HOVERING OVER THE TOILET: HOW I OVERCAME MY STRUGGLES WITH AN EATING DISORDER | WESTFIELD SINGING

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Photo courtesy of Jessica Groyon

Jessica Groyon, 12, and Jada McBride, 12

In the 1800s, Walt Whitman—a.k.a. “Our Great American Poet” –used his voice to celebrate our nation’s diversity. Proclaiming, “I Hear America Singing,” Whitman painted vivid pictures of this melting pot we call America. His verses capture an ideal deeply embedded in our creed: that we all have a place in the choir. 

Whitman also conveyed a passionate awareness that the journey involves challenges. Our “song” is often an ode to overcoming those challenges. 

This column will provide a voice to Westfield students and staff who wish to share their trials and triumphs, paying tribute to our collective spirit of resilience. 

 

          “Don’t come in!” These are the words I uttered as the doorknob rattled behind me. 

          I hovered over the toilet bowl. The wretched stench of my last few meals permeated the air as I thrust my hand to the back of my throat in an attempt to lose every calorie I had devoured. Knees to the floor and my hand to my mouth, I contemplated why I was still not beautiful in everyone’s eyes.

           I did everything possible: I exercised, I counted my calories, I had the perfect hand to mold me into my ideal self. Captivated by the slim figures of models and online influencers gave me the motivation I long sought out.  I succumbed to society’s notions of beauty. What I thought was an additional way to be praised and admired led to a prolonged battle with bulimia nervosa and self-doubt. 

          Struggling with an eating disorder for many years, I had made significant progress towards self-love and admiration, only to give in and relapse on multiple occasions. I felt that if I stayed the same, my peers would love me the same— I would always stay golden in their eyes.

          Ruminating on my insecurities, I no longer confined myself to the bathroom in my own house. I used any accessible bathroom for my self-loathing objectives. I had no bounds whatsoever, abandoning my friends to vomit in their bathrooms or at the public restroom at the mall. I wanted to be perceived as naturally beautiful and fixated on appearing as a size 0 or 2 simply by genetics. I never expressed my struggles to my friends or family, and in turn, they had to watch me wither away.

          120 lbs, 115 lbs, 110 lbs, 105 lbs: The feeling of my feet grazing the scale became my daily routine and felt the same each time, but I didn’t look the same. My ribs pierced through my skin, and my knuckles had reddened from striking the roof of my mouth. I was exhausted and had finally had enough. 

          Somehow I gained the courage to open up. Now, my friends and I were able to fight my disorder together. I had found a new level of love and respect for myself, and I was able to redefine my beauty standards. 

          The confidence I found within myself led to my friends opening up about their own insecurities, to which I had been oblivious. This helped me acknowledge that my problems weren’t unique, and I wasn’t alone in this tormented journey. I was constantly combating intrusive thoughts of what I thought people expected me to be. With the support of my friends and family, I realized they respected me more when I learned not to comply with vacuous trends. So my own trend began reversing itself: 105 lbs, 110lbs, and back to 115 lbs once again. 

          Being part of a first generation Filipino-American family, the concept of fending for myself as an individual rather than conforming to family values was new to me. I had no guidance and had to express my emotions in ways my parents could have never imagined. From endless ventures of purging to finally reaching self-acceptance, I realized that being skinny does not define beauty or strength. I finally broke out of the mold and challenged society’s expectations. I found that it’s not only important to listen to myself but to the world around me as well–and to listen both to my heart and head. My new insights overtook my self-judgments, and the idea that two is better than one gave me hope to conquer my battle. 

          As I acclimated and opened up to people, two became three, three became five, and five became twenty. I created a support system not only for myself but also for anyone who struggling with self-acceptance. We became a family; we were never really alone.