Thursday, April 20, 2017

Done Hiding

The problem with anorexia is that it’s almost glamorized.  It’s a gorgeous model skipping lunch, it’s a bombshell in a bikini eating a stick of celery.  In reality, anorexia (and eating disorders in general) is hideous. 
I’m guessing your first question is, How did this happen?  Or perhaps, WHY did this happen? 
            Maybe you’re thinking to yourself, Doesn’t this only happen to people with really low self-esteem? Teenage girls with a history of abuse, daddy issues, depression?  But it’s not that simple.  I started out a normal girl who wanted to get in shape, and anorexia turned me into something I wasn’t.  It made me that teenage girl with all the issues.
            At first, cutting the calories felt really good.  The weight, which I was convinced was “way too much,” shed very quickly and the compliments came flooding in.  This encouraged me to keep going, not seeing how much I was restricting myself.  I guess I figured, if I can look good on this amount of food, won’t I look even better with a little less?  It seems simple enough to tell that version of Taylor: No, dumbass.  Less food doesn’t make you feel better.  It breaks down your muscle, results in hair and nail loss, puts your fertility rate in danger, lowers your blood pressure, and eventually messes up the chemicals in your brain, causing a body dysmorphia so crippling that even death sounds better than getting “fat.”  But I didn’t know.
            I kept going, and nothing was good enough.  All of the aforementioned symptoms happened to me and more.  My social life came to a screeching halt.  I didn’t have the energy to go anywhere or do anything.  Simple conversations exhausted me.  Everything either made me angry or completely apathetic.  I couldn’t even feel anymore.  All I could think about was why I wasn’t losing weight fast enough, why my stomach wasn’t completely flat, why there was a layer of fat around my biceps.
            Although I devoted all of my energy to my body, I never felt good enough.  The goal was to be skinny, but that goal was NEVER fulfilled.  I guess that’s what makes it an illness, right?  Most of the time I felt huge.  When I wasn’t feeling huge, it was because someone was telling me how horrifically skinny I looked and how I should get help.  Then I felt even worse than huge: I felt unattractive.  I felt unappealing, frail, and unwomanly.  I felt like my body was offensive, so I covered it up with large clothing so I could keep starving in peace.
            I mentioned before that my social life came to a screeching halt.  When I say screeching, I mean screeching.  People would ask me to go out, get dinner, have a drink, but the anxiety that came along with the thought of going out for a meal (I didn’t want people to see me eat) was enough to make my head spin.  I spent most nights at home, so bloated and in so much pain from the torture I was putting myself through that I couldn’t even think about seeing anyone. 
            They say the people who develop anorexia develop it because they’re perfectionists.  They need everything to be in order and in control, including their eating.  I tell my stomach when it needs to be fed, not the other way around.  Because of my perfectionism, my need to always be on top of things and to excel at everything I do, I never let anyone know I was struggling.  I never even admitted it to myself.  Instead, I became mean.  I was very cold and distant from people who are dearest to me.  I didn’t want to talk about my emotions because I didn’t have any.  I couldn’t empathize anymore because I couldn’t remember what it was like to feel sadness, happiness, love.  I didn’t even want anyone to touch me, let alone be part of my life.
            I was cold all the time. I stopped wearing makeup, stopped caring about my outfits. Stopped going to parties, stopped laughing, rarely smiled.
            I hope by now I’ve answered those initial questions that I basically forced you to ask.  There are many reasons eating disorders can happen, and they’re developed in a twisted, cruel way unique to every victim.  I’m not proud of what I did—the people I pushed away, the damage I did to my family, and the damage I did to myself.  I didn’t allow me to love myself anymore, and that’s something I am determined to get back.
            Almost two months ago I decided enough was enough.  Or rather, it was decided for me.  I began to notice trouble with my breathing but I ignored it, thinking it would go away.  A few days went by and things only got worse.  Eventually I was in the passenger seat of my friend’s car when I realized I couldn’t see straight.  There was a strange, throbbing sensation throughout my body and it felt as though ice cold liquid was running through my veins.  Later that night I noticed my heart rate was unusually slow.  I looked it up—a side effect that can result from being severely underweight. 
I went to urgent care that night.  Thankfully, everything was fine.  But it so fucking wasn’t.  I realized that this, my life, my health, wasn’t something to play around with.  Before things got fatal, I needed to stop. 
            The first thing I noticed when recovering was that I could see colors again.  It sounds cheesy, and maybe it is, but I remember going to school one of the first days in my recovery and looking around in wonder.  There were actual people around me, going to class and living their lives and eating enough calories to get through the day with a real smile.  Reality wasn’t a dull blur anymore.  I was no longer living in the fake world my eating disorder created for me—I was actually back on Earth.
            When eating disorders develop, they’re not taken seriously.  A man or woman decides to skip a meal here and there or reduce their calories a bit.  Most of the time, it’s okay, but sometimes, it gets out of control.  It keeps going and going until it’s consumed you, changed you, taken over your entire life.  But this is a serious issue and I’m sharing my experience not because I WANT anyone to know, but because I want to be there for anyone else who might be struggling. 

It’s not easy to talk about and it can feel impossible to overcome, but I understand that.  I’m done hiding, and I’m here.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Real People on The Runway

This season, I’ve been doing something I do twice a year every year for as long as I can remember: watch New York Fashion Week from the mundane suburbs of Southern California.  I procrastinate schoolwork, I half-ass all of my shifts at work, I ignore most people, and I just don’t care.  To me, nothing feels better than the experience of fresh, innovative new versions of fashion coming down runway after runway all week long.

This year, I’ve noticed something that’s become more of a trend over the past year: designers opting out of the traditional model and instead sending their designs down the runway on real people.  Actors, actresses, activists, and yes—random, everyday men and women who hold ordinary 9-5 jobs.

I first noticed this last season with J. Crew’s entire cast of “real people.”  It was controversial because of the fact that it was J. Crew, the clean-cut, rule-following, all-American brand.  However, it’s been more common this week, and therefore less shocking.

As I’ve seen men and women of all ages, shapes, and height model for Prabal Gurung, Gypsy Sport, J. Crew, Eckhaus Latta, and Rachel Comey (and that is seriously just naming a few), I’ve become used to it.  So what does this mean for fashion?

There was a time when fashion was a complete hierarchy.  Only women of power and wealth wore couture.  Ready-to-wear didn’t even exist and average women were forced to wear their income on their backs.

\With the introduction of ready-to-wear came a more level playing field, transforming fashion into something resembling democracy.  As women’s rights progress and gender, race, and identity begin to blur, fashion is as inclusive as ever.  However, there was still always one thing missing: a woman wearing the dress you want to buy who actually looks like you.

So maybe the fact that these “real people” models didn’t even phase me this season is an amazing thing.  Maybe it means that “real” is the new norm.  Maybe it means that the expectation of fashion is no longer size 0 and 6 feet tall with petite features and light skin.

All I can say is I’m eager for the week to keep going.  I’m eager to see which other designers decide to break the rules by giving “real people” their moment. 

Yes, the point of Fashion Week is supposed to be centered around one thing: the clothes.  But wouldn’t we be lying if we said it hasn’t progressed into something more than that?

Today, Fashion Week is about a voice.  It’s about a designer speaking to his audience.  It’s about getting a message across.  It’s about setting new boundaries, bringing confidence, telling people all around the world that we can do this too, if we want. 

It’s never again going to be just an excuse to look at pretty clothes.

I Got Involved Too Late--Don't Make My Mistake

It’s easy to be too cool for it—getting involved.  In anything, really: your workload, a fitness routine, remembering to floss.  But in this case, I find it easiest to be too cool to get involved with your college community.

I started out college with the attitude of a high schooler: I don’t want to be here but I have to.  With parents who care about my future (what monsters, right?), college wasn’t optional (thank god). 

I made my debut at a junior college, too lazy to apply to more than one university as a high school senior and too apathetic to follow up when the one I did apply to and got accepted to wanted me to register for orientation by a certain date.  I went to classes when I felt like it, but my life centered around boys, my friends, and too much partying (sorry Dad).

Luckily I snapped out of it pretty quickly, devoting myself to my grades by the second semester of my freshman year.  But even then, I still didn’t get it.  I put all my energy into doing well in class and took absolutely no interest in the resources surrounding me.

I missed game nights, concerts, poetry readings, protests, and club meetings without even realizing it, without even caring.  I did manage to get through it in two years and successfully transfer to the university that had originally accepted me when I was 17, but with what memories?

Then I was really in it: the college experience.  I was at a university with people who actually lived on campus, people from different states and even different countries who came all this way for an education.  Again, I missed game nights, concerts, poetry readings, protests, and club meetings—without even realizing it.

I went to class, I got my grades, I went to work (or to bed).  I made no more than acquaintances with any of my peers and I never even visited more than the journalism building where most of my classes took place.

However, something changed this semester, which ironically happens to be my last at university and as an undergrad.  By a graduation requirement, I was forced to enroll in a journalism class that basically makes me a full-time writer for the school’s newspaper.

I enrolled with dread, well aware that while I’m a journalism student, I have zero interest in school news, hard news, or newspaper writing.  I’m here for fashion, not covering the opening of a new pizza place on campus.

But as the semester progressed, something amazing happened: I got passionate about my work.  I attended every event with excitement, dug into faculty scandals with vigor, and idolized my professor for her devotion to the university. 

No.  That didn’t happen.  I’m still incredibly bitter about having to devote so much time to something I’m not getting paid for and have no interest in, but I am beginning to see the silver lining.

Through being forced to cover what happens on my campus, I’m also being forced to know my campus.  I have to know where the Student Union is, which I genuinely didn’t even know existed before.  I have to know who goes here, what they think about their professors, why they chose this school, and what their plans are for the future.

I have to talk to students, professors, janitors, even cafeteria workers.  And no, not all of the subject matter is completely riveting.  In fact, most of it I couldn’t give less of a shit about.  But what it does remind me of is why I chose journalism as a career.

True, most of my interest lies in fashion, but there’s a reason I wanted to be a fashion writer: I love to write about passion.  Whether that be for the collections of the season or the gluten-free options at the school cafĂ©, I like to see people care about what they do.  I like to see what excites people, what lights their fires. 

Through this requirement, I’ve been exposed to student life.  I’ve seen what a difference it makes to get involved and actually care about where you go to school.  I’ve seen pride in your university and, more importantly, in yourself. 

For accomplishing what many people don’t bother with: seeking a higher education and maybe having fun while you’re doing it.  For seeking a higher education and succeeding.  For seeking a higher education for no one but yourself. 

In conclusion, it’s still easy to be too cool to get involved.  But is it fun?  Is it worth it?  Or is it better to attend the Athletic Department’s carnival event, no matter how cheesy it may be? 

Take it from me and my last-ditch effort to get involved on campus: do it.  From the beginning.  Because it’s important to go to university, but it’s better to go to university and have the memories to back it up.