An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Perfection can be deadly

  • Published
  • By A Team Minot Airman
  • 5th Bomb Wing
I'm so fat; so ugly and disgusting. How could anyone even want to speak to me? How could anyone ever love me? I must be perfect, no matter what it takes. And I don't care if my methods hurt me.

These are just a few of the thoughts that run through my head when I look in the mirror; and these are usually on a good day.

So what would cause a person to think such horrible things? Why would someone think they need to be perfect all the time, in every way possible? How exhausting life is when trying to attain something so impossible. But it never mattered to me. My appearance was more important than anything, even my health.

For me, it all started in college. I went to school in a beautiful city on the coast. Beautiful girls and good-looking guys were everywhere. It was the best place to be, so I thought.

Once I arrived, I immediately became aware of my place on the beauty scale, and it definitely wasn't at the top. To make matters worse, my roommate was basically an exact replica of Barbie, absolutely perfect.

I was depressed during this time and took no time putting on the "freshman 15", going from 135 pounds to 170 in a matter of four months. As you can see, it was more like the freshman 30. I was in constant denial. I would hide in my room, and to fuel my need to be happy, I'd eat whatever I could, whenever I could.

I went back home the summer after my first year. There, I thought things would get better, but it only seemed to make matters worse.

To my peers, I wasn't the pretty homecoming queen anymore. I'd put on more than 30 pounds and had become anti-social. All of my clothes were either very baggy or too tight. I would barely do my makeup because I didn't think it mattered anymore. I'd obviously let myself go, and people weren't afraid to let me know it either.

I swore to myself I would eat only when absolutely necessary. I picked up smoking to curb my appetite and I walked miles to work everyday.

I began losing weight at a rapid pace and started getting compliments and attention again. Things were starting to get back to the way they were in high school.

Positive reinforcement only gave me more reason and motivation to continue starving myself. To me, I was doing absolutely nothing wrong. This behavior only lasted a few months, but it was the catalyst leading me through the gateway to even more problems.

I went back to school and was praised for the way I looked. To me, everything was perfect. In school however, I couldn't not eat in front of people. So I ate anytime I was in a social setting. This might sound like a step in the right direction, but it was actually the opposite.

After my meal, I would go home and purge in every way possible. Sometimes I only did this once a day. Other times, if I ate more than twice a day, I would purge even more. I decided if I couldn't control the social situations, I'd still have control over what happened to my body, and I definitely wasn't going to let myself get fat again.

This was the beginning of a long and painful six years of self-hatred and punishment. I didn't know it at the time, but I had developed bulimia nervosa.

Several years passed and much had happened in between. I finished my degree, got married to the most amazing man and joined the Air Force.

One thing that never changed was my mindset with having to be perfect. As more and more stress accumulated over time, the need to be perfect only increased.

My body however, stopped cooperating. Every time I got on the scale, I'd be a couple pounds heavier. It was as though my body was rebelling and fighting to stay alive. You can imagine what happened after that.

By this time, I'd become beyond depressed and I was fighting a battle that I knew I could never win. Even worse, I felt like I couldn't tell anyone around me. I knew I desperately needed help.

I was scared at first; I didn't want to be discharged from the Air Force. I swore I'd serve my country, and I wasn't about to let anything get in the way. On top of that, I knew being discharged would only increase my feelings of failure and imperfection. But I had to; I felt that I was on the verge of a mental breakdown.

I finally called and made an appointment with the mental health clinic. This turned out to be one of the best decisions I'd ever made in my life.

Soon after my call, I had a team of doctors and nutritionists on my side, working to save me. After all these years, I finally had hope.

I am still in therapy and I'm still working on this unhealthy relationship with myself. But I am making progress; and I am not being discharged.

February is National Eating Disorder Awareness month. I know I'm not the only one struggling with this issue and neither are you. You don't need to be afraid.

If you are struggling with an eating disorder, call your base mental health clinic. You're not alone. They're there to help. And trust me, you are worth saving.

[Editor's note: The author of this article has requested to remain anonymous as she is currently in treatment.]