National Eating Disorder Awareness Week: My Truth

AUTHOR: CANDACE NEAL

The year 2018 has already proven that it is ruthless in nature. From the heart wrenching upset of mass shootings, to the fiery backlash of young people who refuse to sit in its shadow, we are a nation of (and I will put this lightly and politely) “growing pains.”

Brutal, unmerciful, shameful, embarrassing growing pains.

However, the raw honesty of our society as a broken but relentless people, propels me to cast aside my filter-y Instagram armor and tackle my own authenticity. I intend to balance my truth with proper discretion, here. And at the risk of turning this written moment into a selfish saga of dramatic divulgence, I’m going to just say:

I tell you this truncated version of my experiences because you have human stuff and I’m here to say, “I’ve got human stuff too.”

It is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. So, here is yet another cry to all of you suffering from this lifelong, brain-consuming, body-wrecking mentality. My own disorder evolved from bulimia, to chewing and spitting (read more about this taboo, less discussed situation here), to full anorexia. At my weight now, I am a six foot tall, thirty-one year old woman at her heaviest, despite working out daily and giving up alcohol fifty-one days ago (more on that later). I once weighed under 130 lbs, a gruesome fifty/sixty pound deficit from my current weight. Trash cans and toilet bowls became my private homes in college as I silently avoided dinner parties and pizza nights. My brain was a running calorie calculator. No mirror or window went untouched as I passed by each one, lifting my shirt for a subtle stomach check.

Sore throat. Corroding teeth. Thinning hair. Low energy. Unrelenting voice in my head. Self-loathing. Isolation. Obsession. The usual.

As an actress and a tall girl, comparison has been my ultimate nemesis. I’m neither a slender runway model nor am I rock solid volleyball player. I am not an ingenue. And I am accustomed to hearing dressing room conversations that revolve around disorder denial (“I’m so not eating today! Bahahaha”), unhealthy diet tips, and number-obsessed body speak. I have been called curvy and I have resented it. I have been called curvy and felt proud.

Source: University of South Carolina

Our world is caught up in the extremes. One side of the spectrum is up in arms about body shaming, using stretch marks and underarm flab as brassy ammo against the gym rats. The other side appears prideful with its sweaty deluge of “skin-undating” (ya like that?) photos and kale-filled everything.

I reiterate the words spoken by many before me. I invite you all to come hang out in the middle of the road where there is a delicious balance of health and happiness. There is both rain and sun, here. Hills and valleys. There’s a cabbage patch and an ice cream parlor. Cats and dogs, (and of course, unicorns because we are dealing with a hefty Lisa Frank resurgence right now).

Some of you are so far down your deepest and darkest paths of self destruction, it’s going to take more than a pivot turn and Waze app to reroute you to Happy Medium Land.

Do not be ashamed to speak up.
Do not avoid professional counseling.
Do not let others downplay your situation.
Do not give up.
You are not gross. You are not stupid. You are not crazy.
You are YOU on a journey.
And you are loved.

Keep the conversation alive, my beautiful human friends.

Seek out help:

Candace Neal, founder of The Lady Beautiful, is a professional actor, singer/songwriter and graphic artist in Orlando, FL. She enjoys chai, cats, and feeling like a queen in Dollar Tree.
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