Hi, everyone! My name is Anabella Garcia and I am on the Writing team at Magnify Wellness. I am so excited to further explore mental health, especially given how I have seen its various aspects throughout my life.
TW: discussions about struggles with body image, eating disorders, and emesis.
I grew up in a household where mental health and its related issues could easily be observed. My mom has dealt with anxiety for over 20 years and witnessing her daily struggles set an example of what I did not want my life to become. I naively deemed her life as unattractive and looked down on her. I wanted to prevent myself from following in her footsteps. I would physically cringe when people mistook me for her and I would get so irritated when relatives commented on how we were “twins”. I loved her deeply but I saw her as a cautionary tale of failure. This encouraged me to strive for so-called perfection, both in school and in my personal life. I wanted complete control over everything and for the world to feel like it was in the palm of my hand. This strategy seemed to work, although it did add an enormous amount of stress. Overall, I was happy with the results. Nevertheless, my supposed “success” formed a compounded challenge for me during sophomore year.
It truly began when I asked my mom, “Do you think that being skinny makes you more successful?” With almost no hesitation, my mom replied, “Absolutely. People care about how you look and for some reason, and when you are skinnier, they respect you more.” I took this very personally and decided to turn it into a new benchmark for success. I would look in the mirror for hours, pulling the skin on my body and searching for the clothes that made my body look skinny and seemingly perfect. In my big plan to achieve perfection, my body didn’t seem to fit in. I decided to start an innocent diet and cut out a lot of processed foods from my meals. I saw a slight change in my body and was so delighted with the results that I needed more. Then, I started cutting lunch out of my everyday meals. Soon enough, breakfast was also skipped daily and all I would have was a child’s serving at dinner. I’d stand in front of the mirror in the mornings and I saw slight change, but the softness of my stomach and the jiggle of my thighs told me that it was not enough. I decided that perhaps a scale could better reflect my progress towards “perfection” than my eyes could. I then turned the scale into my altar, praying on my knees that the number would drop by even half a pound. I continued my diet, eating practically no food but I eventually plateaued and saw little to no progression for a while.
Not being able to progress sent me into a fit of rage. I wanted to cut the fat off my bones and set my body on fire. I could not get to where I wanted to be and perfection felt like it was just getting further away. So, I found an additional altar at the foot of my toilet bowl. I would kneel in front of it after every meal and rid myself of the fattening foods inside of me. Unfortunately, this did help my progress and the scale started to read a lower number. I was so elated and proud of my “success” that I continued my journey to perfection.
The absence of food in my body for several months caused my hormones to go askew and it made my period disappear. I saw these as victories and as proof that I was successful. I got even stricter with my diet, but it had an obvious effect on my mood. I was in a zombie-like state, only thinking about what I should or shouldn’t eat, when I should exercise, and how my clothes looked on me. My parents noticed my strange behaviors, put two and two together, and confronted me about my eating disorder. They intervened and brought me to a psychologist, who began to teach me about how “perfection” doesn’t exist and how we can’t base our lives off of it. We can’t let the media or those around us determine what perfection is because ultimately, to be perfect is to be imperfect. I still have my ups and downs but I am happy to say that I am on the road to recovery.
My personal journey felt so isolating when I was experiencing it, but now I realize how universal all struggle is. I am so excited to be on the team at Magnify because it offers an opportunity to demonstrate how we all struggle in different ways. There is nothing that the world needs more during these uncertain times than a positive environment and mental health resources, which is something that I feel that Magnify Wellness can truly provide. Ending the stigma around mental health is so important to me and I truly believe that if we as a society were more understanding of one another and stopped for a second to empathize with each other, the world would be a better place. I look back to how I viewed my mom before I had my own mental health experiences and I am disappointed in myself. We, as a society, have to stop judging others so harshly and approach mental health with empathy instead. Alas, changing society is out of our control, but we shouldn’t stop ourselves from changing what we can control: ourselves. I hope to open your eyes and ears through my blog posts and show you a world where empathy and compassion go so much farther than you could imagine.
Contact Anabella Garcia at firstname.lastname@example.org
Listen to the audio version of this blog here !