Caution: The subject of Eating Disorders and Body Image is raised in this post, so proceed with caution if that is a trigger for you. I promise that there are purposely no numbers included. No weights, no sizes.
That pair of jeans has been hanging in my wardrobe for a long time. A very long time! When I take them to the Red Cross shop next week, I am sure they will be sent to the ‘vintage’ section. They are ‘hipsters‘ (before hipsters had their cool phase) and not ‘skinny‘ as we know ‘skinny jeans‘. But they are ‘skinny‘ in all the wrong ways.
I am clearing out my wardrobe. It’s something I occasionally do, but I’ve always resisted clearing out this particular pair. You know how some items of clothing you just can’t bear to part with? Well this pair have fit into that category, regardless of the fact that it is many years since they fit me.
I bought this pair of jeans from what was known as a ‘Labels‘ second hand shop. They were meant to be the good quality clothes, and this particular shop was one of my favourites. I didn’t know I had a brewing case of Anorexia Nervosa at the time I bought these jeans. I just thought I was fit and slim. Actually I was too fit (read over-exercising) and too slim (yes, there very definitely is such a thing). It’s just that no doctor had yet the chance to raise the issue at that time.
As I lost more weight, I thought I was finally starting to look ok. ‘Ok‘ is as far as I’d go because I still hated what I saw in the mirror. Actually no matter how much weight I lost, and how loose the jeans became, I still couldn’t like what I saw in the mirror. I could slide the jeans off without undoing them, but I didn’t see a problem. I didn’t appreciate it when a doctor finally raised the issue.
Eventually the jeans were too big, but I held onto them anyway. But then in time, I started eating again, simply to keep the doctor quiet. He had constantly been telling me I needed to put on weight. He told me I looked terrible. He saved my life. Unfortunately friends continued to tell me that I looked great. I can’t hold my friends responsible for my eating disorder, but they really didn’t help.
The jeans? Well in time, and I’m talking a long time, the jeans finally became too small, and the doctor was pleased. I, on the other hand, was not pleased and I had learned nothing of
disordered eating and positive body image. I admit that I’d only learnt to eat so that the doctor would drop the subject.
And that was a long time ago. Since then I my diagnosis was changed to Eating Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (ED-NOS), which meant my weight was normal but I still had issues of disordered eating. It’s still the same today, but no one (read no health professionals) talk about it now. And the jeans have continued to hang in my wardrobe.
I couldn’t part with them. The jeans nearly fit again when over-exercising (read too much running) featured in my life again. I admit I was very happy. You see, in spite of all the therapy I went through, there was a part of me (that I couldn’t express) who wanted to wear those jeans again. And I certainly hadn’t learnt anything.
For some very warped reasoning, those jeans spelled ‘healthy’ in my mind. And perhaps because once my weight was ‘normal‘ again (and even ‘over weight’ in time) no one was interested in helping me with my disorder. No one was interested in helping re-assign what ‘healthy‘ really meant. Unfortunately when the physical was dealt with, there was no interest in helping me with the emotional. One thing I know now is that is completely the wrong way to treat an eating disorder, but I had to learn that for myself.
So those jeans continued to hang in the wardrobe. I simply couldn’t consider discarding them. Yes, a part of me knew I would never be that size again, and I never should be that size again, but another part silently couldn’t wish that size good-bye.
But it’s come time to shrink down my wardrobe. Soon I will be shifting out of my home for five months while earthquake damage is repaired, and so the less I have in my wardrobe, the less I have to shift.
This time it came easy to give up that pair of jeans (and a whole lot of other clothes). I doubt that my issues have necessarily become any healthier, but time really does heal. And this time I can put them in the box to take to the shop.
I was never going to wear those jeans again, so it’s time to let go.
“Food is something I am going to have to face at least three times a day for the rest of my life. And I am not perfect. But one really bad day does not mean that I am hopeless and back at square one with my eating disorder. Olympic ice skaters fall in their quest for the gold. Heisman Trophy winners throw interceptions. Professional singers forget the words. And people with eating disorders sometimes slip back into an old pattern. But all of these individuals just pick themselves back up and do the next right thing. The ice skater makes the next jump. The football player throws the next pass. The singer finishes the song. And I am going to eat breakfast.”
― Jenni Schaefer, Life Without Ed: How One Woman Declared Independence from Her Eating Disorder and How You Can Too