This post is the first in a series where I describe the obstacles I overcame during my journey toward becoming a sex-positive blogger (and owner of an ever-growing dildo collection!). Trigger warning: My story describes my eating disorder and depression. See part 2, Religious Shame and Sexual Insecurity, here. If you’re looking for fun times, see my Reviews category instead.
My story is long and dark, and I’ve put off writing it for some time because of all the negative memories. Still, I hope my story might touch someone who’s gone through one or more of the same issues that I did.
One of my first memories of school was being teased for being fat when I was in kindergarten. Possibly as a result of this, I also remember playing in the sandbox, building a castle or something, and thinking about how I felt separated from the other kids. (I’m still a big introvert at heart.) When I told my dad that I was fat, he responded, “You’re not fat, you’re pleasantly plump!” which is about the worst way to address the situation I can imagine: by using obfuscating language and not actually addressing the issue.
My mother certainly didn’t help my negative feelings toward my body. She was on a constant diet from the time I was four years old, and so many foods were “bad.” To this day, my mother will say before eating a bowl of ice cream, “I’m going to be bad…”
Fast-forward to my teenage years, and I’m sure you can imagine the outcome: I never was taught to be comfortable with my body, and I was insecure and lonely, so of course I became anorexic. In the back of my mind, I was sure that people would like me more if I were thin. Like many a clueless teenager, I never considered that just maybe pretty much everyone else felt anxious about themselves and their relationships too. It never occurred to me that maybe I just needed to talk to other people more and learn to be comfortable with who I was!
Adding fuel to the insecurity fire was the fact that I was horny but thought touching myself was somehow shameful. Maybe it was just that I wasn’t comfortable in my skin, or maybe my Catholic upbringing, or both. Anyway, by the time I worked up the nerve to actually start masturbating using the bathtub faucet, I’d already started “dieting” and had lost about ten pounds. As a result, a couple people had told me I looked good!, so, perfectionist that I am, I thought, Well, I can do even better than that! Maybe then I’ll look really good!
And so a compulsion was born. I lost a little over fifty pounds by both not eating and by eating “too much” and then working out furiously. Everything started to become a haze. The pain was incredible, but it was an addiction that I didn’t know how to stop by the time it got really bad. My parents were apparently too lost in their work to really notice, and when I finally came clean to them, they were in denial. First, they hadn’t really commented about my weight loss to begin with, and then after I told them about my problem, they insisted I must have some sort of medical problem, and so they took me to a gastroenterologist and a dietitian. Now, I love my parents and I really believe they wanted the best for me, but they were just totally oblivious about eating disorders. Finally, they came around and saw the writing on the wall.
I managed to gain back twenty pounds of the fifty I’d lost, but I stopped there. For almost a decade after I became anorexic, I was afraid of weighing more than the minimum I needed to weigh to be able to go about my day without being in pain. I ate a lot more than I had before that, but I continued to exercise compulsively when I was in college (the well-equipped fitness center wasn’t the best thing for me), and I’m sure that this affected my studies. Plus it lead to me feeling continually run-down, which in turn led to me being depressed; having a lackluster libido; and being susceptible to weird, body-negative religious ideas (see the second part of this series for my story about this).
I’d been insecure but never depressed before I was anorexic. But, not surprisingly, losing a lot of weight (especially if you’re not actually overweight in the first place) makes you very depressed. No matter how bright the sun is shining outside, the world is a cold, dim place. After the weight loss, I felt like I was walking underwater. Everything felt more difficult than it should be normally, and nothing brought me pleasure. Even eating large amounts of food (which I desperately needed) wasn’t especially enjoyable. I did get on antidepressants, which helped, though I never felt completely right physically. It was hard for me to imagine feeling like a normal human being ever again, even after I had gained some weight; it takes a long time for the body to readjust after this kind of trauma, and honestly, I still hadn’t gotten over the eating disorder.
Because I never felt right, I felt like I needed the endorphins from working out, thus perpetuating the cycle. After a few years, I was able to cut down on my workout some, and when I started my first job, I was forced to do so even more. But depression is a recurring cycle, and I soon found myself trapped in a cubicle in what I saw as a dead-end job, and I hated my life. It still felt like there was a cloud inside my head that was preventing me from being happy, from taking pleasure from life.
By this time, I’d lost my virginity and even gotten married. My partner was attentive to my needs, but I could no longer experience the joy from orgasm that I’d had when I was fucking the bathtub water when I was fifteen. Sex seemed like a chore a lot of the time. I’m sure much of this related to me continuing to cut foods from my diet and from exercising too much. It would take me another five years before I was able to overcome my eating disorder; my depression; and my negative, shaming beliefs about physical pleasure. See part 2 for the rest of my story.
It’s hard for me to express how strongly I feel about the stigma that modern Western society places on women (but also on people of all genders) with fuller body types. It’s a damn shame that people are made to feel inferior for not adhering to someone else’s ideal of beauty. I think kids and teens are especially influenced by the barrage of images of lean, fit people found in ads and programming everywhere.
When I finally learned to accept my body and my personality for what they are, I was also able to accept my sexuality—and that of others. Now, since I’m not afraid of not measuring up to some impossible standard, I’m able to embrace who I am, plus I’m so much more able to relate to other people in their own struggles.