Out of the Puppet Show

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| This is the 142nd story of Our Life Logs |


I was born and raised in Serbia, a small country in Eastern Europe. People used to say that the winter of 1997, when I came to this world, was the coldest they ever remembered in my land.

My mother was the one taking care of me since my father was always working. As a child, I was very antsy, constantly running around and searching for new things. I had a very cheerful childhood—at least until I turned four. That was when my parents got divorced.

Studies say that people often don’t have memories from the first three to four years of their lives, but I do have one that continues to resurface after all these years: my father yelling at my mother while throwing a chair at her. And the worst thing was, he was aware of my presence but it didn’t stop him from doing that. Luckily, after the divorce, he couldn’t bully her anymore.

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Me as a child with my cousin, 2004.

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My mother didn’t want me to grow up without a male figure, so every weekend my father would come to pick me up and take me to his place. Truth be told, I didn’t like spending time with my father as much as he thought I did. I was still a kid and I missed my mom so much in those moments. Seeing his second child growing with both mother and father deeply affected me. Meanwhile, my mother was suffering from minor PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) as a consequence of her relationship with my father. Therefore, she couldn’t always give me the attention I was naturally seeking. So, I changed. I went from being a bubbly girl full of life to one that was timid and introverted.

I began to develop anxiety. When I started school, I had a huge problem making new friends. I enjoyed my loneliness and refused to open my heart to anyone. By the time I was nine, I had had several anxiety attacks, which the doctors said were all caused by stress and exposure to traumatic experiences. My parents realized they had to do something before it got worse.

As a result, I started going to drama classes. My mom thought they might help me with my socialization. And she was right. I met my first best friend at one of the classes and I couldn’t have been any happier. She taught me that it was okay to look at the world through rose-colored glasses. That realization really helped me get over my anxiety and focus on the positive things in my life. I decided to give myself love instead of creating a black, emotionless world and wounding my mind. That was the first life decision I made for myself, and no doubt it was a right one.

Sounds like a happy ending, huh?  But it was just the beginning.

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A couple of years later, when I was 14, I got the chance to participate in a play performed in the biggest theater in the town. That was when the owner of a nearby kids’ store spotted me and reached out to my mother. The owner thought I would be a good fit for their new campaign and asked my mother if I was willing to take part. She agreed.

My job was to do a photo shoot and serve as a model for their new line. It was a piece of cake, but it did bring us quite a bit of money. That came in very handy as my mother was in a pretty bad financial situation at that time, but still, she didn’t want to ruin my childhood by thrusting me into the adult world. The thing was, I truly enjoyed it, and I wanted more. I secretly went to a few more castings hoping to succeed in the modeling industry. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I chose to give it my all.

I needed to look good to chase my dream of being a model, so I started working out everyday. I saw results quickly. And just like that, I got an opportunity to do another photo shoot, this time for a teenage lifestyle magazine. After that one, came another one, and another one. It all seemed the universe was working in my favor.

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Then came my greatest opportunity. In 2013, I was invited to a casting for the cover of the most popular magazine in our country. It was sheer happiness! I had trained very hard for the past two years and now it was time for me to shine. I had no self-doubt. There was only one thought going through my head–you’ve got to get the job, you deserve it.

When the big day finally came, I was more than ready. In the casting room, I was surrounded by a bunch of beautiful girls, but that didn’t shake my confidence. They all look good, but I look better, I thought to myself. I considered the casting more like a coming to a meeting to collect an award I’d earned.

Then, of course, the biggest disappointment set in. Not only didn’t I get the job, they also told me that I was too fat. I was shocked; no one had ever criticized my weight before. How much skinnier did I need to be? I couldn’t believe it and was devastated.

When I got home, one thought started crawling into my head and soon it became an obsession.

“What if I’m wrong? What if I’m not skinny enough?”

And there it was. The beginning of my eating disorder.

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Before my eating disorder. Italy, 2012.

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It started with compulsive exercise and dieting. I slowly stopped eating bread and other carbohydrates. I also began avoiding sweets which were something I had practically lived on. And if I ate something that I considered “too much,” I would vomit immediately after the meal. Vacations lost their enjoyment since I would avoid going to lunch and dinners, or  I would just bring my own food, mostly salads and fruits. I even took dieting pills to assure my weight loss. I couldn’t stop looking at pictures of other skinny girls and comparing myself to them. I didn’t just want to be perfect anymore, I needed to be perfect.

My family noticed my weight loss, but nobody took it seriously. I convinced them that it was just a normal model thing and it was all good. After more than six months, I got to the point where I was looking perfect on the outside. The truth was, it felt like I was wearing a dead man’s body. I was in pain, battling my anxiety attacks while seeking validation from external sources. And the more compliments I got on how perfect my body looked, the more I wanted to scream out loud. It was pure self-torture and yet, I couldn’t stop.

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Me during eating disorder, 2014.

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One day, I looked into the mirror and was shocked. I couldn’t recognize myself. Not only did I feel weak, but I also looked weak. It was like all the energy was drained from my body. I wanted to be perfect so badly, but this perfectionism was eating me live. All of a sudden, I realized what I had done to my body. And for what? To be adored by others? Do I really want to keep on living like this? The answer popped into my head, “No.” I knew I had to get myself back; I just didn’t know how.

After over one year of living with an eating disorder, I told my mother what was happening. It was the second-best decision I’d made. She immediately found a nutritionist to help me. It was exactly what I needed. He tracked what I ate during the day for six months and ensured I was getting proper nutrition. He also made me stop exercising until my body recovered. The rest was on me. I had to change myself and deal with my anxiety in order to make sure I didn’t end up in the same situation again.

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Saying “yes” to a cupcake.

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I struggled to love myself because of society’s narrow vision of beauty, and I wasn’t able to love my body again until I loved the woman within. My body, like my confidence, had been manipulated and controlled by others like in a puppet show. During the process of healing, I realized that I didn’t need the opinion of others. People can be cruel. I felt freed once I understood I didn’t need to fit where society wanted me to.

Now, it’s been four years since I beat my eating disorder. It was a long journey and I needed a while to recover and rediscover who I truly was. But finally, I managed to get to the point where I’m now living a simple, joyful and most importantly, healthy life!

Section Break

This is the story of Hristina Djordjevic

Hristina, now 21 years old, lives in Nis, Serbia. She is a freshman at the Department of Electrical Engineering, still doing jobs related to modeling in her free time. At the age of 16, she started dealing with an eating disorder (mainly bulimia nervosa and purging disorder) as a result of trying to maintain a “perfect” body. She successfully confronted it a year later and managed to come out as a winner. Now she is living a healthy life while traveling as much as she can and creating new memories all over the world. Recently, she also started working as a freelance writer, trying to fulfill her career as much as possible.

 

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This story first touched our hearts on August 30, 2018.

| Writers: Hristina Djordjevic | Editor: Colleen Walker |

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