Lately when I look in the mirror I have been dissatisfied with more than the shape of my body.
I feel like I'm beginning to look old.
I'm only 26, and I know that sounds young comparatively, but it sounds very old to me. I've found a few stray gray hairs. I feel like I'm starting to wrinkle. I hate when I go to the market or to a store and the younger (but not that much younger) cashier calls me Ma'am. Ma'am? Me? Is 26 that old?
I am on a journey of love and self-acceptance. I will love myself, my body, my face no matter how it looks or what amount of space it occupies. But that doesn't mean it's easy. I thought weight and curves and body shape would be the most difficult things to accept. I didn't consider aging. So, it makes me wonder, how do anorexics deal with aging? Do they experience the same thoughts and emotions other women feel when they age, or is it harder somehow because of so much time spent feeling worthless and not good enough? It's a question I certainly can't answer.
Sometimes people guess that I am younger than I really am, but as the years accumulate, that happens less and less. When I turned 26 (this past March) one of the girls at my old job told me happy birthday. I said to her, full of sarcasm that I thought was evident, "Yep. I'm finally 19". She said, "Oh my gosh. I turned 20 last month". It made me laugh (partly because this girl is very sweet but not particularly bright) but I know that I don't look 19. And I shouldn't want to, because I'm not 19. I'm 26. What's wrong with looking 26? Why do I feel the need to look younger? Why does it matter how old I look?
Why does this matter to me?
I could blame it all on the ills of society, and though I don't think society is completely blameless, I know (but am hesitant to admit) most of my issues stem from my mother. I love her more than anything, but she has never had a high opinion of herself. She has never had any self-confidence or real self-worth. She's in her sixties now and I hear her say things about botox and face lifts and microderm abrasion. It's been that way my entire life. She was never able to accept the fact that women age, meaning, she would age too. And she has never displayed positive attitudes toward food or weight. She told me my entire life that she only ate to live, she didn't live to eat. She hated the taste of food. She ate food only because it was necessary, only because she had to. What kind of child can grow up in that kind of environment and not absorb some of it?
I never wanted to admit she may have played a role in my eating disorder. She always told me I was beautiful. She told me weight didn't matter. Looks didn't matter. It's what's on the inside that counts. And though I know she has always believed that I am beautiful and worthy and capable, she has never thought those things about herself. So how could I believe her? How could I understand the importance of loving oneself when she very obviously did not love herself? She loved everyone but herself. And I have followed her lead.
I don't blame my mother for anything. I don't blame anyone for anything. It's not about blame for me now, it's not even about forgiveness. I'm past that. I'm at peace now and I'm ready to heal. My mother is my best friend. She is inspired by my recovery and she's glad I'm finally starting to believe all the positive things about myself that she has told me my entire life. Maybe we can do this together. Maybe she can learn to love herself too.