Eating Disorders, The Media, and Me: A Memoir

Written by PushingUpRoses on August 13th, 2015

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I recently decided to start an ask.fm account.  Why?  I don’t know. I’m a social media addict or something.  It’s like Pokemon; I gotta catch them all.  And then potentially never use them and let them die a terrible, sad death, but whatever.  I wanted to try it.  If there’s one thing I can say about the human race, it’s that we LOVE answering questions.  It’s true.  Being asked a question shows that someone is interested in you, and when someone takes an interest in us?  We beam.  And answering questions is a good way to let people know who you are.  In my case it more than often triggers my introspective personality and I just end up brooding for hours, but eventually I’ll get an answer out there that I feel is worth listening to.  For those who don’t know me, I have a YouTube channel that pertains to gaming; mostly retro titles of my past, but sometimes a new title if I’m feelin’ modern.  I am also an online activist in regards to mental health.  I participate in campaigns and engage in activities that might inspire change and erase stigma surrounding mental illness, and I often write very candid and personal accounts of my own experiences with mental illness to give people people hope, and something to empathize with.  I’ve found that being a producer on YouTube helps me with my struggles and keeps my mind stimulated, while writing about my struggles helps me to help others; so while these two things I do online seem very separate, they are honestly more connected than you may think.  After putting a very graphic account of my experiences with suicide, BDD, and bulimia on my YouTube channel in the form of a Draw My Life, I started to get a lot of questions.  And I still get a lot of questions every day, ranging from “How are you doing?” to “I think my girlfriend has BDD, what should the first step in helping her be?” to “I think *I* have BDD, what do you think?”  I can’t answer every question, which is why I write as much as I can about my experience with the hope that it will give people a starting point for their own recovery, but I did receive a question the other day that I’ve been wanting to address for awhile now.  There’s never a better time than right now, so I figured I would put a ginormous blog together trying to answer it.  Frankly, there ain’t no possible way I can answer this in just a few paragraphs.  So if you’re ready to do a lot of reading, then awesome.  Let’s go.  If you’re not ready, then here: Go get pumped.  Then return when you’re done.

Question, asked anonymously:

Do you know what “caused” or “triggered” your eating disorder? You mention the media having a huge effect on you in your Draw My Life — can you expand on that? Do you feel how women are portrayed in entertainment affected your bulimia?  What do you think about the diet product industry?

Oh man.  Let me begin by saying: Fuck; any time people talk about the portrayal of women in the media and how entertainment affects people, it always turns into a shit storm.  Personally, I find what I am about to say extremely uncomplicated, but for some reason, discussing eating disorders and talking about the cultural significance tied to them leads to some of the most angry, insane arguments I’ve ever seen.  I don’t know if people are just very sensitive when it comes to openly discussing eating disorders and illnesses that pertain to self image or if people just want to play backseat psychologist on the internet for their own self serving reasons or what, but I can tell you right now; this is a dialogue worth having.  And I encourage everyone, no matter who you are or what your background is, whether you suffer from a mental illness or not, no matter what gender you identify as, to please consider what I have to say here.  It’s all I ask.  I’m asking you to listen with an open mind.  Eating disorders are extremely difficult to talk about because even though there is a lot of love out there, there’s also a lot of judgement and asinine people out there with extremely skewed views to slog through, and that can genuinely mar someone’s perception.

I like to think myself credible when it comes to this discussion; At least, I  consider myself an expert on my own mental illness and how it has affected me.  I’ve suffered BDD since 5th grade or so, meaning I’ve been struggling and getting treated on and off for about 19 years.  I became bulimic a little later in my life, around 17, and relapsed on and off as late as December of 2014.  (I am extremely proud to say that I have not relapsed since that date though.)  There were several suicide attempts, a few that nearly came to fruition, and a lot of my time was spent trying various forms of therapy, and my teenage years were filled with many, many medications.  I did it all; group therapy, individual therapy, weeks in inpatient facilities, weeks in outpatient facilities, psychiatrists, medical doctors, nutritionists, different hospitals, different units, plastic surgery (people who suffer from BDD frequently turn to a plastic surgeon, wanting to correct what they perceive as a flaw in their appearance.  It rarely, if ever, works.); trust me when I say it was intense.  I know that people are often confused by this; they see me on YouTube and think I am this confident personality who is able to just hop on camera and put out personable content without any issues.  People describe me happy, snarky, sassy, exuberant, and so forth.  Don’t misunderstand; I am capable of truly happy moments, but also know: it took a lot of fucking work to get to this point.  A LOT of work.  And I am still working, and I still struggle.  I can’t imagine having to never struggle with BDD ever again.  This is something I have accepted.  But I can, and do, work on and manage my symptoms so that life is better.  The entire reason I started YouTube is to do something I had previously convinced myself was impossible.  To prove that I could no matter HOW I perceived myself.  That I was still the one in control of my life.   I even studied psychology for a few years, wanting to further educate myself on not only my own form of depression, but others that were in a similar spectrum.  I have worked very, very hard to get to this point.  I don’t have all the answers in this blog post, but I can assure you that I wanted to take a very measured and balanced approach to writing this all out.

I know I am still rambling and have not technically answered the question at hand yet.  Please bear with me; I promise everything I am saying has a point.  Before I even answer, I want people to understand where I am coming from, and how these experiences have shaped who I am right now.  I believe that everyone’s beliefs have a base.  You know how people often describe people they don’t agree with as having baseless ideas?  I don’t really buy that.  There is always a base and whether you agree with it or not is a completely different thing.  This is mine.

Perception is huge.  It is an essential component in people with BDD and eating disorders.  But where does perception come from?  Does your perception of yourself come from within?  Does it come from how your parents raised you?  Environment?  Media?  It’s complicated.  Understanding any kind of human behavior is complicated because we are all so different.  We have our own unique brain that responds to different things; we have different tolerance levels, different experiences; that’s why we study behavior and why we continually analyze things that could  further explain how and why we do the things we do.  I think it’s fascinating.

To answer your question in a blunt manner:  Yes.  The media, along with how women have been portrayed in entertainment,  had a significant impact on me,  Though these things are not solely responsible, they have greatly contributed to how my eating disorder evolved.  Especially the diet/beauty industry.

That’s the short answer.  I feel like elaborating is required here, so I will do just that.

First of all;  I know I am not alone when I say the certain things in our media has affected me.  It has affected a lot of people. When you consider that the media is a machine that needs to make money to sustain itself, it’s not hard to believe that it juuuust miiiiight be sending people false messages in order to profit.  Marketers don’t give a shit about you.  They want to make money.  And thus, we get exposed to questionable things that influence us on a daily basis; some things for the good, and some things for the bad.

One person attempted to tell me that I MUST have become bulimic because my parents didn’t love me.  Thank you booboo, you have all the answers, don’t you?  That assessment must have taken years and years of talking to me and learning about my life, right?  Oh, wait.  My bad, you’re actually an idiot.

I know; that sounds harsh.  And yes, how people are raised can play a crucial role in how they behave as adults.  The people that raise you have a great influence on your personality; mine did.  My Dad inspired a lot of who I am today, and my Mom did everything she could to help me and understand my depression.  I loved my parents and they loved me;  not everyone who suffers from a mental illness falls victim to one because of a lack of love.  It does happen, but don’t always presume that’s the case, ESPECIALLY when I am telling you otherwise.  If my problems were the result of neglect or abuse from my family, that’s what I’d be writing about right now.

The people who raised you are not the only thing you’re going to be exposed to as you go through life; you grow up, and then there are other stimulants that create new influences and new ideas.  New perceptions.  To presume my parents didn’t care for me and that’s why I became bulimic is ignorant.

My parents loved me.  A lack of love was not the problem.  In fact, my father was always reminding me of how special and gifted I was.  I was overweight, but I thought nothing of it until I was a preteen.  As a young child, I was very happy.

One of the first memories I have as a kid questioning my own body was when I was over at a friends house playing Barbies.  I had always liked Barbie dolls and had a moderate collection of them along with some Ken dolls and a Power Ranger action figure that liked to date Midge.  My friend had a fake scale toy that you could put your Barbie doll on and it would “weigh” them.  Now, first of all… doesn’t that strike you as weird?  A toy SCALE?  Not a toy scale that weighs food or random objects, no.  This is a scale meant to tell you your weight.  I was just a kid so I didn’t really know how fucked up that was; from what I gathered, women were supposed to be weight conscious.  Always.  I mean, it says so in commercials, all of my friends favorite singers and actors were very slender, and if I wasn’t supposed to be thin, then why are there so many products that claim to make you such?  I bought into it hook, line, and sinker.  I put my Barbie on the fake scale, and it read 110 pounds.  110 pounds.  That must be the ideal weight.  SOMEONE thought so, right?  That moment stuck with me.  And I know what people want to say.  Here, I’ll say it for you: “But Roses, it’s just a doll.  She’s not real.  She can’t hurt you.”  First of all, do I fucking look like a dimwit to you?  You don’t think I know a plastic doll can’t “hurt me?”  I react the same way to “It’s just a game cartridge, it’s made of plastic, it can’t hurt you”, and “It’s just a book, it can’t hurt you,” and “It’s just a DVD, it’s can’t hurt you.”  …Are you fucking serious?  Are you seriously questioning my intelligence right now?  Because I truly find those arguments to be condescending as hell.

Angry and profane Roses aside now (she may come out every now and then whenever I’m feeling salty, but I will try to remain as eloquent as I possibly can),  yes.  I was (and am) aware that Barbie was just a doll, and I know that cartridges and books can’t physically hurt someone (unless I lobbed a reeeeally heavy novel at someone’s head, which is very tempting sometimes, I tell ya.  I’m told I have a wicked good pitch);  it’s not the doll, or the CD, or the book that hurts you.  It’s the ideas inside of those things that are harmful.  We all know that, right?  Ideas can be harmful as much as they can be beneficial.  It doesn’t matter that these things are real or not.  Barbie isn’t real, but it didn’t matter to me.  She is what the media says is beautiful.  And it’s not the doll’s fault of course.  Barbies have the right to exist, and people have the right to like and play with them.  The problem is the sheer volume of things similar to that that contribute to this very strange beauty ideal, and these ideals, whether you like it or not, leak into our entertainment, and do influence people.  I know it’s considered so uncool to even suggest that media may be causing harmful things in our lives, but it shouldn’t be.  And even if it is considered as such, I am so far beyond trying to be cool that I really don’t mind being candid with my experiences and being labeled uncool.  Being cool doesn’t benefit me, and it doesn’t help people anyone else either.  So I am just trying to be as honest and thoughtful as I can be with my accounts and experiences.

Let’s talk about the beauty and diet industry, shall we?  That one is always fun to talk about.  I’d like to preempt this by saying I wear a little bit of makeup;  I used to wear it because I felt extremely pressured to, but now I wear it because I actually find enjoyment in the experimentation of applying it and being artsy with it.  I am not against makeup.  Of course I’m not; you’re reading something written by a girl who has stabbed colorful, permanent designs all over her body, so I very, very much respect the right to do whatever you like with your body as long as it is healthy and something that makes you feel good.  The freedom to decorate my body any way I prefer is extremely important to me.  If you like makeup and body mod because it makes you happy and you’ve never felt pressured to wear it for any other reason than for yourself, then what I would like for you to do is just listen.  It is good that you have a healthy relationship with beauty.  I would like you to listen to someone who has not felt that way, even in the very recent past.   If you don’t enjoy makeup or hair dye and do it because you feel pressured to meet a certain criteria of beauty or sexiness, then this is something you will be able to relate to.

It is extremely hard to dodge the messages we get about beauty standards on a daily basis.  Especially if you use the internet, listen to the radio, watch TV, go outside (seriously, there are billboards freakin’ everywhere), go to the store…man.  The beauty and diet industries are MACHINES.  They are absolutely MASSIVE, and they are huge, huge money makers.

You needn’t search far to hear or see an ad or commercial telling you that you are broken.  Seriously, something about you is broken and needs fixing.  Chubby?  Well, let’s see.  We have pills, juicers, diet food that will make you wish you were dead, bunk exercise machines that cost a fortune, powdered something or others, cleansers, blahblahblah.  Too much body hair?  Well look no further because I have a product that is guaranteed NOT to work AND shrink your wallet, all because we’ve scared you into thinking body hair is bad.  Need to lose weight in a extremely unrealistic amount of time?  Here, try this junk.  Not only does it taste like ass, it will also make you FEEL like ass while simultaneously doing NOTHING.  Cellulite?  HOW EMBARRASSING.  HOW CAN YOU EVEN STAND TO GO OUTSIDE, YOUR MONSTER.  YOU’RE SCARING THE CHILDREN.

A lot of these products are targeted at women; there have been standards and products set for us for…what seems like forever, honestly.  Refer to the Dexatrim commercial I linked above; obviously targetted to women. I go to the pharmacy and the first thing I see are aisles and aisles of makeup being advertised by photoshopped airbrushed models, and aisles for other beauty products are just intense.  Waxing kits, cellulite creams, skin moisturizers, creams for dark circles, exfoliates, wrinkle plumpers, skin lighteners;  anything that needs to be fixed, you can find a product for.  The men’s department is a lot more sparse, but I’m not excluding the fact that men also get drawn into these “fixes.”  How many commercials have you seen depicting a balding man with statements like “you don’t need to be embarrassed by your thinning hair, we have a fix!  Here, just put this nasty shit on your noggin and now you’re a babe magnet”?  ( I may have paraphrased the end of that sentence.  But seriously, what the fuck is that shit she’s putting on his head?)  This industry will say anything and everything to make you feel like an ugly, broken sack of shit as long as it will drain your wallet.  There is no profit in saying, “Hey.  You’re great just the way you are!  Love yourself!”  That ain’t gonna sell products, my friends.  I have also had a number of significant others who have been insecure about having sex, expressing fear that their penis was too small and feeling utter shame.  And of course, there’s a huge industry dedicated to fixing the size of your penis.  The women I had been intimate with often felt terrible about their breast size and one partner could not remove her bra in front of me.  If you feel that bad about yourself, you WILL drop money to fix your perceived flaws.  I know I did.  I had a shameless amount of product and makeup and I found no enjoyment in it.  All I wanted was to be thin and beautiful.  The truth is, though…YOU ARE NOT BROKEN.  You don’t need to be fixed.  There is nothing wrong with you, you’re just a human being with your own individual appearance.  If you want to change your appearance or embellish something about yourself because you love yourself, that is fine.  That is absolutely fine.  But don’t fall into these things because you think you HAVE to.  You don’t HAVE to do anything.  You don’t owe anyone anything.  You don’t have to fit some standard of beauty because some money making machine says it’s the ideal way to be.  You need to do what’s healthy for you.  Mentally and physically.

These standards find their way into our entertainment mediums.  It’s not always malicious, but it does happen.  Here is an example of something from a video game affecting me that I don’t consider a malicious attempt to make me feel bad, but it did anyway:  I love, love, love adventure games.  I love video games in general; I always have.  A series I discovered in my early teens was Leisure Suit Larry.  Leisure Suit Larry 7: Love for Sail particularly intrigued me.  It was smoothly designed in this sexy, 2D cartoon look, and the characters were vibrant and buxom.  I liked it a lot.  At the risk of sounding extremely weird, for me, the game portrayed sex in a very enjoyable, pleasurable, not dirty way.  That sexual pleasure is not something to be ashamed of as a woman.  So I did take something very positive away from it.  But I recall responding to the character design very strangely.  The female characters in that game are very, very sexy.  They all have similar body shapes; very voluptuous.  Tiny waists, larger breasts, perfect faces.  I actually liked their design because it’s exactly what I wanted to look like.  I started drawing women who ONLY had that body type because I felt like this is what people were attracted to.  I go through my art from time I was really questioning my body, and it is very, very telling.

Keep in mind, I still love this game.  I even replay it from time to time (I would argue that it’s the best game in the entire series, but that’s a debate for another time, heh heh), and I am not saying Leisure Suit Larry is this horrible game that exists to make women feel bad.  Hell, it’s not even the game’s fault as an individual title;  the only reason I responded this way is because so many other characters in the entertainment industry are depicted that exact same way.  The game, along with many other forms of entertainment, is a product of what the media and it’s marketing feels is attractive and ultimately what will sell.  It’s not about the body type presented; in fact I draw a lot of pinup art in my spare time and identify as a sexually charged person who likes a bit of raunch every now and then. So games like this do have the right to exist and be enjoyed, and these female designs also have a right to exist and I would never expect them to be removed.  The problem is not the medium, and I in no way believe movies and video games are turning people into monsters and sexual deviants.  I believe the problem is diversity; and growing up, I didn’t see it and I didn’t feel it.  I genuinely didn’t.  I thought I had to look like Charlize Theron to be considered beautiful.  Who is absolutely lovely by the way.  I just wish I felt like it was acceptable to look like… well…how I looked.  Like myself. Not like someone else.  Not like the standard that so many entertainment industries have already set.  And to be quite honest, even though these ideals are more likely to affect people who are overweight, it still also affects slender women and models and actors and actresses; that is why you are always hearing about a celebrity falling victim to an eating disorder, and why models speak out about how unhealthy these industries are.  The pressure to look a certain way is so fucking ridiculous, anyone can give into them, no matter what you look.

So it’s not the character.  It’s not the body type.  It’s not the actress or actor or pinup illustration.   It’s the expectation society has set for us.  The expectation to look perfect in accordance to how the media portrays it unfortunately flows into so many forms of entertainment, directly and indirectly. The reason people want diversity in entertainment and the reason so many public figures step forward to talk about how warped these industries are and how it has hurt them is so that we can ALL have something to relate to, and so we can adjust some of these ideals.  So we can ALL have our fantasies.  So things can get better.  So more people can be happy.  And so we can tell these industries that make money off of telling us we have to look a certain way to fucking piss off.   Speaking up is a good thing.  I’d like to reiterate: this doesn’t mean I want to erase all character designs that resemble the Leisure Suit Larry girls from the gaming and movie mediums.  I don’t want to replace a specific body type with another, or claim that one is better than the other.  Hating or dismissing a certain body type, EVEN if it’s the body type that already fits a societal standard of beauty, is not the answer.  In fact, isn’t dismissing a certain body type why I feel this way in the first place?  I felt like my body type was never accepted anywhere, and I would never want other women to feel completely ostracized or judged the way I did.  I want to keep all the Leisure Suit Larry characters, the Bayonettas, the Juliet Starlings, the Cammys, in our games.   But I would like to see them alongside so many other body types and character designs, knowing that despite them being real or not, a game character or a movie character or a comic book character, they are all okay to be.  I had to learn and retrain myself for years  to realize there exists more than one kind of sexy.  I’m not a Bayonetta.  She is very sexy, but I will never be a Bayonetta, and that is okay.  I’m sexy the way I am.   And seeing more diversity online and in entertainment has very honestly given me hope, and HAS helped me manage certain toxic thoughts that contributed to my eating disorder.  The more I see actors and actresses onscreen who don’t fit the Hollywood mold and the more diversity I see in gaming and in television and art makes me realize that it’s okay to have the body type that I do.  We’re all just people, and we’re all different, and those differences are what makes life interesting.  I am telling you flat out;  seeing diversity in our media is beneficial.  It DOES help. Calling out the diet industry as being harmful and unrealistic DOES help. These are not complex ideas; when we add variety to the things around us, it gives us more to think about, so what I am saying here isn’t exactly revolutionary.  And yet, despite this not being a difficult concept to understand, the mainstream media doesn’t change very quickly.  There has been some amazing progress, but for some, it’s still moving at a sloth’s pace.

That is why people are so critical of what they see media.  Because there’s a lot of garbage floating around, and because people genuinely do become influenced by what our brains are processing all day long.  Some more so than others, of course.  Here’s an example I found to be really interesting:  Have you ever seen Mad Men?  It’s one of my favorite series.  It’s on Netflix if you’re interested.  The main character, Don Draper, is known for having this drink:  The Old Fashioned.  Now, personally, I think Old Fashioneds are friggin gross.  Whiskey with sugar cubes in it?  The heck?  NO!  …anyway, he drinks these throughout the entire series.  It becomes a very well known thing for this character.  This drink was very popular in the 60s, the time the show takes place.  By the 2000s, mixologists noted that the drink had basically fallen off the radar.  It just wasn’t very popular anymore (is anyone surprised?  IT’S WHISKEY WITH SUGAR CUBES AHRHHGJJHJD), but that isn’t uncommon.  Things change, style changes, we move on, find different things.  Pretty normal.  But when Mad Men became popular, suddenly, everyone wanted a friggin Old Fashioned.  This disgusting drink was suddenly desired after losing its popularity for years.  Why?  Because we saw Don Draper drinking it.  It doesn’t matter that his character is fictional; he had a very real influence on real people’s behavior.  It seems innocuous, but you gotta think:  Wow.  That is the power of a fictional character from a television series.  It’s very common, and it happens for better or for worse. Geezus, why can’t we have a character that goes around town buying people new cars?  COME ON PEOPLE.  MAKE IT HAPPEN; MAMA NEEDS A NEW DODGE VIPER.

There’s a lot of stats out there, so I will not bog you down with a crap ton of numbers, but it is common that girls between the ages of 6 and 12 start becoming increasingly concerned about their weight.  It sounds so young, but that’s how old I was when I started to become aware of my appearance, and there was a reason for it.  It’s not a strange coincidence that I, and so many other girls, start to feel that way at a certain age.  Though studies commonly show that women are more likely to develop disorders and skewed thoughts about their image, it does affect men too.  About 10 million men in the US suffer from an eating disorder, and BDD is also relatively high among men.  Those who suffer often have a skewed image of their muscles, and suffer from muscle dysmorphia. I cannot identify as a male with this illness, but I do feel that it must be insanely difficult to step forward and tell someone if you feel this way, given the pressures to be rough and tough all the time.  All I can say is that if you do identify as a male, and you suffer from an eating disorder or BDD, you will get no judgement from me and others who suffer.  And I encourage you to speak up.

So, what am I trying to say here exactly?  That the media causes ALL of our societal ills and creates horrible behavior?  Well, no.  Obviously not.  I think the impact the media has on people is far more complicated than that.  It’s like I said earlier, there are SO many things that contribute to who we are.  So many factors. Media exposure is one thing.  Other things that frame how we think or that could contribute to disorders like this are sexual abuse, environment, a violent upbringing, and a pre-existing mental illness.  The way I see it is this:  I developed a mental illness at a young age.  That is one factor that led to having turned to bulimia.  I also bought into societal ideals of beauty; there’s another factor.  The women in my life also bought the societal ideals of beauty, and I grew up hearing my sister say “I’m on a diet” very frequently.  The first boy I dated when I was a young teen verbally abused me and called me fat; two more variables right there.  BDD and Eating disorders do not run in my family, but of course, there are genetic factors connected with mental illness as well.  There’s a lot of things that cause us to behave the way we do.   It’s not going to be one movie, or one show, or one magazine, or one video game, and I don’t believe it is the fault of those artistic mediums all by themselves.  It is going to be the ideas we as human beings put into them alongside these other conditions.  And we are responsible for what we put into the world, so it’s crucial to teach people, especially at a young age, to be critical of what we see around us.  It doesn’t mean we try to start banning movies, books, or video games.  It doesn’t mean we go all alarmist like our good friend Donald Trump; But we can teach resilience and strength through criticism, and being honest about the things that affect us.

It was not until I really learned to be critical and skeptical of what the media was feeding me that I realized I was destroying my body and health over something that should not dictating me.  When I was young, I used to look at beauty magazines and not realize the images were photoshopped.  Ads can be incredibly deceptive; anything to sell a product, right?  Now when I look at beauty magazines, I remind myself how many filters and airbrushing techniques were used to “fix” the model, and there does not exist a perfect person (with the exception of Dave Grohl).  I remind myself I never needed fixing in the fucking first place.  I wasn’t broken, but I did nearly break myself trying to become what I was taught was acceptable.  And I know how easy it is to overlook some of these problems, and just turn your head the other way.  My hope is that some of these issues return to your scope.

So what else helped me overcome bulimia?  Well, besides being trained to think more critically about my body, I also worked extremely hard to restore my physical health in the way of exercise and eating right.  Exercise and eating right, however, became a much easier task after I started correcting the weird way I idealized specific body types.  I do still suffer from BDD, and the causes of that are varied.  Some studies show that there is something wrong in the way people with it visually process things, particular faces and their expressions.  So…what does that mean?  Well, it means that I cannot see my own face correctly.  My brain doesn’t process it accurately, and thus I am seeing something that other people are not.  This is sometimes mapped to seratonin levels, and could be aided by psychiatric medicine.   Even though I believe video games can always be improved (I like video games, so I am always nitpicking about them.  We jab at the things we love the most, aye?), they have helped me a lot, and I play a lot of games to help me escape my own thought process.  It’s not a cure, but it is a temporary way for me to find contentment.  I also find that music is an amazing healer when my thoughts are getting out of control.

Finding diverse things through the internet has also helped me.  I am 30 years old now, and growing up, it was harder to find like minded people and dodge these mixed messages on TV; but on the internet, I am able to always find a group of people who either understand, or at least want to understand, the struggles I am going to.  It’s one of the best parts about the internet, and also one of the worst because now idiots also have a place to congregate, but yanno.  With the good comes the bad.  And I find having a online community and seeing diverse things from all kinds of artists and creators to be an incredibly positive thing for me.

It is truly strange having an illness like this, because overall, I am a confident person.  I know what I want in life, I know I am very intelligent, I know I am creative, and I am very good with people.  It sucks when your own confidence is at war with an illness that just wants to take it all away.  I am a confident person with BDD.

Maybe you don’t care.  Maybe you were not affected the way I was by ANY of these things, and you don’t care if things ever change.  I’m not asking you to understand everything I said here and suddenly hop on the Roses boat of dedicating your life to combating BDD or Bulimia or Depression.  We all have our own problems to take care of; our own lives.  I’m not asking you to drop everything and join me on a mission to take down the diet industry; but what I am asking, and what I would like, is that you just hear me, and take what I say into consideration.  You may not be able to relate to anything I said here, but I’d like it if you respect my experiences as they are, because it is insanely difficult expressing thoughts like this without being judged.  There’s always going to be someone who thinks saying “Just get over it” or “Grow a thicker skin” is the miraculous answer to all of life’s issues, and that’s just not the way people work. It’s not how brains work. The way I see it is that I am an incredibly strong person for overcoming an addictive eating disorder, and turning my habits around to where they are healthy.  That takes a strong person.  And remember: you can’t just automatically grow a thick skin; it takes time and experience to build up that kind of resilience, so don’t let people make you feel like you are weak.  It’s just not realistic.  And like I said before, we ALL have our own issues and things we want to dedicate time making better.  I understand that.  Maybe you’re saying: “Screw this, there are worse things happening in the world.”  There are always bad things happening in the world, but to me, these issues are bad things that I can help with.  I care about other things that are happening in the world, but I also want to put my efforts to good use and do what I can with my own knowledge, and when I can help in other areas and other people who also have it bad; I do.  I help where I can and when I can.  For example, my Father passed away of brain cancer when I was young, so every year I donate to the American Cancer Society.  That is another thing I care about alongside mental health.

Maybe your mission is to volunteer at an animal shelter and stop animal abuse.  Maybe your mission is to hold charities to benefit the research of cancer.  Maybe you want to inspire change to our social issues like racism, or discrimination towards the LGBT community.  It’s all okay.  We all have things we are passionate about and there is enough people in the world to fulfill so many causes.   Doesn’t mean you can’t care about other things, though; so no matter what your cause is, no matter what you care about in your life, I hope you find some merit in this blog.  And if you are in the same boat as I am, then I really, really hope reading my experience has helped you in some way.  And at the very least, I hope you find it insightful.  This is my experience.  What’s yours?

  • logan angel

    An excellently written piece that speaks to everyone, being they male or female. You have been and continue to go through a huge amount in your life. You are doing an amazing job of helping others and showing others that over time things can get better (minor re-lapse aside). Keep doing what helps you and forever love ‘King’s Quest :)

  • David Schwartz

    Thank you for sharing this with everyone. As a sufferer of depression, I know how hard it is to open up, especially so publicly like you have. I have been told to ‘toughen up’ or ‘get a tougher skin’ when it comes to being teased. But that sort of thing basically just makes me get sullen and angry. When I was younger and in middle school, I would lash out verbally at fellow students who would do this to me. But nothing was ever done about the ones who would pick on/bully me. So I began to withdraw, pull away from people in school, and not really interact with my fellow students too much. It wasn’t until I as a senior in HS that I began to open up a bit more, but by then it was too late to have anyone I could call a friend in school. All of these things built up over the years, led to my spiral of depression, that I really didn’t start to combat until about 10 years ago. I went to therapy for a few years and it helped some, along with meds which I still take. I still combat my depression, how I feel about how I look on daily basis. I still question myself with things like “What would it be like if I was just a few inches taller. I would do just about anything to be average height or tall” Or the dark circles under my eyes that never go away. But I will continue to battle them. And your story inspires me to keep on battling them everyday. Once again, thank you.

  • Orokoify

    Growing up, I was the second son in your side of the family. I’m extremely skinny, but not because of a eating disorder or anything like that.

    The thing is, growing up, I had to hear from my grandma again and again how I should take special medication for getting some more weight. At first I didn’t mind it too much, but as the years went on, it really started getting to me.

    It doesn’t help that I live in a pretty remote place, where people are still to this day pretty close minded. So I would more often than not hear people talking about my body behind my back.
    School was specially awfull. It felt like everyone was against me. To the point that one day, someone stopped me to warn me that I had walked around all day with a paper stuck to my back. Yeah, something straight out of a movie or a cartoon, I know.

    And to be honest, that was not even the worst part of it all. I lived with my mom and my aunt in our Grandma’s house, and that’s literally the cherry on top of the cake that was my adolescence.

    My grandma is a very loving person, and even to this day I still love her. But she was also extremely abusive towards me.
    Since I had such bad experiences in school, I never wanted to go to it. I would cry and fight not to be sent to school, and she would see it and call me a retard. If I looked down when someone talked to me, she would call me a retard. If I did something a boy wasn’t supposed to do, she would call me a retard.

    Mom hated she would do this, but because of work, she couldn’t be around to fight for me. That, and the fact that mom also went through the same thing as me when growing up.
    And my aunt… she wasn’t the nicest too. To the point of looking at me – when I asked for help – and saying: “Well, if she’s calling you that, there must be a reason.”

    Eventually, I dropped out of school because of a depression. Mom, seeing that (and because of some other reasons) moved to a new house with me.
    Shortly before that I meet a wonderful person too, who helped me seeing the positive side of life again.

    Nowadays I’m happy and as bright as a sunshine. I like to talk, reach out to people and all that fun stuff.
    But, the thing is, to this day I struggle. I will eventually have to go back to my studies, but a part of me just stops working when I think about stepping inside a place like a school or a college again.

    Just the idea of taking a national exam puts me to tears, because I feel like I will never be able to pass on it and get into a good college.

    That made me notice that, to this day, years after all that happened, it still affects me deeply.

    All that made me think about how fragile someone really is, and how people don’t notice this sort of stuff.
    How people are so careless with how they should treat someone. As if they don’t know it might have a everlasting impact on their lifes.

    That phrase that my aunt said to me. She doesn’t remember it, but to this day I remember word for word of it. The principal of my old school probably doesn’t remember me anymore, but I remember how she put me face to face with the guy who was making my life a living hell, and didn’t do anything about it.

    Roses, you are one of the best persons I’ve ever seen on the internet. That’s why I stalk you so much, after all 😉
    But seriously, your stuff helps me to no end. Even to this day, seeing your videos and hearing your stories just put a smile on my face and make my think that I might be able to do something with my life.

    This text was wonderful, and thank you for sharing it with us.

  • Faith April

    We share a childhood of video games and writing on forums, Roses. :) I spent a lot of time as a kid sitting, playing roms and writing in rpg forums, activities I felt were not complete without soda and/or chimichangas. xD

    I had a similar experience with the Barbie dolls, but it was in Barbie book form because, being an avid reader, books hung around longer than toys. Most of them were innocent enough (my favorite was where Barbie became a pirate and roamed the seven seas looking for booty, but in the end it’s all to get a guy, which was disappointing). One was about a chubby young girl who wanted to become a ballerina, and she complains to Ballerina Barbie that she has too much ‘baby fat’ to be a ballerina. And of course in the end, with Barbie’s encouragement, the kid’s lost some weight and her future as a ballerina is looking bright. So I was little when I started thinking, I look like that kid, I have a belly. Am I not supposed to?

    I was lucky to be encouraged to have a positive body image by most if not all of the women in my life. Eventually I realized that the only ones who pointed out my weight were men who were overweight themselves and self-conscious.

    When it comes to video game girls, Lara Croft annoyed me because she and I both had large breasts but she had the slim body. An original design of Samus Aran from an old Nintendo Power magazine stated that she weighed nearly 200 pounds and was 6 feet tall. Obviously I’ll never grow a foot taller but I still found Early Samus’s strength inspiring.

    I figured out that the more beauty magazines I read, the worse I felt. I swore off fashion and beauty magazines and my body image became much more positive.

    In gym class at age 15 I was 165 pounds and they said I was obese; two years later I was merely considered overweight at 155. I’m 185 now, 24 years old and happy with my strong, voluptuous body. They can try to pigeonhole me all they want; I’ve never seen anyone with a body like mine. I’m unique and proud of it. :)

    Finding positive media has helped. A comic called Castle Waiting has women of very varying body types (and body hair). Lane Bryant’s ad campaign features large, beautiful women. The outright body confidence of Amanda Palmer encourages me.

    As a cartoonist and game designer I endeavor to draw people of all sizes.

  • ShadowWing Tronix

    It would be one thing if the ads were “if you want this type of body” but it often comes out minus the “if”. I’ve been attracted to so-called plus sized women, who weren’t unhealthy. Meanwhile my mom struggled with weight issues thanks to medical reasons and I knew one guy who was really unhealthy about his weight and it at least contributed to his passing.

    Like you said, it’s not the appearance of A but the absence of B that is the problem media needs to work on…for any stereotype, really.

  • assenm

    You are one of the most beautiful women I have ever had the pleasure to get to know. Yes, it’s via an online connection, sure… maybe that makes me a creep, but I don’t really care to be honest. You are always so heart-felt and genuine from my perspective and it truly is a pleasure t

    o witness that and be a part of.
    I am so sorry about your brother-in-law and sister; this is something no one should have to experience and I sincerely weep for your family. I know you are strong and will get beyond this: you always do and it is inspiring. I am confident that even in this difficult situation, you will rise above.
    This confidence also comes in part to me reading your blog and realizing the struggles you’ve had in the past with eating disorders. It is such a serious problem in today’s society and I feel you in more ways than I wish I did. I struggle with my own weight quite a bit and, although not quite as problematic as you posed it, I can understand the severe wants and needs that society can place upon a “normal” person, which by unrealistic demands becomes entirely plastic and superficial.
    You are a beacon of hope to us all as a populace and I genuinely hope that you have the best of fortune now and in the future. Always remember that your viewers live on and carry your spirit, no matter how terrible the days may come.

    V/r
    – Mike A

  • Jacqueline Ristola

    Thank you so much for sharing. :)

  • E

    I agree with all of this… I’ve always been on the chubby side and always felt like there was something wrong with me because of it.
    I remember either right before or right after starting high school my two friends (who were rather thin) freaking out because they had reached 100 lbs. I went home that night and cried because I had already been over 100 lbs for a few years by then and thought I was disgusting. But now when I look back it wasn’t just me who was affected by the media, it’s scary thinking how deathly afriad they were to go over 100 lbs.
    We’re also taught that if you express not liking your body that you’re “attention seeking” or fishing for compliments, but if you express pride in your body then you’re shallow or conceited. I really wish things were different. :(

  • Antonio

    Hello. I’ve only just discovered you on Youtube, and think your videos are fantastic! I like your collaborations with LGR, and have just binged on the “Last half of darkness” vids along with the “Organ trail”.

    As a side note, whenever I’ve had to mingle with the undead (and of course this hint only applies to those who are NOT allergic to food colouring, or don’t have a special diet that excludes it) I use a bit of black food colouring in my mouth to add extra yukky to my demeanour.

    I have much regard for those like yourself who stand up and answer hard questions and issues publicly and honestly (I saw your “Draw my life” vid + your TMI tag vid yesterday). It helps (in a small way) kill stigma. Bravo. I know random person on the internet is not going to change the world, but more public voices will gradually change ‘normal’. Again –bravo-
    My friend Mike died of cancer this January, between Bowie and Lemmy. It IS a dragon, and must be slain! My heroes are the ones who say the truth, and even if it gets closer and closer to what most folk would say is uncomfortable, still say it in the name of getting the world to accept it. And only then, can we as a species move on meaningfully.

    1. You’ve got a Manny necklace!!
    2. Have you seen Caitlin Doughty’s videos (Ask a mortician)?
    3. Did you play “Conquest of Camelot”? that one kicked my ass for ages, but it brought out a strangely bull-headedness in NOT reading walkthroughs- you said it on another video- when you clock it honestly, it’s a high-five moment!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dg3PberzvXo

    I’m judging you (because this is something I’m allowed)= You’re fantastic! Thank you VERY much for all your sharing.