This article is a guest post written by Cassidy Webb. She’s a 25 year old avid writer. She advocates spreading awareness on the disease of addiction and it’s co-occurring disorders. Her passion in life is to help others by sharing her experience, strength, and hope so that others may recover.
It all began in elementary school
When I was in elementary school I got made fun of for the size of my forehead. The Subway commercial for five dollar foot longs was playing on TV, and kids began calling me “five finger forehead.” I was already extremely self conscious about my weight and appearance, so these comments really hit me hard. Kids can be cruel, but back then, I took these comments personally.
When I got a phone in middle school, the societal pressures of models I saw on social media hit me like a brick wall. I didn’t look anything like them, and I wanted to. At the time, I saw these women on social media as an image of perfection. The thought didn’t even occur to me that these photos were highly photoshopped and edited. Either way, I wouldn’t have cared. I had an innate desire for an unrealistic body type. Looking back, I know that I wouldn’t be any happier had I looked like them. I would have still wanted more of things I couldn’t have.
Physically, I was in great shape in high school. I could run a mile in under 8 minutes. I was a starting player for my basketball team, but all the other girls were slimmer than me. I would constantly compare myself to them in the locker room while we were changing. They would openly change clothes and walk around half dressed putting on their makeup, while I was hiding in the corner changing clothes as quickly as possible, hoping nobody would see my stomach or thighs.
All of these pressures combined led me to develop a really morphed idea of what my body really looked like – and I hated the way I thought I looked. I began to binge eat then purge to avoid weight gain. I wasn’t losing weight fast enough and I hated feeling hungry, so I turned to stimulant medications.
Adderall was easy to get my hands on in school and it suppressed my hunger. I could go several days without eating while still getting my school work done. This adderall abuse led into a full blown addiction that led me down a path of misery and loneliness. I became extremely sick and weak. I couldn’t make it through the day without getting high.
I finally reached out for help
Feeling complete defeat over my addiction, I finally reached out for help and went to a dual diagnosis treatment center where I received therapy for substance use disorder, my eating disorder, and the warped sense of body image that had encompassed my life for so long. I was surrounded by other women who struggled with the same things. These women provided me with support and compassion while I still didn’t like myself. They showed me love until I was able to love again. They taught me how to walk with confidence.
Girls with an eating disorder are four times more likely to use stimulants than girls who do not. In addition, nearly half of individuals with an eating disorder also suffer from a substance use disorder, compared to 9% of the general population. Personality traits such as anxiety and low self esteem are similarly linked to both eating disorders and addiction, as both effect the same parts of the brain. Since these characteristics overlap both disorders, it is essential to bring awareness to the risks of co-occurring eating disorders and addiction.
In bringing these risks to light, women must also lift up other women. We must share the message that our bodies deserve to be treated with kindness and compassion. We can eat healthy food in amounts that feel good for us without experiencing feelings of guilt. The body we are given to live in and breathe in is a gift – and it is not permanent. Life isn’t permanent, so we must be grateful for it while we have it. Showing gratitude for the body we live in means giving it the nutrients it needs and keeping ourselves healthy without dangerous crash diets, starvation, or purging.
This is what recovery looks like for me
Today I treat my body right by eating consistently and adequately. I don’t count calories and I avoid reading nutrition labels. Instead, I eat foods that feel nourishing to me when I am hungry. I enjoy moving my body through hiking and yoga without putting pressure on myself to meet unattainable fitness goals. Most importantly, I don’t beat myself up for eating ice cream or missing a day of exercise.
I still have good days and bad days. Some days I am still comparing myself to the models on Instagram, but I refuse to let bulimia or drugs take hold of me again. I refuse to go back to that life. Even on the worst days, I know that my body is beautiful and unique just the way it is. I have genuine women in my life who love me for the person I am – not my body.
All bodies, regardless of their size and shape, are unique for a reason. They uniquely show that all bodies are different, yet equally beautiful. The way my body looks doesn’t make me loved any less. It simply gives me the ability to be confident in who I am. I believe that regardless of the body type, confidence is the most beautiful attribute a woman can have.
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