The Compulsive Reader: Teens Talk

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Teens Talk

I want to talk today about some really neat books out from the people who do Chicken Soup for the Soul books, written especially for teens. They've come out with a special series of books called Teens Talk, and three of the books so far are: Teens Talk Growing Up, Teens Talk Relationships, and Teens Talk Tough Times. Each book contains 101 of the best stories that Chicken Soup for the Soul could find, and are full of insight, humor, wisdom, and a lot of emotion. And today, I have a special exceprt for you from Teens Talk Tough Times.

Already Perfect

Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds
sang except those that sang best.
~ Henry van Dyke

Everyone can identify with the need to fit in. Each one of us
struggles with self-esteem and self-worth to some degree. I spent
much of my time striving to achieve perfection in every aspect of my
life. What I did not realize was that in my desperate need to be
perfect, I sacrificed the very body and mind that allowed me to live.
I was a happy kid with lots of friends and a supportive family. But
growing up was really hard and even scary sometimes.

During my childhood, I was constantly involved in something that
included an audience viewing my achievements or my failures. I was
into acting by age seven, and progressed to training for and competing
in gymnastics, horseback riding and dance - - all of which required
major commitment, discipline and strength. My personality thrived on
the high energy required to keep up. I wanted everyone’s praise and
acceptance, but I was my own toughest critic.

After I graduated from high school and moved out on my own, my
struggles with self-esteem and happiness increased. I began to put
pressure on myself to succeed in the adult world. Meanwhile, I was
feeling very inadequate and unsuccessful. I started to believe that my
difficulties and what I perceived to be my “failures” in life were
caused by my weight. I had always been a thin-to-average sized
person. Suddenly, I was convinced that I was overweight. In my
mind, I was FAT!

Slowly, my inability to be “thin” began to torture me. I found myself
involved in competition again. But this time, I was competing against
myself. I began to control my food by trying to diet, but nothing
seemed to work. My mind became obsessed with beating my body at
this game. I slowly cut back on what I ate each day. With every
portion I didn’t finish or meal I skipped, I told myself that I was
succeeding, and in turn, I felt good about myself.

Thus began a downward spiral of my becoming what is known as
anorexic. The dictionary defines it as “suppressing or causing loss of
appetite, resulting in a state of anorexia.” When taken to an extreme,
anorexia can cause malnutrition and deprive the body of the important
vitamins and minerals that it needs to be healthy.

In the beginning, I felt great - - attractive, strong, successful, almost
superhuman. I could do something others couldn’t: I could go without
food. It made me feel special, and that I was better than everyone else.
What I didn’t see was that I was slowly killing myself.

People around me began to notice my weight loss. At first they
weren’t alarmed; maybe some were even envious. But then the
comments held a tone of concern. “You’re losing too much weight.”
“Elisa, you’re so thin.” “You look sick.” “You’ll die if you keep this
up.” All their words only reassured me that I was on the right path,
getting closer to “perfection.”

Sadly, I made my physical appearance the top priority in my life,
believing that it was the way to become successful and accepted. As
an actress, I am constantly being judged by my appearance. The
camera automatically makes people appear heavier than they are. So I
was getting mixed messages like, “Elisa, you are so skinny, but you
look great on camera.”

I cut back on my food more and more, until a typical day consisted of
half a teaspoon of nonfat yogurt and coffee in the morning, and a cup
of grapes at night. If I ate even a bite more than my allotted “crumbs”
for the day, I hated myself and took laxatives to rid my body of
whatever I had eaten.

It got to the point where I no longer went out with my friends. I
couldn’t - - if I went to dinner, what would I eat? I avoided their
phone calls. If they wanted to go to the movies or just hang out at
home, I couldn’t be there - - what if food was around? I had to be
home alone to eat my little cup of grapes. Otherwise, I thought I was
failing. Everything revolved around my strict schedule of eating. I
was embarrassed to eat in front of anyone, believing that they would
think I was gluttonous and ugly.

My poor nutrition began to cause me to lose sleep. I found it hard to
concentrate on my work or to focus on anything for any length of
time. I was pushing myself harder and harder at the gym, struggling to
burn the calories that I hadn’t even eaten. My friends tried to help me
but I denied that I had a problem. None of my clothes fit, and it was
hard to buy any, since I had shrunk to smaller than a size zero!
Then one night, like so many nights before, I couldn’t sleep, and my
heart felt as though it might beat its way out of my chest. I tried to
relax, but I couldn’t.

The beating became so rapid and so strong that I could no longer
breathe. The combination of starving myself and taking pills to get rid
of anything that I did eat caused me to nearly have a heart attack. I
stood up, and immediately fell down. I was really scared, and I knew I
needed help. My roommate rushed me to the hospital, beginning the
long road to my recovery. It took doctors, nurses, nutritionists,
therapists, medications, food supplements... and most important, a
new sense of what was really true about myself to get back on track
with reality.

Recovering from what I did to my body and reprogramming the way I
think about myself has been a very slow and extremely painful
process. I still struggle with the effects of anorexia every day.
Although it has been a couple of years since that hospital visit, it is by
no means over for me. I must be honest with myself and stay
committed to being healthy.

I had used my anorexia as a means of expression and control. I used it
as my gauge for self-esteem and self-worth. It was my identity. Now I
realize that the way to success lies in my heart, mind and soul, rather
than in my physical appearance.

I now use my intelligence, my talents and acts of kindness to express
myself. This is true beauty, and it has nothing to do with the size of
my body. With my experience of trying to be “perfect” on the outside,
I had sacrificed who I was on the inside. What I know now is, we are
- - each and every one of us - - already perfect.

~ Elisa Donovan

Think that this is a book that you might like to read? Well send your name, address, and email to thecompulsivereader@gmail.com, and four lcuky winners will each get a chance to win one the titles! Contest ends on Friday, October 24th, so hurry and get your entries in!

1 comment:

Wrighty said...

I have three teens so I will take all of the help I can get! Please enter me in your contest and thanks for your offer.