Growing up, I was a chubby child. Hand-me-down Aéropostale sweatshirts didn’t fit me quite how they had fit my sisters. I noticed this, but I did not give much weight to it.
That was until my family moved towns when I was ten and fitting into a new fifth-grade class did not happen smoothly. I received a strong hint from a parental figure that losing weight may help me fit in with the other kids and make friends.
Initially, this message felt like sandpaper to my soul. Something about the need to adjust my being in order to find community did not sit right with my tender, child self. But if an older and wiser person who loved me says it is true, then it must be in my best interest to agree and act accordingly, right?
Flash forward two years, and the bright-eyed ten-year-old kid who really loved that blue sweatshirt with snow bunnies on it is sitting in the intake office of the Princeton Medical Hospital Eating Disorders Unit.
A doctor, whose face I can still envision with great detail, is telling me that I have anorexia, that I need to be admitted, that the community of patients there is very kind, and that if I do not oblige, I am approximately nine days away from cardiac arrest—and death.
Once again, the words feel like sandpaper. I am confused. Wasn’t losing weight supposed to fix me? Give me a better life, with friends and cool clothes?
It took seven years of inpatient, outpatient, relapse, repeat, followed by ten years of active recovery for me to gather the answers to the questions my younger self asked. Here they are:
My dear younger self,
You were right all along. You deserved and deserve love, no matter the condition of your appearance.
I am sorry that together, we acted otherwise for so long, but I am here to tell you about the beauty that came from it all—you, me, a more alive version of us than I have ever seen.
I am not sure that everything happens for a reason, but I do know that you were meant to see what you have seen and live through those days that felt unlivable.
I have you to thank for my life. Your stubborn sandpaper soul—it knows truths before they can be understood. And together, we have been honoring those truths for some time now.
It has brought us to beautiful, difficult places. Ones that are dripping with purpose, your purpose.
I am not sure that everything happens for a reason. But I know that you were meant to know your truth at a young age and lose it. So that you could re-learn it and decide to never dishonor it, or yourself, again.
There is a foundation to your hopefulness, your hard-fought-for optimism that says “If I lived through that and became who I see in the mirror today, I can no longer believe in ‘too hard’ or really that there’s ‘too much’ of anything.”
Because my dear self, you know that you have not seen everything that you will ever see.
When the cycle looked like it was un-ending, you found it within yourself to choose healing.
When the circumstances out of your control seemed that they would never let up, the tides did turn.
It took time. It always takes time. Often more than you would prefer for it to. But what you have gained—a life that you love and participate in—has been worth it all.
Your days aren’t painless. The bi-product of having a sandpaper soul, a know-er within you that is in tune with unseen truths, is the tension you carry every day.
Some days, it still feels like too much to carry.
But we have lived through the seasons of change, heartbreak, and confusion enough times to say: it gets clearer. As long as you stay and do not abandon the little voice that is telling you: “This is not right. I don’t have a reason why, but I have to honor what I’m hearing inside.”
So stay. With the feeling, the nagging curiosity, the inkling that you, as-is, are enough. Are divine. Are perfect.
You are not an airbrushed picture of what society deems “ideal.” No, you are something much more beautiful than that: a being that chooses life and resilience every single day.
Mary Grace Comber (she/her) is a writer musician and human being based out of Atlanta, GA. For more words, music, and other art forms visit her Instagram.
You are more than a number on a scale or a measuring tape. You are human. Messy and whole, capable of so many good things, regardless of your body’s shape. We encourage you to use TWLOHA’s FIND HELP Tool to locate professional help and to read more stories like this one here. If you reside outside of the US, please browse our growing International Resources database. You can also text TWLOHA to 741741 to be connected for free, 24/7 to a trained Crisis Text Line counselor. If it’s encouragement or a listening ear that you need, email our team at [email protected].