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Who am I?

That is a question that I still don’t have an answer for. All I know is that I am here now.

My journey starts with my parents who both immigrated to the US from Mexico and met at a church they were both attending. My mom was 18 when she married my dad who was 25. They had my brother right away, 6 years later my sister was born, and lastly a whopping 10 years later I came to earth which caught everyone off guard. I was born into an extremely religious, Mexican household where anything other than perfection was unacceptable. Behind closed doors, however, was a completely different story.

My dad is the type of man that says, “I bring the income, no questions asked” and everyone had to go along with it to avoid problems with him. He was a very cheap man and it affected everyone, especially my mom, brother, sister, and myself. Growing up, I had to wear school uniforms for school and my mom was only allowed to buy me clothes and shoes once a year. Since my mom did not work when I was younger, she had to do whatever my dad said. I was allowed 3 pairs of pants and 3 shirts for the entire school year. While trying on the clothes my mom would tell me “mija, these clothes need to last you”. All I heard was don’t gain weight. I remember going through growth spurts and my pants would be so tight that they hurt my hips. My shirt would show my belly. My shoes felt so tight that I couldn’t wait to get home and take them off. I was feeling so much pain and I could not say anything without being yelled at or even hit for being ungrateful that I at least had clothes.

Eventually around the age of 7, other kids started to notice how I looked and started teasing me for having high water pants and how much fat was hanging over the sides of my pants. I felt embarrassed and so began the cycle. At such a young age I started to skip meals and say I was not hungry. In my mom’s eyes that was okay since it meant that I could fit into my clothes longer. It got to the point where my mom would often point out that I was eating too much but then serve me a huge plate of food after and tell me to eat every bit of it “or else”. The teasing grew worse and followed me to high school. The other kids would poke, pull, and point out how bad my “rolls” looked. The worst part was that I was even a little underweight during my middle school years.

As years passed my mom would tell me more and more often to stop eating because she didn’t want people to speak badly of me. At first, my mom’s comments started with her saying that maybe I shouldn’t eat x, y, z, then went on to stop eating you’re gaining weight, can't you see how fat you are? No one is going to want you looking like that. Her comments grew worse and would say them in front of people at church and family. She began to openly comment to people about how fat I was and how I did not deserve to have a man because of how awful I looked.

I learned to hate myself and everything about me. Food became my best friend and my worst enemy. I dreaded every time my stomach growled because every single comment made about my body flooded my head and I had to tell myself to just hold it together for the one meal I allowed myself. Savor the one meal, to just throw it up moments later.

My thoughts turned into if I could just stop eating and be skinny, I would have friends, I would be beautiful, I would be worth it. My senior year of high school I met a guy who told me everything I wanted to hear, and I fell for it. As time went on though, he changed. The once nice words turned to words that made me hate myself more. You’re fat, no one else will ever want you, you’re ugly, I don’t know why I am with you when I could do so much better. I thought it couldn’t get worse. He wanted to have sex with me and I was not ready yet, so I would tell him no every time.

One day he got tired of me telling him no and he forced me to the ground in front of my parents house and began to sexually assault me. I was crying while telling him to stop but he just kept repeating that I deserved it. He only stopped when a neighbor came outside to throw out his trash. I was helpless. I broke up with him a week after that, but it was already too late, I was damaged. My mom found out about the incident and beat me the moment I came home from school. She said that I deserved everything he said and did to me for being a dirty ugly whore and God will punish me for being disgusting. There I stood, scared and completely alone. I was 17.

My bulimia only got worse from there. I would binge for days and purge multiple times a day. I never told my family because I thought it was another disgrace added to the list. Once I graduated high school, I thought I was leaving behind all my issues and I could move on with my life. My mom’s comments did not stop though. Eventually, family and church members noticed how my parents would talk to me and started commenting themselves. Now people outside of my parents were calling me fat and continued up to when I got married. I was too fat for my dress, and I looked horrible on my wedding day. The only thing I had control of was how much food I ate and if I wanted to keep it down. I hated it. I hate myself. I hated my body. I hated my head for thinking these things. Why couldn’t I be normal? Why couldn’t I be enough? Will I ever be worth anything?

Up until today, these thoughts still run through my head. Today I still have the physical scar of when my ex pulled down my pant zipper and caught it on my stomach. My hips and feet are permanently disfigured from wearing pants and shoes that are too small. I grew resentful that no one was listening to me, but everyone wanted me to listen to them.

I started receiving help when I started college. I didn’t realize how messed up I was until I started taking courses for psychology. My life changed when my therapist looked at me and told me: It’s. Not. Your. Fault. All my life I was waiting for those words. Words that didn’t condemn me, words that didn’t hurt me. I would love to tell you that my struggles magically went away after that. I have good and bad days. I recently relapsed and thought about how if only I could stop eating, I would lose more weight and be accepted. My cycle began again except, for the first time, I had people lift me up rather than push me deeper into the hole.

I wish I had advice on how to overcome mental illnesses like bulimia, depression, anxiety, anorexia. The truth is that I’m still working on it. All that I can say is that it is not your fault.

Life can be cruel, but you are worth the effort. These are the words that I desperately needed and still need sometimes. Asking for help is not wrong and if you are considering getting help, please do. In the end all it's going to do is help you. Ask help from a friend, family, a therapist, anything to help you become someone you are proud of. At the end of the day, the only person that can make a difference in your life is you.

- Melissa L

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