By Brittany Jackson
This relates more to that weird, limbo sort of stage that occurs after being considered “recovered” when you’ve been able to break free of the behaviors but the thoughts still linger. The initial stages of recovery are so, so difficult—I’m definitely not saying they aren’t—but I really wasn’t expecting the struggles that would follow even after I was physically “healthy”. I thought of recovery as an event rather than a process; it would be a one-time thing that I would have to struggle through, but then the pain would subside. Forever. I thought life would become a place where food anxiety and weight obsession didn’t exist. Now, I’m not sure if I really, genuinely believed this to be true… I think it was more of a desperate hope that I tried to make myself believe. The hardest part of recovery for me, as I feel it probably is with many, is the weight gain. This aspect varies so much with every individual; some don’t experience weight gain because it wasn’t medically needed, and some experience a greater amount. Each human body is so individually tailored to the person dwelling inside of it, and that was hard for me to accept.
The world of social media was what I relied on to feel better. I began following a lot of “recovery” accounts in order to feel understood to some degree. There’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting to keep up with people on social media who appear to be in a similar situation as yourself, but similarity often breeds comparison. Instead of focusing on the comforting feeling of, “Hey, this person gets it. They’re struggling too. I’m not alone,” I began scrutinizing my own body in comparison to the people I followed. I began wondering why I was gaining weight faster than this Instagram account, and whether I should eat more vegetables like that Instagram account. I began measuring my worth in terms of how I measured up to these accounts. I rarely left the house once I started doing that.
Simple things like going to class became harder because comparison had become my only way of thinking about the people around me. The more I stayed at home, the more I had time to think about how much I thought I didn’t measure up to everyone else. I turned to Instagram because I had nothing else to do; I was too intimidated by the world to leave my house for anything other than school and I was desperate for any kind of human connection. I closed myself into the world of the internet, and for someone dealing with the pain and adjustment that weight gain can bring…. well. The internet wasn’t really an ideal place to go for comfort.
One night I realized how low I actually felt. My room was a mess of clothes that I had abandoned with tear-stained cheeks after realizing nothing fit me anymore. I thought about how the girls I followed on Instagram could probably still wear the same jeans they had worn months before while I would be forced to buy a new wardrobe. I felt trapped in my body and my house because I was too ashamed to leave it. Once I began making myself do more things with my family that I had previously tried to avoid, I realized how big the world is. I saw people of all different body types, wearing all different types of clothes, eating all kinds of different things living their lives and having fun with the people they love. I had been isolating myself for such a long time that I lost sight of what my life was supposed to be about—people, experiences, memories.
I can have all of these things no matter what I look like. I’m healthier now, and that alone gives me a better chance at having a life of wonderful quality. A life spent obsessing over appearances and macronutrient ratios doesn’t leave room for much happiness or chances to have beautiful experiences with beautiful people. The world is so big, but the world of the internet can make it seem so small. When I stayed home and scrolled mindlessly through my Instagram feed, I felt as though the entirety of the world was smaller than me, had more willpower than me, and was just generally better than me. I saw the world through the lens of perfection—a place where people could manipulate how they appear to the world. Social media isn’t inherently bad by any means, but when it begins warping your perception of what the world really is or how beautifully diverse its inhabitants are…then it can get dangerous. Getting out of my house and into the world helped me realize that weight gain is okay, looking like I did was okay, and eating what I ate was normal. The beauty of diversity is that everyone is different, making comparison inevitably unfruitful. I’m me, that girl on Instagram is her, and that man in the mall food court is him. Neither is better because of what they look like or what they eat, and making myself leave the comfort of my room was the only thing that allowed me to see this truth in action.
Brittany aims to empower women struggling with self-esteem and body-image through her writing. After struggling with various forms of eating disorders throughout adolescence and young adulthood, she now channels her passion for writing into spreading a message of compassion and love towards those enduring similar struggles. She is a contributing writer for thebeautybean.com, and is also working on her first novel that features a young female protagonist with body dysmorphic disorder. Brittany also writes about her own personal journey with self-love and body-image on her blog, www.beautyreinterpreted.com with the intention of redefining what it really means to be beautiful.