For anyone who wants to know, here’s te story about how I didn’t become the best version of myself.
0-11 – Growing up with my weird brains
I grew up in a family with 3 kids. I am the youngest one, my brother is 7 years older and my sister is 10 years older. My sister was always like a mother to me, but she left the house when she was 16. I don’t remember much of it, but I must have been devastated. However, that’s life. I went to her for sleepovers and after a few years, she moved nearby.
I always felt different from everyone else. I was easily anxious, especially if it involved people. Angry people scared the hell out of me, I cried easily and I was (am) overempathic. I never understood how other children were not like me. If a kid crushed a bug on the playground, I would cry because I couldn’t bear it. If someone else was sad, I was sad. Never ever would I say something bad to another kid, or raise my voice. But other kids did, of course. I remember being kicked and beaten on the playground from the age of 4. It happened a lot but I was never capable of stopping it. I think I had a few friends though. But it made me isolated, shy, and afraid of being noticed because everything made it worse. When I was at a reunion about ten years ago, I found a report from my kindergarten teacher which was written for the teacher of the next grade. It said I was ‘rebellious’, because I never wanted to play outside, and I always wanted to play alone.
My parents were very much not like me. If I look back, I can see where things went wrong; we just didn’t speak each others’ language. They didn’t understand my anxiety and overwhelming emotions, and they didn’t pick up my detailed non-verbal language. I didn’t understand why they wouldn’t ‘protect’ me if I was scared, and I always thought they were mad at me. Which is probably not true, I think they just wanted me to not whine about everything, but that is what happens when you don’t understand each other. They were both raised in rough circumstances in a completely different era, and they are also wired very different from me. It was just bad luck. I learned to adapt by keeping everything inside. I had a great imagination and learned to comfort myself ‘in my mind’. But I always thought I was annoying and a burden to the world.
When I was 9 years old, I met my best friend to be. She was only 6 years old, but I was socially behind and she was somewhat up front. I was never aware of the age gap. She lived in the same tiny village as me, almost next to my grandparents and that’s how we met. I think she kind of saved me from growing up completely lonely and socially incapable.
11-18 – High school
As I got older, the bullying continued. I switched schools at the age of 11 and at the age of 15 hoping things would change, but it didn’t. I was still shy and afraid of saying a single word in class and that is reason enough to be picked on. If I would answer a question in class, people would generally laugh at me, whether the answer was wrong or right. There was one day when a classmate stood up for me. She got very mad and yelled to the entire class about how it disgusted her. Until this day I don’t understand why she did that for me. Her name was Melanie.
I graduated high school when I was 18. I had to double one year because it was a total failure. Apart from a new national education system in the Netherlands that totally failed, I wasn’t able to combine studying with surviving school. You would think this was somewhat good because I would get rid of all of my former classmates, but I think 80-90% of the students failed that year because of this new system. It was bad. Somewhere around my graduation year I started to cut myself because it was the only way to handle my emotions. At this point I had no clue that there was a much more effective way to do this, but in 10 years I would.
18-23 – Bachelor of education
After graduation I wanted to become a teacher, so I did a bachelor of education. At my new school, everything was different. All my classmates were… normal! Everyone was nice and treated me as equal. I found out that I was actually quite a normal person as long as other people were nice to me. I made friends and it was amazing. At least, my class was. Apprenticeships were not. I had to prove myself as a teacher and I experienced extreme anxiety everytime I was standing in front of a group of kids. This anxiety shifted from handling kids to handling their parents who could be total assholes. However, I made it without delay. My last year was a nightmare and I decided I would never teach again.
24-26 – Uni and marriage
I liked education though, and I still felt like a failure because I hadn’t accomplished a higher grade. So, I went to uni to study Educational Sciences, mostly to prove myself and to reduce my selfhate (spoiler: it didn’t work). I had developed severe public speaking anxiety over the years, so I had no clue how I was going to fix this, but I just started. These were two long and hard years, but I made it. I once gave a presentation while I was crying. However, on this particular day I learned that people are generally normal and nice. I felt awful about my not so flawless presentation, but no one judged me, they all told me I did a good job.
In the meantime, I engaged my husband-to-be. We had been together for 5 years. It wasn’t the best relationship because we both had our problems, but I couldn’t imagine being without him, so for me this was the only option. I graduated shortly after our marriage, but I had no clue what I wanted to do now and I was anxious about everything. Luckily, I could work at my dad’s company. I decided to start here so I could figure out what I wanted to do with my life. Another not so helpful thing was the fact that I got Hypothyroidism (when your thyroid gets lazy). I gained 10 K before my wedding, got rid of most of it with diets and exercise, and gained 10 K again after my wedding because my thyroid got even worse. A lazy thyroid is perfectly treatable with meds, but they don’t undo the weightgain and I was now on the edge of being overweight.
So this was it. I was married and I had a somewhat safe job that still gave me a lot of anxiety. I was a grown up. With major issues and a thousand demons. I was fat as fuck in my eyes and I hated myself. My best friend was living far away now and staying in contact was hard, so I had no friends. My marriage wasn’t the best and we lived next to my parents in a tiny, humid and cold house in the middle of nowhere. Literally everything was hopeless. I had been more or less depressed my entire life, but the year after my marriage was the worst of all. I was passively suicidal and I hoped I would die every single day.
26-28 – Changes
In the summer of 2011 I decided to join a ballet class. I have no clue why I did that, because I still had social anxiety and I hated my body. But I did and it changed the course of my life. I made friends I couldn’t even hope for and it became the only place where I felt safe. I started with only 2 classes a week, but I lived from class to class. I knew this was weird but I didn’t care. I started to lose weight, and especially at the beginning, my dancing improved fast. Not because I was that good, but because it was that bad when I started. It gave me purpose and it was a positive experience.
So I had new friends. And we talked, a lot. About personal things and about life. And the more we talked, the more my issues bothered me. Suddenly they were in my face instead of under the ground. It was like I finally acknowledged them, which made them unavoidable. I’d lost the 10 K again, but still hated myself and my body. I had developed some extreme dieting habits over time, and at some point it went wrong. It probably started with an all-inclusive vacation, where I suddenly was afraid of this large amount of food. Every day I was eating among all those greedy people who would tuck away plates full of everything they could get their hands on. I wasn’t allowed to get greedy, I wasn’t even allowed to exist. So every time I felt like I had eaten more than I deserved, I purged. And the more I told myself that food was scary, the safer I felt.
When we came back, I was on the edge of losing it. One single shitty event did the trick and threw me overboard. The only way I could handle my life was by eating close to nothing. It felt like I could stop time and finally keep up with life. At the beginning my entire body hurt and it sucked. But the feeling of allowing myself only what I deserved was so calming. My body got more used to it, which felt like floating in nothingness. But I knew I couldn’t do this forever. I couldn’t really do anything anymore, especially at work. Now my mind felt much better, but the rest of me had become useless. This wasn’t a permenent solution, so I made a plan to slowly build up calories again. Just a bit, so I would still have the benefits of restricting, but also had a functioning body.
A ballet recital was planned about half a year later, and I would be part of it, so I had to eat better. But exactly 6 months before the show, my teacher took me off of it because she thought it would be irresponsible. I get it, but I knew for sure that this recital would get me back on my feet. I’ll never know if this would have been true though. I couldn’t have been more devastated. It was just a part in a recital but it was everything I lived for at that time. After this, I stopped trying. I couldn’t care less, or so I thought.
A month later I got kicked out of my church band where I sang, because they said my stage presentation wasn’t good enough. One day I was in, and the next day I was out. No warning, no chance to improve. It turned out I could care less. Soon, I had lost another 10 K. I was a zombie robot, but my mind was so quiet. It was so peaceful in there. In the meantime, I had signed up for eating disorder therapy, because it was clear I was not going to fix this on my own. And I was ready for it, because I was kind of afraid I was going to die.
28-31 – Trying to get rid of my ED
Eventually, the girl who was going to play my part had to cancel because of her study. So 2 months before the recital, I had my part back! It was the best and it really helped me to eat a bit better. I hated my performance, but it was awesome anyway, because I got to dance amongst my best friends.
The ED therapy group started 2 weeks prior to the recital. It was 2 days a week and it would end after 6 months. I thought I would walk out totally recovered 6 months later, but no. Unfortunately, I gained weight extremely fast right from the start. I ate 1400 calories a day and I was very active, but I gained 1 K a week for weeks in a row. It was extremely traumatizing and I just wanted to die. No one knew why I gained weight so fast, but it also seemed like no one really cared. I couldn’t handle it at all but didn’t get decent support at the clinic. I left the group after 4 months, because some people in my group got really mad because I only ever talked about gaining weight. I couldn’t deal with these angry people so I wanted nothing but to get out of there.
So, I switched to ambulatory. I had my 10 K back and still ate like shit. Now I was ‘fat’ again, extremely unhappy, and I still hadn’t fixed any causes. This went on for months, until my therapist said she wanted to sign me up for a special treatment they offered: a one-month commital in another country in a group of 10 people. It scared the shit out of me, but I said yes.
From here, I went downhill again. I was so afraid to be the heaviest one in the group, and I was afraid of gaining a lot of weight at the clinic. I did all kinds of ridiculous things to lose weight and I was extremely unhealthy. The closer it got, the more extreme I went. I literally felt like I was dying, but I didn’t really care because the only thing I could think of was getting fat very soon. Towards the end I skipped multiple nights of sleep with light energy drinks and excercizing, listening to my 35 bpm heartbeat.
Of course all of this wasn’t approved by the clinic, but I had quit my very nasty anti-depressants a few months earlier and I blamed them for the weight gain back then, so I convinced the clinic that their absence now made me lose weight. They bought it.
The day of departure arrived, and I hadn’t died. This month was awful and amazing. I met 9 awesome girls and we bonded for life. But it was hard. I regretted it from the moment I walked in, but of course leaving wasn’t an option. The amount of food was my worst nightmare. I think I ate ten times as much as I did before, every day. I would freak out if others had less on their than me, or if I knew I was stuffing away a 400 kcal snack. Rule number one was “You eat everything”. Rule number two: “You don’t purge”. It was very hard, but it was the only way.
After this, I slowly gained weight. At first, I couldn’t stand my body and I was severely depressed. For months I totally ignored the fact that I had a body. Later on it got bearable. In the years that followed, I gained more weight and finished therapy. As soon as you’re weight restored, people generally think you’ve recovered. I knew I hadn’t, but it was much better than before. I thought this was it. On the outside, I was the girl who just never ate cake at birthdays. On the inside, I still struggled with my body and my weight, I was always hungry, I still had a ton of food rules, and I excersized every day but hated it.
Some things had improved though. I’ve had a lot of therapy sessions with my family and husband, which really turned things around. All of these relationships were much better now. At the end of 2015 my hub and I took a leap of faith and bought a house. This would either end in a disaster or into something great. It turned out to be the last.
32-33 And then
Work was still a struggle. I was stressed out and afraid of making mistakes or being weird everyday. After 7 years, I quit the job I started to ‘just figure things out’. I was now a responsible adult, all fixed and capable, or so I thought. I decided to start a traineeship to become a programmer. Programming was great and I met a lot of awesome people. It was nice to be anonymous, and it was much easier to pretend to be normal. Unfortunately, it was not what they pictured it to be. The training company was manipulative and treated me like a product. It really stirred up depression and anxiety and it was not conducive for my well being. So I quit again.. It was a nice experience though. It left me with a study dept but whatever.
I was now unemployed and I started this blog. I felt great and thrived. However, it only lasted a month, because I suddenly had another job, out of nowhere. As you can read here, I went back to teaching.
34 until today
Well. It was the start of another rollercoaster. You can read all about it in this post. All I can say is: I really tried. I tried to be everything society expected me to be. I tried to overcome every fear by just doing it, because others told me to. And my goodness it went wrong.
I spent 2 years relapsing. My weight dropped like never before. That is what happens when I ignore my legitimate fears. If I ignore all of the giant red flags, my mind will just find another way to make it stop.
For the first time in my life, I’m on a 100% sick leave now. No one expects me to return. In january 2022 I will finally be officially disqualified. I’m so exhausted that I don’t even care about failing. I finally feel room for healing, so I will now take my time and become self sustainable when I’m ready.
I was never recovered, or mentally healthy. I thought I was because I had done so many things to fix it, and everyone around me expected me to be. I now know that I cannot force certain things. Things that work for others don’t automatically work for me. Some things I do or feel will never change. The other option remains: adjusting circumstances so they will meet my needs.
I will continue my blog, mostly for myself. Without the need to prove myself, or deadlines, or expectations, or high standards. On to the next chapter of whatever.