I used to be strong. Muscular. Shades of skin colour outlined themselves on my body to create defined shapes of power. I was also very proud. Although I was young, my accomplishments were great and recognized by coaches and ‘teammates’ who were more like enemies. And I loved all sports, not just because they were fun, but because I could win and be better than everyone else. I still love that. The competition. The tightening and loosening in my stomach happening at the same time and the calming breaths I make myself take.
Then something happened. I don’t know what, but it was a change. A change in how I viewed myself. Sure, I was still strong and powerful… But I wasn’t perfect. And before I thought I was. It bothered me like the drip of the shower in the middle of the night. I began to look at myself differently. Was my stomach flat enough? My face plump enough? My weight small enough? And the two things that bothered me the most at the time, my eyes and my nose. Everyone else had scooped, pointed noses while my nose looked more like a camel. A big camel. And my eyes were purple enough to make my coach ask me if I had a black eye. Over the course of three years, the numbers on the scale just kept going up. It was 45. Then 50. Then 55. I was scared out of my mind but I looked okay in the mirror and told myself I was just growing, which I probably was. And now, it had finally reached 60 and I guess that’s because there is no sport anymore and I became a depressed vacuum of my parents’ money.
I decided I needed to take care of one problem in ninth grade. I summed up the courage to ask my mother for concealer. Well, after I took hers and realized it was the completely wrong shade. My face wasn’t atrocious to look at anymore, and my love of makeup took over me like a big wave a surfer. I kept wanting a new mascara, a new eyeshadow (which I hadn’t started wearing until a year ago), and the strongest, thickest, matte concealer I could find. And blush was the compliment like a bow on a present. What makeup couldn’t solve was how I still felt about myself.
I kept pointing out things that didn’t look perfect throughout the years. Should I even try to achieve perfection? Everybody else is. Every woman in a magazine, a poster, my mother, seemed to look gorgeous and slim and have light under their eyes, not shades of plums. She was always lighter than me, my mother. My self-love had been at an all-time low for as long as my life had been important (in other words, since the beginning of high school and my realization of the near future). What I tried to change, however, was not my view of myself, which I should have. I changed myself. Overwhelming my brain with thoughts. Evil thoughts. They ran through every choice I made like a poisonous gas leaking through every crack.
Bread is a carb and you only trained for an hour today. Skip.
Do not eat that chocolate, you ate cereal an hour ago.
Let’s have a sandwich. But cheese is fat. So is the meat. What if I put in cream cheese and spinach? Oh, the trans fat.
Those were thoughts about the food I was eating if I was eating at all. I skipped breakfasts and ate lunch at three. I made myself wait and wait until my head was banging and my stomach could be heard from across the room.
The worst thing is, the absolute worst, was that I actually thought that would work. I never lost any weight except for a measly couple of kilos which were normal fluctuations anyway. So I decided to stop worrying, just to let myself go and eat whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. And it felt good, sometimes, unless I overate and the vicious cycle began again.
All this was happening in my head was while I was recovering after injury, trying to catch up to everyone who had advanced and was better, faster, and stronger than me. I had to be superior, that was what everything was about. So I trained more and ate more and was healthy on the outside but a swirl of black smoke inside. The funny thing is, I was catching up to my teammates so fast that I eventually overcame them. Again I had my place on every podium with top scores in almost every competition. And my life revolved around sport. I loved it so much, that I would run from school until my calves ached so I could be the first to warm up. I became strong again and was okay with how much I weighed because it was muscle. I started to love my body again. I wore a perfect amount of makeup to school that covered my flaws and radiated my existing beauty. Life was amazing, at that point.
Until it wasn’t and the worst began. My grandmother became ill. Cancer. I wasn’t surprised, she had been smoking a pack a day for over 40 years, but I was still shattered inside. She was the person who although had flaws (we called her a show program sometimes), was the best grandmother anyone could imagine. To complicate things, she lived in Europe, and we couldn’t visit her because of, you already must know, the, how should I say it without the awful word; unprecedented, unforeseen pandemic.
There was no sport. There were no friends. People had stupid parents who were scared of their children’s mental health being good, even though we were being safe. I stopped working out, and I stopped doing school work because I had 90’s and they couldn’t drop. I wasn’t myself. All of my past issues resurfaced and I was miserable and probably partially depressed. I also hated going outside and I hated waking up to light shining on my face. My mother laughed at my dislike of the sun and made me drink vitamin D pills, probably because underneath her smiles was worry.
“Why do you hate the sun? It’s beautiful outside,” she would ask. I never had an answer and shrugged my shoulders while saying one of my most used remarks.
Amid my sun-despising, my indecisive mother finally made the decision to go to Europe. Nothing was going on in the most boring country in the world, so I went with her. Life was more normal there. I could eat at a restaurant, see my family whom I love so much, and swim in the Ada. But Europe was an escape. In a months time, after my mother and I moved my grandmother out of the hospital, we got on a Lufthansa plane and came back.
Summer sports camp was starting again. I was sure it was going to be cancelled, but it wasn’t. For a brief moment in time, my life was normal after we returned from our trip. Trees didn’t remind me of the start of the disease and the clear liquid dripping down my face combined with exhaustion made me forget about my grandmother. I could do sprints in between the beams of light and would be disappointed when clouds took over the baby blue hue of the sky. But the moment ended.
As I’m writing this story, it’s like I’m reliving a roller coaster ride. Happiness, success, joy, and friendship make you feel like you can see the whole world from the tip of the coaster. And you stop there, for a minute or two, to take in the breathtaking view of the world that you had a small part in building. It’s probably sunny too, encouraging the illusion of joy. But without anyone telling you what’s going to happen, the roller coaster suddenly plummets. Clouds roll in as wind gushes past. Without much effort, I wind up back at looking in the mirror and sucking it in.
What I want to say is not the idiotic, simple-minded ‘it’s okay in the end,” because it’s not. I try to make myself believe that everyone struggles with shadows in their minds about how they look. True or untrue, I have to put on a metal suit, shut the visor, and battle my own mind from time to time. I suppose I’ve answered the question now. I hate the sun because it could shine even on my darkest days. It gives me the wrong feeling, forcing my brain into confusion. There has to be change in life, I know that best, and every pull in a different direction sometimes makes me barf and sometimes makes me smile and laugh and then everything is great. But unfortunately for me, the sun will shine in whichever mindset I’m in. Sometimes, it won’t be okay, and that’s okay. It’s life, goddammit.