Ever since I was a kid, I was bigger compared to others my age. I got even bigger when I entered high school, and I discovered how to live in a society that makes you feel unacceptable. As I got older, the judgement and hate around me also got worse. My eyes opened to how hard it was to live when others body-shame you, and discriminate against you for being different. I started losing my confidence and doubting myself until I couldn’t handle it anymore. So, I used their hate and opinions as motivation to change myself.
I wanted to fit their standards and I wanted to be like them. I was tired of hearing painful words about my body every single day. We live in a world where being thin was praised and losing weight was an accomplishment. I started dieting and exercising. After a few months, I lost a lot of weight. People started complimenting me for looking ‘healthy’ and for losing weight quickly. I got addicted to their compliments, I became obsessed with their words. I continued losing weight; they didn’t know I was barely eating. No one knew that I was starving myself and pushing myself to exercise even though I didn’t have much energy. I counted the food I put in my mouth. I planned every meal. Food was energy, but for me, food was dangerous.
When me and my friends went out and took some pictures, I saw that I didn’t look happy anymore. I looked so weak and pale. I knew something was wrong with me, so I started researching about my situation until I found out I had an eating disorder. In our country, eating disorders were not well-known. We believe that this illness can only occur to rich people and women.
I was trying to eat; I was trying to take care of myself. But I can’t handle the thoughts inside my head telling me that if I eat, I will be fat again. I was trying to recover alone but it was hard. I started losing a lot of hair, and didn’t get enough sleep at night. I became depressed about my situation. When I wake up every morning, I am already waiting for the sun to set because it was painful to live. I could not see hope anymore, and I thought I would stay this way for the rest of my life. I started to attempt suicide,, and my thoughts got worse. When I told my mom about it, I felt like I didn’t have a heavy heart anymore. That proves that asking for help or sharing your thoughts will help you feel a lot better because someone is helping you. I took a social media break for a month and started focusing on my recovery. When I already had the courage to open my social media apps, I deleted my Instagram account full of fitness influencers and diets that I know will trigger me. I made a new account and followed people who can help me recover. I found out that there were a lot of people going through the same situation. I knew that I was not alone. Sharing my thoughts and experiences and reading other people’s small wins and ideas helped me to continue living.
It’s hard to live a life with an eating disorder, especially as a man. It’s hard to ask professional help; it’s expensive, and facilities are hard to find. It’s hard to ask for help because of the stigma that men are strong and independent. One thing I learned is that we all have different lives and we all have different mindsets. Our bodies are different and it’s okay. I was once blinded by unrealistic body standards. Now, I know that the healthiest you is not the smallest you. Now, I am spreading awareness about eating disorders and body image. I want everyone to know that eating disorders can affect all genders, all ages, all sizes, all people. There are a lot of Filipinos who suffer alone from body image issues and bad relationships with food. They don’t know where to ask for help. Eating disorders can affect Filipinos too and these issues are serious. Awareness is what we need in order to help others in need. Help is possible and Hope is always there. It is never too late to pick yourself up again and recover from doubt, and almost give up your life. My experiences made me stronger; my experiences helped open my eyes to the reality of this world. Let’s serve as an inspiration to others to see themselves as enough and worthy. Don’t drown in social media. Standards are unreachable. Don’t let them control your life. Be grateful for everything and keep learning. Keep exploring your life and discovering yourself. You deserve to live a wonderful life.
#VoiceOfHope: Never Impossible to Fix Yourself by Jan Jeabert Pleje
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