I’ve recently joined a PCOS support group on Facebook (which is just about the best thing to happen to me) and this week we’re doing different challenges. Today’s challenge is to write a letter to any version of your former self. The contents of my letter may not seem that new to many of you, especially after my last post re: weight, but it was seriously cathartic to write this. I see myself writing more of these in the future to different versions of myself, because it’s a great way to learn a little bit more about your journey and feel better about the path you’re on.
Since weight loss & self image have clearly been on my mind lately, and since it’s National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, I wrote my letter to an extremely vulnerable version of my former self, early-college era Stephanie:
Dear Former Stephanie,
I’m sorry he doesn’t love you by now. I know you thought he would, and I know you thought all of your weight loss would help. I’m sorry he said you “had too much weight” to wear that new gorgeous yellow dress you loved. I’m sorry you decided to wear jeans under it after that comment, and I’m especially sorry that stupid action gained his approval.
I’m sorry you lost your virginity to a man who didn’t love you, who barely touched you, who got angry at you when you couldn’t find the words to describe how weird you felt afterward. I’m sorry you had to stare at his wall covered in magazine clippings of traditionally attractive women while you laid there. You knew he thought you weren’t attractive enough. I’m sorry you knew this. I’m sorry you ignored it, too.
I’m sorry you had to hear his mother tell you that you shouldn’t eat the full-fat peanut butter, and that you should only carry your lunch to class instead of getting fast-food occasionally, and that he should only serve you half portions of meals & desserts because you’re trying to lose weight. I’m sorry she told him to tell you to keep going to the gym as if it was more motivating to hear that through the grapevine. I’m sorry she said it was normal that his sister skipped dinner for a few days in a row, because sometimes ladies starve themselves to stay slim. I’m sorry she expected your nearly six foot frame to look like her petite figure. I’m sorry you somehow believed her.
I’m sorry you’ve let him use you for so fucking long. I know you’re “best friends”, but are you really? Sleeping with him at night while he’s degrading you during the day? I can barely even call it sex, because you’re mostly covered & barely move. He has to know you get nothing out of that. But I know, it isn’t all bad between you two. It’s easy for me to only remember the bad parts. He makes you laugh. You have a lot in common at times. But Jesus, Stephanie, that isn’t enough.
He’s not enough to make you starve yourself. He’s not enough to make you start bingeing, either. He’s not enough for you to hide any part of yourself, including parts that you really love. He’s resentful of any success you have. Remember when you did better than him on that test and he got really angry at you? What the fuck was that about? It’s funny now, writing this to you…it’s all so juvenile, it sounds like everything happened in high school. Kinda sickening that you’re both actually in college. How stunted is his emotional growth? How desperate are you for attention and approval?
But he’s not the only reason I’m writing this. You already know you need to leave him, but you won’t. You’ll wait until he closes the door, because you’re so afraid no one else will ever care for you. Sure, his affections are limited and fragmented, but it’s the most you’ve had so far. Sometimes you feel special, so you convince yourself that’s good enough. WAKE THE FUCKING FUCK UP, STEPHANIE.
Do you realize how funny you are? You can make anyone laugh about anything, even the tragic stuff. That’s a gift. You’re a talented writer, but you’re wasting your talent writing his damn school papers. You’re super smart, you’re hella compassionate, you’re loyal to a fault. You have excellent taste in music, sweet fashion sense, & you’re a pretty damn good cook, although you don’t fully believe that yet. Wouldn’t you be happy to find someone who had those traits? Yes? So, why do you think no one else on earth would be happy to be with you?
Oh. Yeah, okay. Because of your weight, even though you’re now only 153lbs thanks to your disordered eating. But your tummy is still flabby! Your thighs still touch! And on top of that, your teeth are crooked. Your hair is thinning. Like, noticeably. Remember when people said you were going bald in high school? Those were fun times. But really, I understand why you’re so insecure – you’ve had a lifetime of not fitting in, in some good but mostly in some really not-so-good ways. You think you’re ugly. You think you don’t have much value because you’re not attractive. But Stephanie, you’ve got it all wrong.
You’re beautiful. I look back on pictures of you sometimes and want to cry. You are gorgeous. But it isn’t because of all the weight you’ve lost. Honestly, it’s despite all that. I know the weight loss doesn’t bring you the joy and acceptance you expected. You don’t even feel healthier, because you’re not. You know you aren’t taking care of your body – you’re punishing it. But you’re a beautiful, amazing person who deserves to love herself as she is every damn second of the day. You don’t need to change yourself for someone to love you. And you don’t need to change in order to love yourself. You’re worthy of everything just as you are right now.
You’ll get there, you know. It may seem completely unbelievable now, but you’ll truly love yourself one day. And guess what? You’ll weigh almost 300 pounds when it happens. I know, I know – try to calm down a sec. But just know that there will come a day when you wake up and the first thing you think isn’t something negative about your body or your appearance. You’ll even decide to lose weight to get healthier for yourself, not for some jackass guy.
It sounds cliched, but please remember that things will get better. YOU will get better. Sure, your clothes will get bigger in the next few years, but so will your heart and your horizons. You’re destined for so much more than crying in his crappy little bedroom at his parents’ house.
Oh, and about that…I know you resent spoilers, but I should probably tell you that he definitely doesn’t come back into your life. But you know who does? A guy from high school, one you had a minor secret crush on in senior year. Remember the Banjo Kazooie noise guy? HAHAHA, YEP. GET READY. And guess what? He knows you’re fat, and he knows that fat is just another adjective to describe you. It ain’t no thing. He’s seen your bald spot. He’s even seen you naked. With the lights on. Repeatedly. He’s watched you have nervous breakdowns and scream and cry and maybe even puke and oh god, I’m giving away too much. He’s amazing, and he loves you just as you are. It’s the kind of love you either don’t think is real right now, or that you don’t think you deserve. When you’re with him, you’ll realize that you had a very weak definition of love before.
You have a wild few years ahead of you, and life honestly won’t take you the places you think you’ll go, but it takes you where you need to be. And for the first time in a long time, you’ll be happy. Really & truly happy. You’ll be that genuine kind of happy that has a weird easiness about it, that just sort of follows wherever you go. It won’t always be easy, but you will start to silence the demons of self-doubt. You’ll develop patience. You’ll practice kindness. And most importantly, you’ll finally learn to love yourself no matter what.
The Ghost of Stephanie Present