Bittersweet Sixteen

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Growing up, I always heard about people’s “sweet sixteen” parties and how excited they were to turn sixteen. Things for me were a little different. They always were. While I was typically above average in my grades, I was extremely shy and didn’t have a ton of desire to make a ton of friends—my close circle of girl friends was all that mattered to me.

Until I met him. He was perfect; fun, funny, attractive, smart, we enjoyed the same things. It just seemed right. We started dating the year that I turned sixteen and were almost inseparable over the summer. At the end of August, however, it was time for him to go to college. It was only an hour away, but I only had my learner’s permit and my parents wouldn’t have let me spend weekends anyway. Since I was so shy at school and had spent every spare minute with him, I hadn’t made a lot of new friends. He, on the other hand, was in college! He was making new friends and starting a new life—I had been left behind.

Slowly but surely I sank into a very deep depression. I wasn’t overly concerned if I lived or died, although I only actually wished I were dead once. I stopped eating. It wasn’t unusual for me to go a whole day and only eat a handful of saltines and a Granny Smith apple. I didn’t think I was fat; food just tasted like cardboard and I wasn’t hungry so I didn’t eat. By December I had lost 26 pounds, and at 5’5’‘ I weighed a scant 94 pounds. It was right around this time that he broke up with me. My parents had me in the doctor’s office weekly, monitoring my weight, trying to find anything that might help me. I was put on anti-depressants and birth control—one to try to straighten out the serotonin levels in my brain, the other in hopes that it would do for me what every other girl considered a negative side affect—force me to gain weight.

I took the pills because the other option they gave me was to put me in the hospital on an IV. Still didn’t care. It wasn’t until I was laying in bed one day and my mom came in and laid down next to me and started crying, saying that she wouldn’t be able to go on if she lost me and that was what she was afraid was going to happen that I started making a conscious effort to get better. My mom is my hero; realizing that I was scaring her that badly made me realize something was wrong.

From that point on, I started eating more; I started taking my cousin up on his invitations to hang out with him and his friends, typically at restaurants. I made it through high school and in the process gained about 15 pounds back before it was time for me to go away to college. I was off the anti-depressants, looked healthier, and felt better than I had in years. Before I left for school, I made a conscious decision that I was going to enjoy every minute of it. I did. I made some great friends, dated some different guys, had some really fun nights, and some really horrible nights, and don’t regret a minute of it. I graduated from college (what I thought I’d look back on as the best four years of my life) and immediately moved across the country—away from my friends, my family, everything I knew. I’m having a blast—this is the best year of my life.

When I look back on that year, it sometimes still makes me sad … everything I went through, but it provided me with so many lessons and the realization that even though he wouldn’t be forever for me, my family would be, and most importantly, I would always be there for me.

I was lucky. I have a great support system and have taught myself how to always look for the silver lining. Life is hard sometimes. I know this. You can’t give up. Life has its ups and downs and sometimes you’re way up, and others you hit the bottom and keep going. Those experiences, those adventures are what make each of us who we are: the beautiful, strong, slightly neurotic, completely amazing women that we are. Embrace yourself.


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