfortunate events strung together on loop in my memory. If you know me, you know that I am always looking for the next “thing”, and as much as I hate that word it is so true. In lower school ALL I wanted was to be in middle school but once I got to middle school ALL I wanted to be was in high school and so on. I was never content in my place and the event in eighth grade definitely catalyzed that feeling. My dad went to school at the crack of dawn, so it became my habit as well. I didn’t mind it though; I played games on the computer, g-chatted with my friends (yikes, still can’t believe I thought that was cool), and read books in the library. One morning however, I logged onto my email and found an email from an anonymous account. I opened the email and found the most vulgar, sexually explicit, and vivid descriptions of my body, what this person was going to do to it, and how my body made them feel. Each and every word is stuck in my mind like glue. I felt so dirty. I ran to my math teacher and cried in her arms. I didn’t know what I had done to provoke this. I wore long cargo shorts and big t-shirts to school everyday. I never showed my legs, or my chest, or my belly or anything. I hid my body because I hated it and now I began to hate it even more. This event sparked everything for me. So small tangent but it’s relevant, when stonecutters are hammering away at their stone and they make tiny blows with no crack, but then all of a sudden the one hundredth blow splits the stone right in two, it was not that last blow that split the stone, but rather a combination of all the blows together. That was how it was (is) for me. Tiny little blows to my self-esteem, my intelligence, my self-love built up a sensitivity that was then ripped a part by this one incident.

My journey from that point on was a painful one. I spent the rest of eighth grade

in my mom’s office. I was angry and sad, but most of all I was numb. I didn’t know how to react to something like this. My innocent thirteen-year-old mind had been plagued by the sexual fantasies of a boy and his dick. I entered high school and the competition became more apparent. My internal struggle externalized itself and manifested in ways that I would later have to face. I spent my days in the bathroom or strolling through Whole Foods reading labels, making sure my sugar and caloric content remained at a minimum. My nickname of GG faded as I became known as “the health nut”. I was introduced to the gym and the idea of exercising and never looked back. But I still didn’t like myself. I blamed it on Poly, on my parents, on my sister, for God’s sake I probably blamed in on my dog, I was so unhappy. Every morning was a struggle to get me out of bed, get clothes on my body, and get me into the car. My grades were awful and I started my descent into nothingness. This part of my pilgrimage is the part where it is negative 10 degrees, your tent blew away, your oxygen mask is running out, and a storm is coming. Everything piled on at once. I didn’t want to deal with it so I decided I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t spend another day sitting in the science bathroom stall eating my lunch. I wouldn’t spend another day hunched over my desk pulling my fat. And I most definitely wouldn’t spend another day at this school. So I left.

When I applied to go to France I thought it would be the greatest year of my life. No parents, no one telling me what to do, and most importantly, no Poly. When it came time to leave, however, I really didn’t want to go, but I didn’t want to stay either (this is why men say women are complicated). My time in France was cut short, as I was suicidal and on the brink of death. My pilgrimage through life had done a complete 180 and led me straight into Tartarus. Surprisingly enough, when I returned home all I wanted was to go back to Poly. I realized all the things I had missed about it, the teachers, Arden lawn, the big lockers, and the music blasting on the patios. That desire could not become a reality as treatment decided to claim me as its own. So off I went, to some white picket fenced house up in La Cañada where I stuffed myself silly and talked about my feelings, it was just GREAT! Without treatment however, I would not be experiencing senior year as I am now. I would probably be in a hospital bed somewhere with a feeding tube stuffed down my nose, or worse, dead. Instead, I am at school. I go to class, I have applied to college, and I laugh with my friends.

Back when I was struggling with my eating disorder, my goal was always a weight or a certain body type. When I was in middle school my goal was always to either get an A or be as pretty as the other girls. My goal now is simply, happiness. I look at my past experiences not with anger, regret, or sadness, but rather I look at it as lessons learned and memories made, whether they were good or bad. I am still working on my goal, it will be a long journey with more bumps in the road, but I can see my destination now. I am living for myself, as well as others, and not just for the approval from others. I want to help others, as that feeds into my happiness. My body image club, SPEAK (self perception, esteem, acceptance, kindness), is one way I want to reach out and let other people know that they don’t have to have the same experiences I did. I have dreams and aspirations now that reach further than a number on a scale or a test score. I want to become a doctor not because I want to show off to my peers, but rather because I want to use the talents I have been given to help those who truly need it. My life today is still full of ups and downs the only difference now is I’ve got past experiences to let me gently go through the downs and then fiercely pull me up. I don’t go to the science bathroom anymore to cry or purge, instead I go to pee. I sit in my dad’s office working on a biology lab or talking through his lessons instead of sobbing into his shoulder. I eat plenty of chocolate because one piece isn’t enough (and plus, it’s good for your heart!) I am living because the journey that my body and mind has endured, while painful, is a beautiful one and one that will continue to carry me every day.