My whole life, all I’ve ever felt and known was my body. I’ve loved it but mostly have hated it, silently and unknowingly. I have always felt disconnected from my physical self and it’s something that I have struggled with forever. I don’t know any different.

I grew up in a world where my body was quietly accepted, but not praised. As I was growing up, I soon realized that my role as a woman was to be looked at and I began to understand that if I wasn’t someone who others agreed should be looked at, it was better for me to hide. I’ve always felt like I was 10 steps behind and there wasn’t any reason for me to try and catch up because it would only require sacrifice and hurt.

I ignored my body for the longest time and thought that it was acceptance. This is what I was and there was no point in grueling over a change. With the deep disconnect I felt, I also felt this need to stay the same. I was above changing my body.

When I was 16, I slipped into an eating disorder --- anorexia. No one noticed and I wasn’t too sure either, because it just looked like I was losing weight and becoming “healthy”. For someone of my size, losing 60 pounds wasn’t alarming, it was courageous and admirable. I finally looked average and was inching towards the line of thin. I fit in. I was easier to look at.

I’ll be honest, the term anorexia embarrassed me. At my lowest weight, I looked average. I didn’t look sick. How could I assume that label and still not look as skinny as the girls I was surrounded by? I thought that my weight loss, (whether it was intentional or not, because I’m still not really sure) would make me feel better and more confident and more willing to be looked at. It had an opposite effect. I still hid. I still avoided mirrors. I still picked out every single part of my physical reflection. Even now it’s hard for me to look at pictures of myself from that time and not feel jealous. I constantly am reminding myself that the change in my physical self didn’t warrant a mental shift, too.

I have this idea in my head (that I’m sure is not specific to only me) that for me to be liked, I must be small and digestible. I have never felt like taking up space is something that a woman (only me, really) should do. As I grow I only get bigger, not physically but entirely. I’m not something that was meant to be packaged up and given out in small doses.

For the past 20 years of my life, I have been hiding. There are moments when I get a glimpse of myself and it’s beautiful and shiny -- but there’s always an echo that follows, taking it all away.

This past week has been specifically hard and I can’t pinpoint why. I’m still nowhere near acceptance but I have gotten softer. I don’t know what my purpose is in typing all of this and then posting it for the world. I think that having it written down and reflected back to me might help me in some strange way --- I’m not sure. Vulnerability is an act of constantly revealing parts of yourself and having it echoed back to you. This is a part of me that I’ve been hiding for some time and I just don’t want to keep it inside anymore. My body has been through enough.