A battle with myself

My journey to overcoming an eating disorder

a+sunset+on+the+beach

On Dec. 25, 2018 Genesis Gonzalez went to this beach with her mom. It’s the place she goes to reflect and write her poetry. (Genesis Gonzalez/UT)

Genesis Gonzalez, Community News Reporter

It started when I was 10 years old.

“You need to start eating less,” my friend told me.

That’s when it hit me: My classmates are almost all thin. Over the next few days and weeks, self-doubt took hold.

I’m not “thin enough.” I don’t belong. I need to lose weight.

I would eat very small portions or just have drinks instead of meals. It became addictive to skip meals and only have snacks or drinks.

It’s what I thought about it constantly, and I realized it became an eating disorder.

As I grew up a bit over the next year or so, I started letting go of those beauty standards. Plus, I was a busy pre-teen, going to high school, doing extracurricular activities, and spend time with family and friends

In my junior year of high school, I started becoming aware of what I ate. I realized I mainly only ate fast food. I started gaining weight. I could see it in my cheeks. My jeans were getting to the point where they didn’t fit me.

That summer, I decided to work out to lose all of the weight I was gaining.

I did so many workouts at the gym, including sit-ups for my abs and a lot of cardio.

I didn’t like to miss even a day.

That was when my obsession snowballed. I started to starve myself, and I had strategies to keep myself from not being hungry: Drinking water, chewing gum, keeping busy.

When I did eat, it was mainly salads or fake meat because I had become vegan.

By spring 2019, I had lost weight dramatically to the point where I didn’t look right.

I overheard my friend’s mom ask my mom as they talked in the kitchen: “Is your daughter anorexic or is she sick?”

I will never forget that question. It made me feel like I had some disease and that I wasn’t “pretty” because I looked sick and pale.

Nothing seemed to help. I was just not satisfied with how I looked. I slowly started falling into a deep depression: I had anxiety and lost interest in everything. I didn’t want to do anything. I cried multiple times a day. I couldn’t sleep well and didn’t even feel hungry.

My depression made school very challenging.

I wouldn’t try my best to complete my work, or I wouldn’t turn it in at all.

I remember at one point, I wanted to drop out of school because I wasn’t driven to pursue any kind of a career. I was lost and made bad choices.

My relationship with my family members became distant. We never talked, and when we did, it was almost non-stop arguing with my mom.

Then, Oct. 18, 2019, was a turning point — or so I thought.

I sat with my mom at the table, and we started to talk about certain topics such as marriage and eating disorders.

“Mom, I hate myself and the way I look,” I admitted to her for the first time.

She broke down in tears. She had suspected something was wrong and had wanted so bad for me to confide in her.

She never wanted me to experience the pain she had growing up.

My mom, who is an orphan raised by her other relatives, was emotionally and physically abused at a young age. On top of that, my dad cheated on her repeatedly and mistreated her after going out to drink.

She told me that once my brother and I came into her life, all of that emptiness and pain went away.

We started sobbing.

“You don’t understand how special you are. You are my miracle and happiness,” she recalled saying. “Yet, you don’t know your self-worth since you are destroying yourself.” 

“I’m sorry about everything,” I said. “You are so strong because of everything that you went through. You continue having a big heart. But it also made you become your own person by not needing my dad.” 

We both started to cry again as we hugged each other. We both needed that moment. We needed to get everything out to continue growing and mending ourselves and our relationship.

But things went sour again soon after.

Knowing about my eating and body image issues made her treat me differently.

We had constant fights about me skipping meals and refusing to eat at other times.

I know my mom wanted to be there for me, but I pushed her away. I went out all the time with friends and just tried to escape from my problems.

a Christmas tree and menorah in the foreground and a beige buildings against a bright blue sky
This photo from a family trip to San Francisco in December 2019 represents a happier time for Genesis Gonzalez during the past few years. (Genesis Gonzalez/UT)

I seesawed the next few months, getting better for a bit in early 2020 after a trip with my family, but after the pandemic hit, I went back to my old habits.

I wasn’t happy with my stomach and wanted it to be flatter. I did a lot of home exercises. I stopped eating, made myself full with water, and chewed gum to avoid feeling hunger. 

That summer, I kept getting sick, almost constantly. I had stomach aches and terrible migraines. 

By July 2020, I stayed home and in bed, laying down all day. 

I wouldn’t eat because every time I tried, it just came back up. I felt like I was dying.

I hated myself for what I had done to my body.

To make matters worse, my family didn’t understand and also implied that I could have avoided what happened.

“Why did you even go back to your old habits again?” my brother asked. “You are now paying the consequences.”

“I can’t help myself,” I said. “I feel like every time I try to heal and better myself, I start to think negatively…and I hate my reflection.”

After weeks of staying in bed and crying almost all the time, I couldn’t take that life anymore.

I was determined to get better.

After a few weeks, I started improving. I was able to eat soft meals again: soups, Jell-O, and rice.

At some point, I also started working out a bit, trying hard not to overdo it. I stopped going overboard on cardio and instead focused on building muscle, doing leg or arm workouts.

This year, I’m still dealing with these issues, but it has gotten better. I don’t feel as guilty as I used to when I eat a balanced meal. I’m still recovering from this disorder by reminding myself that I’m enough.

I also started to write more and focus on creative writing, like the poem below, because it helps me express my emotions. I hope that it helps others struggling like I have to know that they are not alone and they, too, can work at accepting and, even loving, themselves.

Food

I have had so many battles with you
The battle of you making me feel satisfied
The battle of you starving me
The battle of you making me feel unpretty as I feel my temple
These battles represent my fears of attaining weight
My fears keep me from tasting you as I slowly 
Annihilate my reflection
You are not the issue, it is me
The battle is fighting me against me
A battle that I may never win.