National Eating Disorders Awareness Week: The Scents of Self Guide to Being a Hero

I will be doing two posts for National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. This one is a rant. Tomorrow’s will be practical advice. Thank you for reading.

The other day I saw a trailer for a movie called “ParaNorman”. The trailer ended with the movie’s slogan: “You don’t become a hero by being normal”. And until the day that I meet William Shatner and he decides to adopt me, I can safely say that this trailer was the coolest fucking thing I have ever seen in my life. I sat in that theater and thought to myself, “This is how we’re going to fight eating disorders.”

I had an eating disorder from the age of 13 until I was hospitalized a little over a year ago. Here is what I can tell you about them. Eating disorders are not about food. Not remotely. They have about as much to do with food and weight as actual singing talent had to do with Justin Bieber’s success. The food issues are just a symptom (albeit a very dangerous symptom) of a deeper sickness. Under the eating disorder is a cruel voice inside you that whispers that something about you is wrong. You are different. You do not belong.

And the worst part is that the voice is usually right. People with eating disorders are different. That’s the ultimate goal of an eating disorder: to starve or purge yourself into a more acceptable person. Someone prettier, smarter, more successful, more lovable. Who gets eating disorders? Weirdos. Losers. LGBT individuals. Immigrants. People with autism spectrum disorders (which includes me and an estimated 20% of all anorexics). People with other mental illnesses. My beloved high school friend who spent years hiding his sexuality from his friends and conservative Jewish family. The 19-year-old Chinese college student that I met in the hospital who barely spoke English and felt utterly overwhelmed in this country.

The physical aspect of my eating disorder recovery was surprisingly difficult. I was put on 3,500 calories a day, which my stomach literally could not handle after many years of starvation. I was in immense pain after every meal. I once unwillingly threw up at the table in front of everyone, only to be handed 700 calories worth of protein shakes five minutes later. I gained 15 pounds in one month.

All of that was nothing compared to the real challenge of recovery: realizing that the things that you tried to starve out of yourself are still there, and figuring out how to live with them. True eating disorder recovery does not simply mean that you have stopped starving yourself. It means that you feel g00d enough about yourself that you no longer feel the need to punish yourself through starvation. And thanks to “ParaNorman”, I finally know how we’re going to do it.

When I was writing this post, I thought about an old piece called “One Day I Will Be Normal” by legendary writer The Bloggess. It was a beautiful post about her experiences with depression and anxiety, but that title! That title just pissed me off. You know what? I will never be normal. There are five different versions of Pokémon on my computer. I have a strange, flat voice that everyone thinks is a Bulgarian accent but is actually just Asperger’s.  I have a cat named after a schizophrenic writer and a turtle named after an Elvish princess. Sometimes I make comics about Oedipus. I spend about an hour a day writing about fragranced alcohol. Without medication, I have hardcore panic attacks every time I have to throw away something that could potentially be recycled.

And all of that? That’s okay. Because you know what else isn’t normal? The number of pages I can read per hour (150). The number of scientific publications in which I was published by the age of 17 (three). The notes that my voice can hit. How much of myself I give to the people and causes I care about. Normal’s not looking so great now, is it?

I will never be normal. It’s just not on the schedule. And I think it’s about fucking time that we stop making normal something to aspire to. What the fuck is so great about being normal? Have you ever heard of a superhero called NormalGirl? Of course not, because that would be incredibly lame. “In today’s adventures of NormalGirl, NormalGirl finally confronts her mortal enemy, BaristaMan, who totally always puts too much creamer in her latte. Tune in next time to watch NormalGirl meet up with her coworkers to catch the latest Katherine Heigl movie! Try not to eat too much popcorn this time, NormalGirl!”

You know what nobody ever says? “Hey, what if instead of being an apocalyptic epic, The Lord of the Rings was actually just 1,000 pages of Sam Gamgee gardening and trying to work up the courage to hit on Rosie Cotton?” If I wrote about how I was a cheerleader in high school and everyone was super nice to me and never made fun of my face-sized glasses, no one would read it! Do you know why? Because it would be boring as shit.

Here’s what we have to do. We have to devalue normal.We have to convince our children, our friends, our loved ones that normal is not worth starving for. We have to tell them, “You’re right! You are weird. And that’s awesome.” You don’t become a hero by being normal. Think about it! Who are our superheroes? Freaks! Mutants! Look at The Hulk! Look at Wolverine! Look at Buffy! So those little trolls at school are making fun of you? You’re just like Spiderman! You feel like a loser because you never leave the house and you live with 80 cats? How can you feel like a loser when you’re obviously Hellboy? You know what normal people do? They run around screaming while superheroes keep them from getting hit by the car that the villain just threw. Which side of the car do you want to be on?
Why be normal when you can be a hero?
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55 thoughts on “National Eating Disorders Awareness Week: The Scents of Self Guide to Being a Hero

  1. While I’ve never tried to be different, I am far from normal. I have the strangest social paranoia despite being extremely capable of being social because it’s like acting, it’s like a waltz. My fiance’ was teasing me last night that I have the most awkward personal space issues that I’m incapable of letting go of them even when around him — this is the man I live with, who sees me at my most ridiculous and I’m still tense around him.

    I was always kind of different in school and was teased for it during the 5th & 6th grade, people stopped to an extent once I got ‘hot’ by some social standards. I spent my teens studying history, trying to teach myself to read Hieroglyphics. I named my cats after historical figures. My bedroom at my parent’s house was an eclectic mix of Turkish, Japanese, & Indian with a touch of what my younger sister called ‘vampire chic’. I had statues of ancient deities & kept dried roses tied to my bedposts and Legolas poster discretely posted on the back of my bedroom door. In a way my bedroom probably told more about my personality than anything else ever could. It was organized but a complete melding of too many cultures, too much history, art and fashion and ridiculousness. There was nothing ‘normal’ about it.

    I often wonder what I’d be like if I had been the ‘normal’ girl. I wouldn’t likely have the knowledge I do, I wouldn’t have had the experiences I’ve had, I wouldn’t have the same friends, or my fiance’.

    And let’s be serious here, I dress up in costumes for a hobby. That cannot be exactly normal. But life would be so boring if I were ‘normal’. I wouldn’t be me. I’ve always said that I never wanted to be the prettiest girl in the room, I’d much rather be the most interesting.

    I also want to say that you are like my perfume-y geeky soul mate. Comics about Oedipus. Have I told you about my horrible idea for a Disney-esque rendition of Oedipus complete with a chorus line of dancing, singing sphinxes. Tell me this wouldn’t be fabulous.

    1. AAAAH! My perfume-y geeky soulmate, I had a Legolas in my bedroom too!!! But it was a life-size figure that someone stole for me from a movie theater. Your bedroom sounds tremendously chic, and if I ever get rich I will fully finance your fabulous, horrible Disney Oedipus.

      I found what you said about acting very interesting, because my doctor keeps suggesting that I take acting classes as a way of improving social skills. Do you think there’s anything to do that?

      I also thought your quote about “the most interesting girl in the room” was fascinating. I know that when I was sick, my thought process was actually the opposite- I felt that I had nothing to offer personality- or intellect-wise, so the best I could do was try to be the thinnest girl in the room.

      1. The heartwarming tale of one man’s love for his mother. Oh, I could make this terrible and wonderful and so, so wrong. But it makes about as much sense as Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame. WHO TURNS THAT INTO A DISNEY MOVIE?

        And it might. I will admit that cosplay helped me with social skills. I was always very articulate and what not, but very, very insecure and quiet. There was something about being in costume that helped me project more of myself and I imagine acting would have a similar affect. I think I’ve told you in the past how I’ll secretly pretend I’m something else in certain social settings because no one knows otherwise and it helps me project whatever mood is needed. I’m very social, but it took a lot to get me to a point where I wasn’t terribly nervous about being watched. It’s helped me meld into most social situations even when left alone. I was abandoned by friends at a masquerade ball in NYC a few years ago. So I just decided that since no one knew me, I might as well just make the best of it and in the process was ‘kidnapped’ by a group of fantastic gay attorneys wearing French Court dress.

        My dearest friend went through the same thing and that was her outlook, as well. At least she was the thinnest and I don’t know how to help someone struggling change that opinion. I just think to figures like Cleopatra who while not conventionally pretty was charming, irresistible, interesting and if that was good enough for her, I can work with that.

        1. I LOVED THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME AS A KID!!!! But that’s probably because I didn’t understand any of the themes and was really just into Esmerelda’s goat. God bless those gay attorneys.

  2. Ari, thus post brought tears to my eyes, you are so right, who want’s to be normal when there is so much more fun to be had in life when you’re not. A big high-5 coming right at ya 🙂

    1. I started sobbing when I read this comment. Then everyone glared at me. That’s the last damn time I do blogging during class!!

  3. Ari, I’ve just spent the last hour in deep thought (while folding laundry, how’s that for exciting?) trying to think of how I will respond to this post. I can relate to your experiences – really, REALLY relate – but I also have a slightly different viewpoint.

    You’re probably aware of the “real women have curves” backlash to our culture’s toxic emphasis on thinness. But there are problems with this very understandable response, because it excludes women who aren’t curvy. Likewise, it’s painful to feel dismissed, made fun of, excluded, mocked. It HURTS. It’s really easy to dismiss normal when you don’t feel part of that crowd, to say because you are different it means you are interesting, unique, *better.* I did that myself for years, and I watch my teenage sons and their friends do it now.

    These days, I don’t find normal boring. In many ways, I’M boring. I live in suburbia, drive a mini-van, host a book club, and run after kids. I wear jeans and t-shirts; I’m chubby. And I’m happy. In many other ways, I definitely sit near the edge of the bell curve, and that’s cool too. I’ve learned that “normal” people are interesting when you get to know them. People who aren’t “normal” are interesting. That’s because PEOPLE are interesting.

    When I first started BtVS, Xander was one of my least favorite characters. Now, he’s my favorite. In fact, I’ve got a soft spot for the sidekick who does the right thing without fanfare. They’re not the hero or in the spotlight, they don’t have special powers. Neville was awesome when he was still an awkward first-year standing up to his friends, he didn’t have to kill Nagini and get really hot to be impressive. Vir Cotto of B5 (did you ever watch that?) sits in that soft spot as well.

    The path to real self-acceptance isn’t about saying, “I’m better because….” There is no “because” in self-love. Love just is, no reason required.

    Related to your post, have you ever heard of the fashion blog, “Already Pretty?” Sal sits at a very interesting juncture of fashion, feminism and body image. This week she’s invited a bunch of body image warriors to write guest posts, and they’re fantastic. It’s definitely worth a look.

    1. Dionne, thank you very much for sharing your deep thoughts and different viewpoints. I completely understand what you saying and I like your comparison to the obnoxious “real women have curves” campaigns. For me, the difference is that while there are many real women who don’t have curves, no one is really, truly normal. All of us do at least one thing that deviates from the standard of perfect normalcy. Xander might not have had powers, but he was hardly normal- he hung out with vampire slayers and almost married a demon! You might host a book club, but you also watch Buffy and write about perfume, so to me you are a BAMF 🙂 But I agree with you that there is no call to put others down while trying to raise ourselves up, and I thank you for the reminder.

      I have never watched B5,

      1. Ahhh, the nuances of language. I find it fascinating, and get a kick out of parsing out meanings.

        Normal means different things, depending on whether we’re talking statistics, sociology, psychology….

        I have a son who seizured at birth due to congenital heart defects. His heart is fixed, but he has autistic-like behaviors due to brain damage; we’ve been in programs since he was a toddler. A few years ago I had a conversation with a friend who had just come home from a convention about raising kids. She was telling me, “There is no such thing as a normal child,” meaning that every child is unique and special. I admit that I got annoyed and shot back, “Only a mom with normal kids would say that.” Son3 has busted his hump to gain the academic and coping skills that put him in the normal range on tests. He’s very proud of himself for these achievements, and I am too. So you can see why sometimes normal isn’t so bad. 🙂

        Thanks for the BAMF. I’ve never been called that before. (And B5 is worth checking out.)

        1. Ahh, I see where you’re coming from. I have to say that even with a gun to my head, I would not have said “There is no such thing as a normal child” to someone whose son had such serious birth defects. There is a time and a place, lady! I have to amend my previous statement: you and your son are BOTH bamfs. If it wouldn’t freak him out too much, please tell him that me and my cat are proud of him too.

  4. I heart Ari… she is so super-normal, above-normal, in so many ways! Babes, you’ve got tons of admiration and warm fuzzies coming from me. You have made my day tons of times. Why be normal indeed, when you can be YOU, and you is terrific?

    And at the same time, I gots lots of feelings and thoughts on the subject which I would like to take the time to put into some kind of order and plop down on the table for discussion. I may throw out a few thoughts now and then come back and post some more, if that’s okay. The topic is, if you remember, not just academic for me: bipolar disorder runs in my family, and certain family members have had eating disorders/food issues as well.

    My first thought on the matter is, We just need a bigger definition of “normal.” Particularly for teenagers, who seem so preoccupied with every! single! tiny! variation when comparing themselves to other teenagers. This seems to be universal, not just confined to our (messed-up) society, or any particular generation.

    I heard stuff like this from my sister for years, complete with bitter voice, eye rolls, tears, throwing things: “I’m not blonde.” “I’m not skinny.” “I don’t have nice clothes.” “I don’t have a boyfriend.” “I have fat legs!” She felt… weird. Subnormal. A freak. She’d say to me, “YOU don’t have to deal with freckles!” “YOU don’t have stupid red hair!” “YOU have dates all the time!” “YOU never have any trouble with school!”

    The truth was this: Her hair was stunningly beautiful, a gorgeous coppery-bronze color I’ve never seen on anybody else, and if Clairol could make haircolor like it and give her a royalty she’d be rich. (Our hairdresser told her so every time we got haircuts. People we didn’t even KNOW would come up to her and exclaim over how beautiful her hair was. But they weren’t her peers.) She was a healthy, fit size 8, but her friends were mostly size 4s. We didn’t have *fashionable* expensive clothes, true, but they weren’t that bad; they were mostly just conservative. Her freckles were cute. She was an amazing artist. She was a gymnast and a competitive swimmer. She played the flute and the piano very well, and she’d have been even better if she weren’t so busy with her magnet school classes. Any number of boys followed her around, but she didn’t like them so they “didn’t count” as potential boyfriends or dates.

    And her legs were not skinny. But did you see that picture of Bookworm running on ma blog the other day? Anything wrong with those legs? OF COURSE NOT. HER LEGS ARE BEAUTIFUL. I DARE ANYBODY TO DISS THOSE BEAUTIFUL LEGS. ANYBODY SAYS ANYTHING ABOUT BOOKWORM HAVING FAT LEGS WILL HAVE TO COME THROUGH HER MAMA, AND I AM FIERCE IMPLACABLE TIGRESS WITH 16-INCH RAZOR CLAWS WHERE MY BABY IS CONCERNED. My sister’s legs were similarly beautiful.

    What seems so spectacularly killing to self-esteem is comparison. Isn’t it? And of course we never compare ourselves to less fortunate people when we’re doing these comparison things – noooooo, we gotta look at models and actresses and the most popular girls at school, and it just makes us feel weird and ugly.

    (whew. I will come back with more thoughts, because I have them.) Right now I send you a huge ginormous hug, because you are talking about these things that make us uncomfortable and require real thought to change our attitudes. You are not willing to let somebody else hang a label on you, and I believe that is healthy and good and heroic.

    1. I always see this in my campus bookstore, but somehow I keep getting Kelly Cutrone and Kelly Osbourne confused, and then I think about how mean Kelly Osbourne was to Christina Aguilera and so I never pick up the book. Now that I have your recommendation, I will try to actually read it!

  5. Fantastic writing on a more than difficult subject. You are an amazing person Ari, inside and out!! So grateful to have gotten to know you thru Facebook, Twitter, and our love of perfume 🙂 xoxo

  6. Ari, what a great post, I read it in one breath, and now I am sitting here thinking over an answer.

    Norm? Normal?
    One lady whom I read in Russian-writing blogosphere once said that it would be statistically normal to have lice during a pediculosis epidemic. But would I personally consider it to be a NORM? Well, no. I would say to anyone with the condition that this is not normal, it is harmful, and needs to be cured even if every third is scratching their heads and is saying that “it’s normal, we all have it” (like the Ewells in To Kill A Mockingbird). I brought in this phrase as a possible way to devalue “normal”. Perhaps, harmful ideas about beauty, women’s roles, etc. can bring as much pain and inconvenience as lice, but since our society has an epidemic of them, it is statistically normal to be affected.

    In a way you describe yourself and others as “not normal”, I’d probably fit in this category as well. Would I prefer to be considered as “not normal” or challenge other people’s definitions of what is “normal”? Probably, the latter. I started to outline a personal norm which may include some figures (like hours of sleep, calorie intake, etc.) that are in the bell or the outliers. The criterion is how it makes me function in doing the tasks I’ve chosen for myself. This personal norm will be more useful for me than anyone else’s. And when I recall how much I suffered as a teenager when my personal norm was criticized at home and outside of it, I only feel sorry because of the waste of my time and resources on something that was not worth it. If only everyone just worked on their personal norm and did not bother trying to impose it on others.

    So yes, let’s devalue the “normal” that is imposed on everyone and let’s choose what we want in our lives.

    1. I once worked at a special needs kindergarten in which lice was indeed the norm! It was a very religious town, and there wasn’t much in the way of medical treatment. It didn’t seem to bother the kids much, but I’m glad it’s not my norm.

      I absolutely love your point about how we need to develop personal norms. In the vast majority of cases, we know what’s best for ourselves. I’ve honestly never understood people who feel the need to impose their norms on others. Maybe I’m just lazy, but unless we’re talking about violent criminals or child molesters, I can’t imagine caring all that much about how other people behave.

      1. LOL, exactly about “maybe just being lazy”, I can sign my name under this. One of my personal norms that you and I happen to share 😉

  7. What a beautiful post this is. You are indeed a BAMF. Congratulations on taking steps towards your recovery and for talking about them so openly. You are truly a hero to me.

    I think it’s such a shame how much time is wasted on contemplating how not-normal we are. 😦

    1. Thank you so much, Jen. The wasted time is really my biggest regret about my eating disorder. I missed many incredible opportunities because I was too weak to take advantage of them. I’m just supremely thankful that I will no longer be wasting any more time that way. It was honestly terrifying to meet so many older women in the hospital and to see that their eating disorders were still their whole lives after so many years.

  8. Another thought I’m having regarding “normal” – I do think it’s important to distinguish between societal norms and medical normality.

    Is it normal to have 5 Pokemons on your laptop? Probably not. Is it normal to make Oedipus comics? Uhhh, I don’t know anybody else who does that. I happen to think that is pretty awesome. Is it normal to pull up Star Trek Original Series clips on YouTube and watch them for a couple of hours? That’s probably not, either. But are those things medically normal? Yeah.

    Is it normal for a kindergartener to scream “I itch! I itch!” and refuse to go to school every couple of weeks, screaming for hours and refusing all comfort? Nope. Is that a medical problem? Maybe. Mom took my sister to the allergist – yes, the ALLERGIST – instead of considering that she had a problem that needed psychiatric help. (Turns out that every three weeks, her teacher moved the desks around and she had to get used to a new social situation. Moving to a new school where nothing ever moved helped, but the social anxiety persisted. We are talking about a kid who had separation anxiety so badly that leaving her with the sweet grannies in the church nursery caused nonstop blubbering for an hour.)

    Anxiety disorders can require medical treatment. So can, say, bipolar disorder. If your “normal” is freaking MISERABLE, and it can be treated, why keep that version of normal? I’m thinking of my sister’s initial refusal to try medication for the condition, on the grounds that it would make her “a happy brain-dead Prozac Barbie Stepford Wife.” She insisted that a “happy her” would Not Be Her.

    This still explodes every brain cell I own.

    The CEO’s dad had a genetic problem (Leiden Factor V) that causes overclotting of the blood. Is THAT normal? Nope. He took Coumadin for 43 years. We think his father had it too – he had an appendectomy at the age of 47, back in the days when you’d lie flat on your back post-surgery for a couple of weeks. Within two minutes of the nurses helping him to his feet after his recovery period, a clot hit his brain and caused his death by stroke. The CEO has this genetic factor, too (and I suspect that both my boys do, too, based on seeing them bleed). Should they assume that because they have this gene, it’s “normal” for them?

    There is a difference between Just Weird Not Normal and Medical Problem Blood Clot to the Head Freaking Miserable Not Normal.

    1. First, I am so sorry about your father-in-law. Clearly your distinction between Just Weird Not Normal and Medical Problem Blood Clot to the Head Freaking Miserable Not Normal is a necessary one.

      I do actually understand the first half of your sister’s statement. Prozac and other SSRIs can have a very strange emotionally numbing effect. They certainly don’t make anyone brain-dead (and they don’t automatically make you happy, either), but they blunt both negative and positive emotions.

      The part about a “happy her not being her” makes me very sad. I often felt the same way about my eating disorder. I thought that without it, there would be nothing special about me. As it turns out, I was wrong, and it sounds like your sister is too.

  9. Beautiful, gut-punching, and true. When I hear the all-powerful qualifier “normal” being evoked in hard, firm, expert tones, I always ask “By what standard and by whose authority?” It’s amazing how rapidly that authority decentralizes when confronted. So the thing is to keep confronting it. That way, it remains too diffuse and scattered to ever coalesce into a status quo.

    RE: anorexia: Mine never had anything to do with being skinny or pretty. It had everything to do with autonomy. By restricting with an iron fist, I could assume total ownership/authorship over this body whenever it seemed that all other people wanted to do was hurt, co-opt, or claim it as empty property. The impulse to restrict rears up its ugly head whenever I feel scared or threatened by others; something in me whispers, “At least I have total say over THIS.” When others imply that anorexia is born out of being spoiled, overconcerned about appearances, or manipulative, it fills me with fury.

    1. THIS RIGHT HERE. My eating disorder was at its mildest in my last two years of high school. This is because I had finally been diagnosed with and medicated for ADHD by then, and my grades were excellent, so I felt in control and competent in my environment. When I got to college, no matter how hard I studied, I kept failing. Nothing was in my control.

      I hope that you keep confronting the status quo, you brave woman.

  10. I really appreciate your talking about such difficult subjects and, if English was my mother language, I would express much more than my appreciation for these posts…and tell you why I think they are so useful.
    Yet I am puzzled by the subject you tackle today – maybe because I come from a different background and country – but I don’t know normal people. I mean, everyone seems more or less normal on the street, but as soon as you come to know your colleagues and acquantainces (not to mention relatives and friends!), you just realise that there is no such thing as normality. Everyone has their own weaknesses, problems, obsessions, weirdness.

    What I notice, is rather a strong social pressure for everyone to live a standard kind of life, no matter how “different” you are: you’er allowed to be different, but not to lead a different life. But that’s out of subject.

    I am so attached to what makes me “me”…and I think everyone should cherish what makes them an individual and not a stereotype.
    I think your opposition between normal and not-normal is not a real-life representation: we live in a world inhabitated by billions of weirdos (us), and I would thank god for that – if I believed there was such creature. But I don’t! 😉

    1. Zazie, I think this could indeed be a cultural difference. I remember reading in “French Women Don’t Get Fat” that “the French are a highly individualistic people”. (I assume this may hold true of many European countries.) Individualism is very much discouraged in the U.S. There’s always talk of “REAL Americans” and “TRUE patriots”. Everything is standardized (weight and appearance, education, job performance). I’ll give you an example: I was able to look through my boyfriend’s yearbook and, with only a few wrong guesses, correctly identify every “popular girl” in his high school. I was able to do this because every “popular girl” on the East Coast under the age of 25 wears the same makeup (black eyeliner on both sides of the lid, slightly orange foundation), the same hair (straightened with side-bangs), and the same brands (Juicy Couture, Tory Burch, Longchamp purses).

      The social climate is really bizarre over here right now. I wish that the conflict between normal and not-normal was an imaginary one, but in my corner of the world, it is not. I hope that we can someday be as advanced as y’all!

  11. What a powerful post, and I enjoyed the thought provoking debate that followed. It has made me feel better about being a little bit bonkers myself. As Zazie says, scratch the surface and people may not be as normal as you think. And normal – whatever it may be – is also okay, as long as everyone is allowed to be who they truly are.

    And now I would like to hear you speak, and see if you do sound like a Bulgarian. And if you do, that is of course also totally fine. ; – )

    1. I have noooo idea what a Bulgarian even sounds like, beyond Victor Krum from Harry Potter. When I figure out how to work my webcam, I will try to post a video on your Facebook wall!

  12. Wow, Ari you consistently blow me away! You are an extraordinatry human being. Published in 3 scientific publications by the age of 17 is amazing but your courageous honesty is something else. You inspire me.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this too lately. I think for square children/adults trying desparately to squeeze themselves into round holes, it’s important to hear from someone – anyone – that they are OK as they are. That it’s fine for them to be different from The Norm. It kind of gives you permission to stop trying to be something you’re not and “let your freak flag fly”, as it were.

    Actually, like you’re saying, it needs to go further than “OK”. Self-acceptance is the foundation but you need to know there are big positives to being you because that way your self-esteem grows. For example, I stopped trying to be “normal” at 17 which was a relief, but finding out the positives that result from my high level of sensitivity at 30, made me feel GLAD to be me.

    Neil Gaiman said that (paraphrasing) the most important thing in life is to find out who are and try to be that as hard as you possibley can. You doing that Ari, and that makes you heroic.

    1. Thank you so much, Tara. Neil Gaiman is my father’s favorite author, so I am particularly honored by your generous praise.

      I think there has been a push lately to tell these odd and wonderful children and adults that everything will be okay, like those “It Gets Better” videos. But as we can see from the increasing rate of gay teen suicides, many people can’t wait for some far-off date in the future when things might be better. They need things to be better NOW.

      Times have changed. The internet has made it much easier to harass and torture people. You can click on a picture of the most beautiful woman in the world and see nothing but trollish comments saying “wat a fatty lolz”. It’s hard out there. We can’t just wait for it to get better. We have to make it better.

  13. *standing ovation*

    What a wonderful, heart-warming, tear-jerking and though-provoking post Ari. It has obviously taken a lot of strength and courage to get through your fight with your eating desire and for that I have a huge amount of admiration for you.

    I have nothing more to add, other than – you, my friend, are awesome!

  14. I have always found you bright, witty and talented. I am continually awe struck that you open yourself up to the bare bone for the whole world to see who you really are. You made my whole day with what you posted today. You are a wonderful crusader,and for that,you should always be proud. Just remember that you are always loved and appreciated for all you write and for all you do. Anyone would be honored to be able to call you a friend.

    1. You can’t imagine how much this means to me. Hopkins can be a very lonely place, and I honestly don’t know what I would do without this blog and the incredible people who read it. Thank you so much.

  15. There is a joke in my native language which, loosely translated, says: there are no normal people but there are those who haven’t been diagnosed yet.

    Ari, you’re brave and your heart is in the right place – and I admire that.

    As some others mentioned above, there are medical problems that just cannot be treated by improving self-image. But if not talking of those, I agree with you – let’s be heros!

  16. Thank you, Ari! It takes a lot of courage to write that.
    We’ve been there too.
    We know we must seem like freaks to many people (owning 100 bottles of perfume is not normal to most, you know) for many reasons. Happiness can only be achieved when you stop trying to fit in.

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