I started to gain weight when I was about nine years old. By the time I was eleven, I was wearing an adult size twelve, and by the time I was fifteen, I was a size twenty. I hated myself from age ten onwards. I had dreams –- literally, dreams -– about magically losing all that weight over the summer so I could finally be pretty again. It didn’t help that I had bad skin either. And I’m not just talking the regular, teenage acne. Psoriasis runs in my family and I had it bad on my legs and arms, mostly around my knees and elbows. Eventually, my mum took me to see a dermatologist.
Now, at this point, I was about thirteen and track pants and pajama pants were just the coolest thing ever. Everyone wore them everywhere, and I liked them because they fit and they didn’t pinch in any odd places. The dermatologist told me to take off my shirt so she could look at my back. I did, and she immediately started scolding me because I had red marks on my skin from sitting in elastic waist pants. She told me that I was fat and I couldn’t wear clothing that size. Then she sent me away and told me my bad skin was all my fault. Because my clothes were too tight and I was dirty and didn’t wash my face often enough. When I was thirteen.
My mother was appalled. We marched out of that dermatologist’s office and never went back. But we never filed a complaint either. Instead, it took two years before my mother asked our family doctor to recommend a different dermatologist, and he did, kindly, and she was much better, because surprise! Neither of my skin conditions were my fault.
Now, as anyone who has worn pants with an elastic waist will know, they need a certain amount of tightness to stay up. They were not too small at all, but at thirteen I internalised all that and was ashamed of myself for wearing clothing that was “too small” for me. To this day, I buy all my clothing baggy. If something hugs my body then I’m ashamed of it, or else I feel extremely uncomfortable and imagine that everyone is staring at me and thinking about what a sloppy cow I am. It’s not limited to my clothing either. My skin is my obsession. If I get even one blemish than I can’t stop doing things to it until it’s gone. Because it’s my fault that it’s there in the first place and everyone is staring at my horrible skin. It’s borderline neurotic, but I can’t help it. I can’t tell you the abuse I’ve put my skin through over the years to keep it from scarring or from having a pimple, like that was the end of the world.