It was hour nine. My left hand was entangled in my hair, while my right hand gripped hard onto the green pillow underneath my head. I let out deep breaths, loud screams and deranged laughs as my body convulsed in pain. At this moment I sincerely asked myself if I could make it through.
Of course, I did make it through. Nine hours and most of my bank account later, I looked down at my new tattoo, snaking its way from the top of my foot to the back of my thigh, and I felt proud. Not just because I made it through the tattoo, but because I made it through the year.
This tattoo was a symbol of my own truth, perseverance and growth.
During my junior year of high school, I developed an eating disorder. After a year of countless therapy sessions, journal entries and doctor’s appointments, I considered myself fully recovered.
Last fall, I relapsed.
I forced myself to run six miles a day, fueled only by salads and smoothie bowls. I re-developed old unhealthy and irrational food rules. My life was strict, regimented and empty.
One night last year in late November, I drove to a walking trail, the same one I had run 10 miles on a month before. When I pulled into the empty parking lot, I looked around, put my car in park and cried.
I was supposed to run 6 miles, but I couldn’t get out of the car. I was exhausted, physically and mentally.
I reached my breaking point.
In January 2021, I decided to recover for the second time.
It wasn’t easy, but I did everything in my power to get better.
I started journaling again and I found healthier, more enjoyable ways to move my body, like yoga and walking. I spent more time outside connecting with nature and myself.
This love of nature and journey to self-discovery led me on a cross-country road trip to Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park, where I lived and worked during the summer. While I was there, I met the kindest and most interesting people from across the globe.
Living on my own, among mountains and wildlife, spending time with people who were once complete strangers, made me see the importance of letting myself enjoy whatever life threw my way.
After returning home, my old food rules and body-image issues still lingered in the back of my mind. However, I chose not to listen to them, because life, I realized, is about gaining experiences and knowledge, not losing pounds and sanity.
Rather than trying to shrink into this unattainable figure of female beauty, I decided to grow, both physically and mentally.
Prioritizing my own happiness; eating, doing and saying what I wanted allowed me to recognize all the parts of myself I had been suppressing, like my curiosity of the world, myself and my sexuality.
I feel like I’m finally the person I was always meant to be.
I’m living on my own again, in my first off-campus apartment, with three roommates who have become my closest friends. I became a staff writer for Refine Magazine, a women’s magazine run by Temple students, and the public relations coordinator for Queer Student Union.
Living openly as a lesbian and following my career goals of writing and activism within my extracurricular activities has allowed me to find meaning and truth in my life.
It took me a while, but I can finally say I love my life and myself. That is why I decided to get this new tattoo, to celebrate my growth.
The vines wrapping around my leg represent my connection with nature and experiences in Yellowstone. The two leaves on the top of my foot curve into the shape of the National Eating Disorder Awareness symbol, my reminder to keep fighting, even when it gets hard.
“Ramble On,” the title of my favorite Led Zeppelin song, sits on the back of my left thigh, symbolizing the journey of finding myself and my sexuality while encouraging me to continue growing and discovering who I am.
Looking down at my new tattoo, I can see all of the places I’ve been and things I’ve overcome.
And for that, I will forever be proud.