The months and years following that bus ride proved to be the best (depending on how you view it) and the worst of times for me. The best if you view Jr. High and High School years through the common rose colored glasses showing popularity, cheerleading and boyfriends as the ticket to a great adolescent experience. The worst if you know the behind the scenes personal turmoil of someone with an eating disorder.
Psychology Today states the following:
"Eating disorders are very complex, and despite scientific research to understand them, the biological, behavioral and social underpinnings of these illnesses remain elusive. Eating disorders frequently develop during adolescence or early adulthood, but some reports indicate their onset can occur during childhood or later in adulthood. Many adolescents are able to hide these behaviors from their family for months or years."
This is very true. Many of my friends and family still, to this day, do not realize this is a very real issue that was lived right in front of them.
After the bus ride, I went home and spoke with my mom about my weight. Many moms want to help their chubby children lose weight because in our society being thin or "fit" is acceptable and being large is not. This is proven true when a larger person starts losing weight and is praised and celebrated for that reason - losing weight.
This is what happened to me, I lost weight with my 1/2 a sandwich and apple diet and was praised, celebrated, accepted, no longer teased, became more popular and attracted more boys. All of this helped me deal with my abandonment issues although not in a healthy way. I was controlling my circumstances (becoming thin) to have people (friends, boys even family) stick around and give me approval.
I decided to stay thin at any cost.
Photo Credit: Robert J. La Verghetta
Chubby, but no longer the tallest, feeling less like a freak, still chasing boys but overall not too miserable about my body image. This was me in 7th grade until one day on the bus. Typical Florida day, hot, windows down (we had no AC on the buses back then) it was a crowded, rowdy, loud bus full of kids. I remember it so clearly. It was one of those moments in life when everything slowed around me and all the noise became a low mumbled humming. I felt like a magnifying glass zoomed in on me and the surrounding activity blurred. At that moment one thing became clear to me - "Big Fat White Albino".
A boy on the bus stood up and held up a piece of notebook paper. On that paper was a hand drawn picture of a round, very round, person and written above the round person were the words "Heidi is a Big Fat White Albino". Not only did he hold up this paper he shouted out the words as he held it up. Laughter burst out. I said nothing. We were coming to a stop, thankfully it was my stop, and I got off the bus and went home in a daze. My guess is, this boy and the kids on the bus probably don't even remember this moment, this pivotal moment in my life.
That night I spoke with my mom about my weight. I don't remember if it was the first time we spoke about it or not. It probably went something like this. "Mom, I want to lose weight." There was no discussion about the bus or what happened. I knew my mom would be thrilled because she is very weight conscious and always has been. She was very willing to help me. So from that day forward I started militantly watching what I ate. I went to school with a 1/2 a sandwich and an apple in a brown paper bag. Stopped afterschool snacking. No more desserts.
What were the results? I lost weight. Lots of it. I lost weight but gained a low self esteem. My self-worth became tied to my weight. I lost weight but gained decades of struggle physically, emotionally, relationally and with my health. This was the catapult that quickly thrust me into a lifestyle of eating, or not eating, to control my life. “Big, Fat, White, Albino” was, for me, the beginning of a sick cycle that those of us who suffer from or have suffered from eating disorders know all too well.
Photo Credit: JasonPinaster, Pixabay
It’s revealing and awkward for me to share this story so publicly. Traveling way back in time to 1981 seems a bit self indulgent and weird. At the same time I know this is an important part of my eating disorder journey. If you are reading this I want you to know I harbor no bitterness or anger, I do not feel sorry for myself, I am now completely free in mind, body and spirit.
5th grade. In 5th grade I was the tallest, biggest, most developed girl in my class at school. This is funny now seeing how I am short, 5’ 3” tall and am petite in size overall. Back to 5th grade - being the tallest, biggest (as in largest in size around, chubby, fat whatever you want to call it) and most developed girl in my class was downright awkward. I didn't handle it well. I felt big, tall and awkward. On top of that I was boy crazy so in order to "feel pretty" I chased the boys to try to get attention.
To make things worse, abandonment issues set in as my family went through a devastating loss when my sister committed suicide. As a 10 year old I was left to collect information by overhearing conversations and observing what was happening. In hind sight, I can understand this because losing a child, especially due to suicide was something my parents had to deal with themselves, something I can never fully feel the weight of and hope I never go through. Nonetheless, as a 10 year old, dealing with my feelings and the loss of my sister on my own I felt abandoned and desperate. When girls feel this way it is highly likely they will try to fulfill their needs for acceptance and love with trying to be socially accepted into a group and with guys. This time in my life (chubby, awkward, feeling abandoned at 10 years old) was the beginning of a long road, searching for love and acceptance through social groups and guys.
On to 6th grade - the boy chasing increased and the attention received also increased. It takes boys a little longer but by 6th grade they realized they could tease and touch the girls who were chasing them and it became appealing. I was no longer the tallest or most developed girl in my class but I was still chubby and ahead in the development area. The boy chase continued - I caught a few and was passed around a bit too. Sadly, I didn't mind. I was feeling accepted. Still chubby and awkward but accepted and in my mind that was because of the attention from boys. I wanted to keep that going as long as possible.
Then, on a bus ride in 7th grade, I was catapulted into a lifestyle of starving in more ways than one...
Photo Credit: Bryan McDonald, Flickr
I'm Heidi & I am so happy you are here...
If this is your first time visiting this page and reading my story first let me say thank you for reading! This is a story with layers and layers of history and details that have lived in my brain and heart but only now are being shared "out loud" . I truly believe I am free now, keeping in mind having an eating disorder is really something that never fully goes away, it is something that is with me to this day but I am free because it no longer controls me.
If you are struggling with an eating disorder or suspect you are, please get help! There is no shame and stigma's are being broken!
Wife, mother, psychology major, writer, dreamer, God chaser, book revolutionist, passionate about people and society past, present and future...
© Heidi Suydam and Simply Our Society, 2016. Excerpts and links are encouraged and may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Heidi Suydam and/or Simply Our Society with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.