Dear Younger Me
‘Finding yourself’ is actually returning to yourself. An unlearning, an excavation, a remembering who you were before the world got its hands on you.
- Emily McDowell
In the eating disorders treatment center at UCSD, there are three different age groups: adults (ages 18 and up), adolescents (ages 13-18), and pediatrics (ages 12 and under). When I walk through the hallways and look at the small, innocent children sharing a similar experience to mine, my heart breaks. These beautiful, young children are already experiencing dissatisfaction with their bodies, and coping with it through eating disorders.
One woman in my treatment group started experiencing a negative body image and using eating disorder behaviors when she was 8 years old. Another woman started picking apart her appearance when she was only 5 years old. The majority of today's mainstream media praises thin bodies, ripped bodies, and lean bodies, and figures without any rolls, stretch marks, or imperfections - so the fact that young children see “flaws” in their bodies is unsurprising, and it also seems so wrong.
Children are full of light and joy, full of curiosity and potential, full of innocence and freedom. However, from a very young age, children are bombarded with images of beauty ideals and standards in magazines, plastered on billboards, in movies, and on Instagram. From the moment they’re born, they are taught that there is a specific way one should look in order to be loved and accepted. They are tricked into believing that if they do not look a certain way, they need to change.
One of the exercises that is traditionally used in eating disorder recovery is to meditate on your younger self, or to write a letter to your younger self. Often in recovery, those with eating disorders feel a deep sense of regret, shame, and embarrassment over the moments we have lost, due to the long amounts of time we have spent using disordered patterns of behavior to cope with deeper emotions that seemed too powerful for us to face at the time. Therefore, we try to look at our past selves with compassion and understanding, and without blame or negative judgment.
When I look at younger photos of myself, I want to protect that sweet young girl from all the pain that she’s going to have to face. I want her to hold onto her innocence and curiosity, and to experience life without fear, without anxiety, and without hopeless depression. I want to protect her from the eating disorder that will ravage her mind and body until she’s completely unsure of who she is anymore. Most importantly, I want her to know that God created her mind, body, and soul perfectly… and that she doesn’t have to change herself to be loved and accepted.
Dear little Kamila,
You are so brave, you are so strong, and you are so special. God created you perfectly in His image, just how you are meant to be. He created you beautifully and uniquely. He made your body specifically for you, to house your soul, and yours only.
Little Kamila, you have already faced so much in your short life. You have faced physical and mental abuse. Your body has been bruised. You have had your little heart broken. Your asthma has made it difficult to breathe, even difficult to live, but you overcome your challenges on a daily basis - and even though you are so young, you are so strong.
Little one, there are more storms coming your way. Sometimes the sky will seem dark for too long, sometimes the road you think you should follow will lead you to loss. But darling, there is nothing that the world can throw at you that you can’t overcome.
Little Kamila, there’s a few things I’d like to tell you:
When stupid boys call you “the fat girl” on the volleyball court, you don’t have to believe them. Your body is beautiful and strong the way it is.
When people tell you that you’ll never amount to anything, that you are untalented and won’t go anywhere, they are wrong.
When you’re called selfish and ungrateful and undeserving, this is also a lie.
When you feel lost and alone, God is with you, and there is also someone out there in the world who is experiencing the same thing. You are not alone.
Don’t be afraid to feel all of your feelings. They are all temporary – they will not last forever. Feel all of them… and then let them go.
When the eating disorder voice takes over your mind, telling you that you're fat, ugly, worthless, and unlovable, fight it hard. Fight it with everything that you have. You are worth SO much more than this.
Thinness does not equate to health.
You don’t have to change who you are to be loved by everyone. Trust that God made you exactly how you are meant to be. Never stop growing, but also have compassion for yourself along the way. You are enough, and you are loved, exactly how you are in this moment.
The people that truly care about your heart and soul won’t give a damn thought to how your body looks. Keep these people in your corner.
Your outer beauty cannot hold a candle to your inner beauty. Kindness makes you the most beautiful person in the world, no matter what you look like. Always be kind to others.
Little Kamila, it is never too late to start over and rebuild. Remember this when you feel like you have gone too far down the wrong path. Every morning presents a new opportunity to start living a fulfilled life. Trust in God, and trust the strength within yourself. One step at a time, one foot in front of the other. Fight and persist and believe.
- Slightly older Kamila
I hope everyone had an absolutely beautiful Thanksgiving!
THANK YOU to everyone who continues to reach out to me. Every little thought and prayer makes a difference even on the hardest days. Mental illness is no joke – give your loved ones an extra squeeze!
I’m so thankful for all of you. Thank you for reading :)