There’s something so powerful in honesty and vulnerability.
Society teaches women to be quiet, to take up less space, to accommodate and compromise, to be “modest” and “pure,” to “be humble” and not gloat. Fuck that – it’s time we scream our truths as loud as we can and I stand my ground as the fucking warrior I am.
I went to a small Catholic High School in Marin County, California. During high school, I was bullied by almost our entire high school campus. Within the first few days of Freshman year, people would walk down the halls laughing at me, pointing at me and whispering “that’s her.” They’d say “slut” as I walked by or something in the same vein. All because of a rumor that had somehow caught on and spread throughout the school. I was too afraid for my mom to get involved because I thought the retaliation of my bullies getting in trouble would be unbearable. My house was tp’ed, “egged” over four times, and I had about 50+ notes dropped off on our front porch. I didn’t feel safe in my own home – I’d have panic attacks from the sound of the doorbell at nighttime. I was a cheerleader and quit the team because kids from other schools would yell things at me from the bleachers. The bullying lasted into my sophomore year of high school until enough was enough – and my parents installed security cameras and started to catch people. There would be nights that I would lay up crying hysterically, asking, “How did this happen to me? Why did these kids pick me as their focus?” My sweet mom just held me and cried with me every time. To this day, those years are the hardest I had to endure. I wanted so badly to disappear, to move through the school halls unnoticed without someone saying something to me, calling me a name. I wish so badly this was an exaggeration of how bad it was.
Bullying led to me to severe anxiety – anxiety about what everyone was saying about me, anxiety about what people thought of me, anxiety about school/friends/everything. Was I ever going to be able to be at school without the noise of bullies bombarding me? I became afraid and quiet. The endless taunting of the other students at my school pushed me into a corner, a corner I so desperately was my own where no one else could see me or talk to me. My senior year of high school, I suffered from bulimia. I was consumed by my ED, destroying my own body to try and make others like me/approve of me, my ED being my subconscious/anxiety grasping for some sort of control in my life. Perhaps if I was prettier an older boy would notice me and protect me from the onslaught of insults I had to endure daily? Perhaps if I was pretty enough, cool enough, skinny enough, they would accept me or just at least stop commenting on me. Perhaps if I really put my mind to it, I could be enough. I felt a lot of self hatred in those years. I blamed myself for everything, for all the bullying and came to accept that I somehow deserved it all. I disciplined my body and punished myself.
I did my research on how to have a “good” eating disorder, one that no one else could notice – how to toe the line of an eating disorder so that my teeth didn’t turn brown and my hair didn’t fall out. I disguised it all in the veil of being vegan, a publicly acceptable way to restrict what you eat. People at school gave me compliments when the weight started falling off. I remember so specifically one of my friends mom’s saying i looked “incredible” and asked how i lost my “baby weight” (i weighed only 120lbs small before my ED, so there really wasn’t much to loose).
One night after a long session of binging and purging, I cried in my room for hours before building up the courage to go and tell my mom, “I need help, badly. I think I have an eating disorder.” My mom saved my life – my parents responded appropriately and swiftly, getting me the help i needed. But what I realize now is that asking for help was the hardest part, speaking up and telling someone about this deep, dark secret I kept — but that was the start of me finding my strength. I remember feeling so vulnerable and scared in that moment; I wish then I knew then how proud of myself I should be.
My ED brought me to yoga as my path to healing. It was on my yoga mat that I discovered my own power and my own strength. I meditated, I sat in my own discomfort, and I cried and I cried and I cried. But slowly I began to untangle my own brain web of anxiety, depression and trauma. I began to see that I am a fucking powerful woman, that I am a survivor of my ED, that my physical body is AMAZING and makes things possible for me (hiking, yoga, climbing, walking my dog). That everything from all those kids at school was just noise, it was someone else’s thoughts about me, and that I didn’t need to listen to them at all. What I do need to listen to is my heart and myself, and to never ever forget how strong I am. I conquered my mental health and overcame an ED that once had a choke hold on me. I began reading books and realizing that we live in a culture obsessed with women’s bodies and how thin they are. I realized I, like so many women, fell into the trap that thinness = happiness. That if I was thin and pretty, then maybe I could just be a “normal” student at school. After feeling so helpless and silenced, I was able to heal and find myself again.
In 2014 I participated in Steve’s “what I be” project and wrote across my forehead “Never ending battle” revealing my most vulnerable secret to the world (well the Facebook world). I hadn’t told anyone about my ED – not my dad, not my best friends, no one. But in that project, I had to claim my truth and my battles. I was terrified to reveal this secret about me, but it was the most powerful experience. After what felt like showing the most vulnerable side of me, I found a new strength. After that day, I didn’t engage in any eating disorder behaviors again and still haven’t. There’s something so powerful in honesty and vulnerability. But I realized that power wasn’t Steve or the photo, it was me. I was the power behind that photo and behind my own story.
I am queer. I am hapa. I am a powerful woman because I live my fucking truth. I am a powerful woman because I asked for help when I desperately needed it. I am a powerful woman because I am alive and I am here.