Dear Mom and Dad,
Let me begin by saying that I know you love me. I know you have always loved me. I have never doubted that, but I question how, at times, you chose to express that love.
You have both always been small, so when I, your first daughter began to gain weight at an early age it alarmed you both.
I know now that you only wanted me to be healthy, but at the time I truly believed that I was your greatest disappointment. That you were ashamed of me, that as long as I was chubby I was deeply flawed. From the outside it seemed as if I had the perfect childhood, you would never say the things you said to me in front of others. We had to keep up the appearance of perfection, which means everything was discussed behind closed doors.
Perfection comes at a cost, and the cost is what I alone have had to bear.
I know you do not or cannot remember the things you said to be during those years when I was “bigger”, but unlike you I cannot un-hear and forget the statements that have forever left their mark on me.
Do you remember that shirt with the ice cream cone on it that I loved so much? Do you remember how when I wore it for my school pictures in third grade you made me re-take them because it “just didn’t sit right on me”?
Do you remember telling me in the fifth grade before I started middle school that I still had time to lose weight before we swam for gym class? Wouldn’t I want to look good in my bathing suit?
I wish I could forget those things, I wish I could say that they did not impact me the way they did, but if that were true then I would not be writing this right now.
Mom, do you know why I waited over a year to tell you I could not see the board in sixth grade? You told me that if I ate sugar that I would get diabetes. More than just that, you told me that I would know I had diabetes because I would begin to go blind and eventually have to get my legs amputated. So, when I suddenly could no longer read the board in class I thought you were right. I thought I had diabetes. I spent all of sixth grade unable to read the board because I was too afraid to say something.
My entire childhood was shaped around trying to lose weight. From being forced to play every sport, only to quit and have you find a new method to get me to lose weight. To the diet you put me on in ninth grade that was so strict I had to make up excuses to tell my friends why I couldn’t go out to eat with them ever.
Even though you never said the things that mom did, I could hear you whispering to mom about me behind closed doors.
I know it was you who told her to take me to countless doctors to try to find something medically wrong with me which would explain why I was bigger.
In some ways that was worse. I didn’t realize at first that you were also ashamed of me, until I would hear you talking to mom. Or you would remind me that I don’t need dessert, and wouldn’t I be happier if I played sports that you knew I hated.
Mom and Dad:
Fast Forward to my junior year in high school, something shifted in me. I downloaded my first calorie counting app, began eating less, and increased how long I spent at the gym you had forced me to join. I did exactly what you always wanted. I lost the weight.
I thought I had finally achieved the one thing you wanted for me. I thought you would be proud. I wanted so badly for you to be proud, to accept me, but you never acknowledged it. Not until it got out of control. You see, I spent so long trying to be who I thought you wanted that I lost myself. I couldn’t stop.
During the brief period where I was happy and healthy, you never told me you were proud. Even if the scale had said I lost weight, because I never received the validation I so desperately needed from you, I couldn’t see it. Thus, I couldn’t stop. Every time I looked in the mirror I saw the short chubby girl who had nightmares of going blind from diabetes.
So I didn’t stop.
I watched the number go down each day. The only thing I cared about was losing weight. I didn’t care that I lost everything in the process.
I thought I had finally done what you wanted, but I was wrong. You yelled at me, told me to “stop already with this bullshit”, that “enough was enough”. How was I supposed to see that coming? I thought you would be proud, I thought I was finally becoming the daughter you wanted.
I was wrong. Again.
You told me that people were talking about me, asking if I was okay and what had happened to me. You got angry because I had shattered the illusion of perfection, again. Only this time I thought you would be proud.
All I ever wanted was to be enough for you. What I’ve learned is that there is no such thing as “enough”. I just wish the cost of that lesson wasn’t an eating disorder.